According to Clean Air Network (CAN)’s review of the Environmental Protection Department’s 2014 air quality monitoring data, Hong Kong’s air quality had slightly improved in 2014 compared to the year before. However, pollutant levels still fall short of the WHO standards and even some of the Air Quality Objectives (AQOs).
Initial success in transport emission reduction
The concentration level of Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), an important indicator of roadside air pollution, has decreased as recorded in all monitoring stations compared to 2013; this may be partly attributed to the retirement scheme of old CDVs implemented since last March and the replacement of selective catalytic converters of taxis and mini-buses.
Albeit the improvement, however, data from all stations (except Tap Mun) still exceeded the WHO and HKAQO annual standard for NO2 (40 μg/m3). Chief Executive Officer of CAN Sum Yin Kwong says, “It is clearly shown that there is a limit to end-of-pipe solutions conducted by the Environment Bureau. In order to reach the reduction target set out in the Clean Air Plan by 2020, it is time for Transport Bureau to pick up the baton and clean up our air.”
She suggested that “Transport 2.0” , a sustainable method of transport development, is required to tackle the situation. The concept entails perspective changing from building roads and car- oriented planning to an integration of pedestrians and sustainable planning. Concrete measures include: setting up Low Emission Zones, a Landmark Pedestrian zone (Des Voeux Road Central Project), road planning incorporating pedestrian and cycling networks, Intelligent Transport Systems and increasing private cars’ annual license fee and implement electronic road pricing(ERP) to prohibit car growth.
The Hedley Environmental Index estimates that in 2014, air pollution caused 2,616 premature deaths, 32.657 billion in lost dollars, 174,926 hospitalizations, and 4.253 million doctor visits. It is the first time the estimated death toll has dropped below 3,000 since 2002. However, the amount of money lost is still large enough to enable us to build a Liantang Boundary Control Point (35.4 billion) annually, and also equals to an average of $4,700 extra costs for a Hong Kong citizen.
Marine emission threaten residents in Hong Kong West
The reductions achieved could easily be offset by further marine emissions. Levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2), an indicator of marine emissions, exceeded the WHO annual guideline (5 μg/m3) at all monitoring stations except Tai Po. Kwai Chung had the highest SO2 levels among all stations, followed by Tsuen Wan, Sham Shui Po, Tuen Mun and Tung Chung.