- For years, the Hong Kong government’s policy to reduce roadside air pollution has fallen short of international benchmarks.
- A new plan that sets out more ambitious targets, integrated across the different government departments, is sorely needed.
The natural and built environment has become a leading factor in the risk to public health and the well-being of cities worldwide. Yet, these factors are not uncontrollable. Citizens and the public and private sectors should all take key steps to manage the risks.
Let’s start with data. Hong Kong has in the past invested in building air pollution monitoring stations. Since 1998, there has been no plan to further extend the roadside monitoring network. As a result, there are only three stations in the city that measure air pollution at the street level.
This is clearly not acceptable by today’s standards and given Hong Kong’s aspiration to become a smart city. The required resources, in terms of land and funds, to run a roadside air pollution monitoring station, are not huge. The Environment Protection Department should lead the process immediately.
In terms of policy, the government’s Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong, published in 2013 as the core strategy to improve our air quality, will expire this year. While there is a long way to gobefore our air meets the safe level recommended by the World Health Organisation, the government should lay out a new blueprint to clean up the air.
The plan should have a clear timetable and measurable targets to be undertaken by each government department and bureau, including the Department of Health, the Transport and Housing Bureau, the Development Bureau and the Environment Bureau. This will help ensure the integration of disconnected policies with the common goal of safeguarding public health.
WE NEED ACTION. Citizens, community groups, schools and academics all have a role to play. Clean Air Network hopes to strengthen our community outreach to improve air quality literacy. Without the support of different sectors, this wouldn’t work well.
We are also building different kinds of tools, including an air pollution data management platform and a community health profile, to enable people to get involved in the conversation and solution-making process.
Finally, we need to understand that clean air is not free. It requires that we all take responsibility. Hong Kong has all the potential and talent needed to address the emerging threats from air pollution and climate change. Let’s be strategic and have an open mind to shouldering more responsibilities in the next decade.
Patrick Fung, CEO, Clean Air Network, Hong Kong