News / Asia

Hong Kong Endures Worst Smog in Two Years

People rest at a ferry pier at the financial Central district under hazy weather in Hong Kong August 1, 2012. In the background, is the city's highest building, the International Commerce Centre in Kowloon peninsula.
People rest at a ferry pier at the financial Central district under hazy weather in Hong Kong August 1, 2012. In the background, is the city's highest building, the International Commerce Centre in Kowloon peninsula.
Hong Kong residents have endured the city's worst smog in more than two years, as a typhoon far to the east caused a build up of bad air that obscured the international financial center's famous skyline.

Thursday's air pollution readings at monitoring stations around the city hit the highest levels since a dust storm smothered Hong Kong in March 2010. The government urged people with heart and respiratory illnesses to reduce outdoor activities and avoid prolonged stays in areas with heavy traffic.

Heat Makes Situation Worse

With temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, local resident Dawn Lok said she felt suffocated. "When you go out on the street with traffic during the day, it's really horrible," she said.

Lok, who works in the health and beauty industry, said she wants to stay indoors as much as possible. "When I go to work, I just take a cab, because I can't stand on the street for more than a few minutes," she said.

The government says the city suffers from two types of air pollution: street-level pollutants emitted from vehicles, and regional smog whose sources include local coal-fired power plants and factories in neighboring parts of China.

Vehicle Emissions Blamed

A local group campaigning for immediate government action to clean the air blamed the latest smog primarily on vehicle exhaust fumes. The Clean Air Network said a weather system would not be able to trap pollutants over the city if its cars, buses and trucks emitted fewer harmful gases.

Francis Moriarty, a journalist with Radio Television Hong Kong, said the factory emissions in neighboring Guangdong province also are a major problem. "When you have a holiday or there's an economic downturn in mainland China, and the factories cease running or reduce their production, you see improved quality of air in Hong Kong," he said.

Hong Kong's role as one of the world's busiest ports is another factor. "Many of those ships [that use the port] are burning very dirty diesel fuel," said Moriarty.

Incentive Program Makes Impact

Hong Kong authorities have tightened air quality targets this year to try to meet World Health Organization standards. Since 1999, the government also has been offering incentives to individuals and businesses to replace diesel taxis and buses with cleaner liquid petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles and to retrofit old diesel vehicles with particulate reduction devices.

The measures have had some success, significantly reducing the concentration of toxic particles in the air. But, nitrogen dioxide levels on city streets have remained high. Moriarty said the public wants authorities to do more.

Another Challenge for Hong Kong Leader

"The new government of Leung Chun-ying, who has just come in as our chief executive, is already under severe political stress for a number of reasons. If it wants to create some political good will in a part of the community, acting on pollution would be one way to do it," he said.

Moriarty said many residents want Hong Kong to "stand up" to Chinese authorities to demand a stop to smog blowing in from the mainland. He said air pollution also has forced local people to consider moving abroad.

"When many people in the community are having to consider this question, 'As much as I love living here, and as profitable as it may be for me, do I want to pay the price of my health and the health of my loved ones?' Then it moves beyond anecdotal," he said. "It's a real life concern."

Lok had no immediate plans to leave. "I have to say honestly that I'm quite used to this kind of pollution already," she said.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs