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

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs