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

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend 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.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More