Recently, a new set of five-year air quality objectives (which will ideally come into effect in 2020) were proposed by the government and are now pending approval from the legislature and environmental advisers, a recent report, written by a visiting professor in the School of Humanities, Social Science and Law at Harbin Institute of Technology notes.
The report noted that local environmental advocacy groups have criticised the proposal for being too conservative; lax standards would enable projects that will result in environmental degradation to carry on unhindered.
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some of the objectives won’t even be met, according to the Environmental Protection Department’s own forecasts for air quality in 2025.
Targets aside, concerned citizens of Hong Kong have attempted to identify the sources of the constant pollution problem. Some think the issue is a result of the emissions from the shipping industry. Thus, a solution currently in progress is cleaning up shipping fuel.
Another source is the coal and gas plants we still use to generate electricity; activists and advisers have stressed the need to slow down the rate at which roadside emissions are being produced. This means phasing out diesel vehicles and switching to electric cars.
The report notes that while these corrective and preventive measures are important, Hong Kong must also consider turning to some of the scientifically proven and innovative solutions that have been implemented elsewhere in the world.
A more proactive approach must be taken if the public health crisis it represents is to be rectified.
First, the region needs more flora and the opportunities that rooftops provide are being grossly underappreciated. Plants can be designed into the roofs of houses and apartments. Once introduced, the plants remove carbon dioxide and harmful pollutants from the air and improve its quality.
Research conducted in by scientists in Los Angeles discovered that one square metre of green roof removed about 100 grams of particulate matter per year, the equivalent pollution of an average car for an entire year.
Close to twenty years’ worth of environmental science studies on green roofs has shown promising results about their ability to reduce particulate matter from the air.
Moreover, newly created technologies to help solve this issue. For example, there is a paint that builds pollution-removing mosses and bacteria into the wall paint.
Second, the region needs air-cleaning units in key spaces with the highest levels of pollution. Hong Kong has just installed its first in the Central-Wan Chai Bypass that opened to traffic a week ago.
Inbuilt air purification in the tunnel is expected to remove at least 80 per cent of harmful suspended particulates and nitrogen dioxide, two key roadside pollutants; green groups are calling for more of these to be set up.
Third, the region needs to recognise and make use of alternative energy sources. For example, technologies to generate electricity using kinetic energy already exist; there are pavement tiles that convert the weight of footsteps into energy that can be used on-site and off-grid.
Given Hong Kong’s high population density, the region is more than likely to have enough people to power this technology.
Fourth, the region needs to be more ambitious in policymaking and the promotion of green technology.
In addition to phasing out dirty engines on the roads, the expert advised that Hong Kong should also design more efficient routes for ships, to cut down on travel time, and replace older models with new ones that rely on renewable sources.
Moreover, guidelines that crack down on emission-producing companies need to be put in place and more strictly enforced.