Hong Kong Cleans Up It’s Environment

HongKong Sept 06 005 blogACCORDING to many commentators, one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in the twenty-first century is the protection and conservation of the environment.   It’s a mainstream issue and not just in places like Australia.  Indeed even the government of Hong Kong is now making environmental sustainability a key objective which it intends to integrate with economic and social objectives. 

And according to recent Australian government advice there are opportunities for Australian businesses in pollution prevention and control technologies as the country seeks to address air and water pollution.  Current major suppliers of environmental equipment are apparently from the USA, Japan, mainland China and the UK.

“Air pollution is a serious problem, and diesel smoke and fine dust in the urban areas are the most pressing problems, causing health concerns. A number of measures have been introduced that have reduced vehicle emissions by almost 80 per cent.

Major progress:
• Hong Kong became the first city in Asia to switch to ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel
• Over 98 per cent of the 15,000 taxis in Hong Kong have converted to LPG
• Over 80 per cent (24,000 in number) old light diesel vehicles installed particulate trap
• All new petrol cars must be fitted with catalytic converters
• Higher fines are imposed on smoky vehicles
• Introduction of the most stringent Euro III emission standards

Road traffic noise is one of the most pervasive forms of pollution in Hong Kong. Close to a million people live in homes which suffer road traffic noise higher than the minimum acceptable standard (70 dB) in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines. The following measures have been introduced to tackle road traffic noise problems:
• Pre-emptive planning based on environmental impact assessments
• Introduction of building insulation to redress the impact on the affected premises
• Installation of roadside barriers and enclosures on existing roads
• Imposition of legislative regulation to control noise from vehicles
• Resurfacing noisy roads with a special porous, low-noise road surface

“Water pollution has increased with urban development. Hong Kong produces more than two million tonnes of sewage every day. The lack of proper treatment for most sewage from the urban area around Victoria Harbour has resulted in poor water quality. The Government has launched the ‘Harbour Area Treatment Scheme’ to tackle the sewage and wastewater pollution. Around 70 per cent of the sewage that flows into Victoria Harbour will pass through chemically enhanced treatment. An international panel completed a review on the sewage system in Hong Kong and made suggestions on the future treatment of sewage.

The total recycling recovery rate in Hong Kong is about 35 per cent of the total municipal solid waste. In the industrial and commercial sectors Hong Kong has a good recovery rate with over 50 per cent of materials being recycled. Local industry reprocesses over 50 per cent of recyclable materials such as waste paper, metals, plastic and glass.

Chemical wastes are treated at the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre by incineration. The government also plans to develop incineration facilities for the disposal of municipal waste, clinical waste, sewage sludge from the sewage treatment plants, and animal carcasses.”

All this in one of the most densely populated countries on earth.


12 Responses to Hong Kong Cleans Up It’s Environment

  1. Neville July 16, 2009 at 9:26 am #

    Recent history proves that the wealthier you are the healthier you become.
    In only one hundred years mankind in the ( now) first world has increased life expectancy from aroud 46 to 80 years of age, due to better nutrition, healthcare and technology.
    I have friends who lived in London during the dreaded pea souper fogs ,smogs when people died because of real pollution, this doesn’t happen anymore.
    Ditto the cleanup of our rivers like the Thames and one of the most important ingredients in this longivity mix is access to relatively cheap energy.

  2. spangled drongo July 16, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    So true. Health is a socio-economic problem and what we are looking at with current western ideology is population reduction due to bad health.
    I’m sure China will be too smart for that.
    FWIW, it would be interesting to know Hong Kong’s temperature changes during the last couple of centuries.

  3. Ian Mott July 16, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    As a past resident of Hong Kong I can confirm that pollution appears bad in HK because it is so concentrated. But this concentration is a product of population density rather than per capita pollution volume. This population density is also a major asset in that public transport can operate at levels of efficiency and frequency that less densely populated cities can only dream about.

    Hong Kong has a colonial history of very low tax and very low public infrastructure investment coupled to a rudimentary social contract. But once this under investment has been remedied the city will demonstrate how a very high standard of living can be maintrained on a very modest carbon footprint. The irony in all this is that it is the very absence of the so-called “planning profession” in the past that has delivered this situation.

    Other cities all over the world have been blighted by planners who have seriously distorted the operation of housing and office space markets. In particular they have seriously restricted high rise construction, the most effective means of delivering affordable high density living and the low per capita pollution levels that are now seen as very important goals.

    In HK the free market went “hell for leather”. In so doing they produced some trully awful, and even dangerous, housing, by our standards, but which, never-the-less, were still an improvement on what people had endured before and at a price that locals could afford. Over only a few cycles of construction and demolishion these housing standards have improved to keep pace with rising incomes and expectations.

    The current CO2 emissions are only 5.36t/capita and there is every indication that they could achieve the same living standards as the Swiss (with 5.6t/capita) without any significant change in emissions. And of course, it follows that every city in China can aspire to the same living standards as found in Hong Kong or Zurich with the same carbon footprint.

    So when you next see some “Garnautesque” departmental moron expressing concern that IPCC emission projections have already exceeded the upper end of their projections, it would be well to remember that the realistic upper end of Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Pakistani and African per capita emissions is defined by Hong Kong affluence, not Houstons. And any short term spike in trends is nothing more than evidence of a pre-delivery of effort towards that upper limit. It is not an indication that the entire trend line has risen to even more absurd extrapolations from Los Angeles style emission footprints.

    So even in that highly unlikely event that CO2 really is a serious problem then you can always take great comfort in the knowledge that most of the developing world has not been cursed by the planning profession in the way we have here.

    Hong Kong has always issued strong challenges to those of an anti-free market bent. Its people have always wisely chosen to accumulate wealth before they start spending it. So it is only appropriate that their own market based development model should provide such a comprehensive rebuttal of the silly IPCC emission projections and the gross market manipulations, and inevitable inefficiencies, that those projections are being used to justify.

  4. Marion July 16, 2009 at 12:34 pm #

    I was in Hong Kong for business in December, it was my first time there and i have to say i really liked the city… if it wasnt for the pollution. Absolutely disgusting! And apparently that time of the year is the best in terms of low pollution. It truly is terrible… And reading your post and some of the stats you reported i am not surprised. Lets hope they really implement what they set themselves to! It would make such a great difference…

  5. Jeremy C July 16, 2009 at 3:18 pm #

    “I have friends who lived in London during the dreaded pea souper fogs ,smogs when people died because of real pollution, this doesn’t happen anymore.
    Ditto the cleanup of our rivers like the Thames and one of the most important ingredients in this longivity mix is access to relatively cheap energy”

    Bollocks Neville! Both these were achieved by legislation carried out by elected representatives. The first was done at a time when the UK was poor, following WWII. It has little to do with a country being rich or poor, its just down to choice (as I write this on a relatively fine morning in London).

  6. Larry July 16, 2009 at 3:42 pm #

    One environmental concern that should be addressed by the Hong Kong authorities is the hazardous park benches there.

  7. Neville July 16, 2009 at 3:46 pm #

    Jeremy thanks for proving my point, the Uk govt had the sense to fix the problem because it was a democracy and responded to the concerns of its citizens.
    It wasn’t poor by world standards and don’t forget this much poorer Britain brought in a national health scheme soon after the 2nd WW.
    All 1st world countries are much wealthier today than they were 50 years ago and of course even the 3rd world have much higher levels of nutrition than was experienced even 30 years ago.
    Countries in the developing world have a much higher standard of living than they had even 20 years ago, see China and India, Brazil etc.

  8. Sean July 16, 2009 at 4:58 pm #

    It’s “Its”, not “It’s”.

  9. Alan July 16, 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    Yeah, but the best things about Hong Kong are being able to buy ivory, whale meat and rhinoceros horn.

  10. xyz124 July 30, 2009 at 1:17 am #

    Western style industrial growth is the worst thing that developing countries can follow .
    All it leads to is overexploitation of resources degrdation of environment just so you could have a few more cars ?? some nice roads ?you call that wealth?? living in smoke filled built up “cities” where high rises blot out the sun with not an inch of green anywhere? thats worse than living in the slums of mumbai or brazil .

    true wealth lies in our forests .


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