Hong Kong Says Air Quality Objectives to Take Start 2014

Hong Kong, facing criticism over its pollution, plans to have new objectives for its air quality by 2014 and seeks to use the World Health Organization targets as a benchmark, according to a statement from the government.

The city’s government will submit amendments to the air pollution ordinance to the Legislative Council in 2012-13, according to the statement. It wants to review its objectives every five years.

The former British colony is seeking to address criticism from lawmakers and academics over its delay in updating its 25- year air quality standard, as cities including Beijing and Taipei pledged to improve their monitoring and disclosure of pollutants. Roadside pollution in Hong Kong contributed to about 7,240 premature deaths from 2005 to 2011, the Civic Exchange think tank said, citing data from an environmental index.

Hong Kong’s current method of measuring air quality is “outdated and primitive,” University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health said in a statement today. The measurements “bear no relation to actual health risks,” it said.

The university today released an update of its Hedley Environmental Index, which uses a peer-reviewed methodology to indicate the public health impact of air pollution. The new index will have a map showing levels of pollutants at 14 monitoring stations, and will benchmark itself to WHO guidelines, the university said.

Last Months

The government’s statement today comes as Chief Executive Donald Tsang, who had pledged to clean up the city’s air, enters the last months of his administration. While pollutants from neighboring China have declined following an emission control pact with the Guangdong provincial government, pollution from vehicles has hurt efforts.

An estimated 528,388 hospital bed days, and 49.26 million doctor visits “can be attributed to Hong Kong’s persistently poor air quality” during Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s term of office from 2005, the Civic Exchange said.

Hong Kong said on Jan. 11 that it will measure pollutants smaller than 2.5 micrometers at all its monitoring stations by March, a week after Beijing pledged to make similar data publicly available.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marco Lui in Hong Kong at mlui11@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hwee Ann Tan at hatan@bloomberg.net

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