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Central Hong Kong Sees Near-Record Pollution Levels in 2013

Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Roadside pollution worsened in Hong Kong’s Central district last year as vehicular emissions helped send nitrogen dioxide concentrations to near-record levels, an environmental advocacy group said.

Citywide levels of the pollutant, linked to damaged lung function, were the second-highest on record, according to Clean Air Network Ltd.. Particulate matter levels at all monitoring stations exceeded World Health Organization guidelines by two to three times, the group said in a report yesterday.

Hong Kong’s legislators yesterday approved HK$11.4 billion ($1.5 billion) in funding to replace old diesel vehicles. Aging buses and trucks have led to a worsening in air quality since 2007. Nitrogen dioxide levels are getting worse because of local emissions, rather than from China’s Pearl River Delta region, the environmental group said.

“As you can see from the air quality in 2013, end-of-pipe solutions are not enough considering the time it takes,” Sum Yin-Kwong, chief executive officer of Clean Air Network, said in a statement. “To speed up the improvement in air quality, we hope to see the government look into the problem from a comprehensive transport management perspective in this year’s policy address.”

The city will use the approved subsidies to phase out 82,000 pre-Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles in a program that will begin on March 1, according to an e-mailed government statement citing the Environmental Protection Department. The plan should lead to a cut in levels of respirable suspended particulates and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent and 30 percent respectively, the department said.

Roadside Monitors

Hong Kong has three roadside pollution monitoring stations in the busy districts of Central, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. The Central monitor, sandwiched between the Asian headquarters of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and a Tiffany & Co. outlet, recorded nitrogen dioxide concentration levels of 126 micrograms per cubic meter last year, according to the environmental group report.

The Central roadside gauge stood at 6, the highest level in the “moderate” health risk range, at 3 p.m. today. The reading at the Causeway Bay roadside station, located in a busy shopping area, hit 7, considered to pose a high health risk, according to data posted on the department’s website.

Hong Kong introduced an air quality index on Dec. 30 pegged to pollution-induced hospital admission risks. Readings on the index are calculated based on health risks from inhaling concentrations of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. Air pollution in the city contributed to 3,183 premature deaths last year, according to the group.

To contact the reporter on this story: Natasha Khan in Hong Kong at nkhan51@bloomberg.net

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

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