Hong Kong Travel Guide |
Home Airfare to Hong Kong Accommodation What to do in Hong Kong Victoria Harbour

Air Quality Sucks, So Don’t Suck In Air

Two weeks until the Hong Kong Sevens!

Hong Kong’s leading long-distance runner, Mark Williams, announced today that he’s relocating to New Zealand. His reason: he’s sick of breathing Hong Kong’s “foul air” and he doesn’t want to raise his children in the midst of all the air pollution. Interestingly, he lives in Discovery Bay, which is on Lantau Island, 45 minutes from Central on a high speed ferry. He says he has trouble training and that he’s developed allergies in the last few years.

Friday, a high government official resigned on his doctor’s orders. His asthma is so bad, he is endangering his life by continuing to live and work in Hong Kong.

The problem for Hong Kong is two-fold, prevailing winds in the summer that blow in from the South China Sea and keep the pollution from escaping and prevailing winds from the North and West in the winter that move polluted air from Mainland China to the Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong.

HKPhotoPollution2006Mar18.jpg
Webcam picture Taken at Causeway Bay, 12:00 Noon, Saturday March 18, 2006

Notice, you can barely see the skyscrapers in Kowloon less than one-half mile away.

There is a third problem that no one seems to want to talk about, and that is the fact that all the tall buildings keep Hong Kong from breathing. Put another way the buildings increase heat and decrease air movement. The government keeps filling in more and more of the Harbor and the developers keep putting taller and taller buildings on the reclaimed land cutting off air movement from the sea.

Nobody seems to have either the commitment or the political will to attack the problem, yet everyone agrees there is a problem. Other than offering incentives to taxi drivers to switch to propane fueled vehicles, little is being done. No one, it seems, wants to take on either the developers here at home or the polluters on the mainland. Meanwhile, we all walk around sneezing and wiping our watery eyes.

When I first started traveling to Hong Kong 25 years ago, I was astonished at how clear the air was from my friends’ high rise flats in the mid-levels and on the South Eastern side of the Island. Now all is murky much of the time. Other than a lot of hand-wringing, no one is addressing the problem with any kind of a comprehensive plan.

In 1997, people feared that the PRC take-over would make Hong Kong an undesirable place in which to live and do business. Now almost 10 years later the prediction may be coming true but for a very different reason – pollution.