China Environmental News Digest

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Friday, March 24, 2006

HK air pollution higher than most, comes from China

23 Mar 2006 10:57:39 GMT
Source: Reuters
HONG KONG, March 23 (Reuters) - Hong Kong's air is consistently more polluted than cities such as Bangkok, Paris and Taipei, and most of the grime floats over the border from China, an expert said on Thursday.
By analysing satellite images, scientists at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University have monitored the level of aerosols, or atmospheric particles, in the air in Hong Kong and the neighbouring region of southern China since October.

Compared with aerosol levels in various other cities around the globe, the picture is grim.

"Hong Kong usually comes out higher than other cities," said Dr. Janet Nichol, head of the university's department of land surveying and geo-information. It was "not always higher than Beijing", though, she told reporters.

About 150 cities and other sites participate in NASA's Aerosol Robotic Network, monitoring air pollution around the world, she said.

Pollution in Hong Kong has been worsening, with the number of clear days dropping, respiratory problems on the rise and worries also increasing that the deteriorating environment is starting to affect the economy.

The group Friends of the Earth recently released a survey that showed nearly 40 percent of tour guides polled had received complaints about Hong Kong's air from visitors.

And the pollution is not locally produced; it comes from across the border, Nichol said.

Measuring air quality with sun photometers at two sites in Hong Kong -- one in the city centre and one about 15 miles (24 km) away by the border with China -- Nichol found that pollution levels went up and down basically in tandem.

That suggested most of the air pollution in Hong Kong was coming from across the border, as opposed to cars or other urban sources. "

One of the major sources, if not the major source, of aerosols in Hong Kong is factories," she said.

The Pearl River Delta is one of China's main economic engines, and it has long been known that factories there are major polluters. The monitoring station receives satellite pictures from NASA daily and will monitor air quality for 10 years. The University will also provide air pollution data to Hong Kong's environmental protection department.

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