Air quality worsens as economy revives: green group

A green group has found that air pollution worsened over the past year as Hong Kong’s economy picked up after the initial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Clean Air Network said on Monday that it had analysed data from the Environmental Protection Department and found the levels of every air pollutant had risen.

The group’s report stated that nitrogen dioxide, which chiefly comes from vehicle emissions, climbed 12 percent to four times the World Health Organisation’s healthy standards, and the ozone level rose 10 percent to its second highest in two decades.

The green group’s CEO, Patrick Fung, said the relaxation of social distancing measures last year contributed to the bad air.

“There was more road transport, there were more ocean vessels – there were more air pollution emissions from vehicles on the roads as well as from the oceans,” he said.

He noted that air quality was worst in Kwai Chung and Tuen Mun.

“Kwai Chung and Tuen Mun are located on the western side of Hong Kong. Although there are minimal levels of industrial activities in Hong Kong, we are affected by the regional industrial activities, including those at southern China,” he said.

Although the SAR has seen a reduction in pollutants since a peak in 2013 and 2014, Fung said the trend started to slow down four years ago, and it is “not a good sign”.

The group urged the government to come up with a clearer roadmap for introducing electric public transport and commercial vehicles, and called for more infrastructure to support electric and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles as well as economic incentives for a quicker transition to clean vehicles.