Greenpeace finds tourist spot polluted by suspended particulates

Press release - 2008-10-01
Greenpeace conducted an on-site monitoring in Mong Kong Pedestrian Area, a hot spot where a lot of tourists are usually found, 2 days prior to “Oct 1 Golden Week”. According to the results, it was discovered that the level of suspended particulates in the area was so high that the health of tourists and local residents would be threatened. Paul Tse Wai-chun, acting member of the Legislative Council for the tourism functional constituency, says air pollution does not only cause harm to the health of local residents and tourists but also damages the image of Hong Kong as Asia’s World City and a welcoming tourist site.

Greenpeace sets up “Greenpeace Tourist Information Centre” in Mong Kok Pedestrian Area. The organization distributes the newly issued brochure “Clean Air Scenic Spots” with Paul Tse Wai-chun. They collect the sign from the public to pledge the government to review AQO according to WHO standards.

According to Greenpeace, the level of respiratory suspended particulates and fine suspended particulates in Mong Kok Pedestrian Area was extremely high in the two days prior to " Oct 1 Golden Week", i.e., from 4pm to 5 pm on 29 and 30 September 2008. The amount of respiratory suspended particulates (PM10) reached 142 micrograms/cubic meter on average; and the amount of fine suspended particulates, which are not monitored in Hong Kong currently, even reached 76 micrograms/cubic meter. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the acceptable level of concentration of pollutants in 24 hours should be 50 micrograms/cubic meter and 25 micrograms/cubic meter on average respectively. Level of suspended particulates is alarming.

Greenpeace Campaigner Prentice Koo says, "Air pollution in Hong Kong is serious. The Mong Kok Pedestrian Area, being the most attractive spot for tourists and residents, is always crowded with vehicles and the density of flats is high. The levels of suspended particulates always stay at a very high level. Greenpeace urges the government to establish a stricter standard on the level of suspended particulates in the air and also put fine suspended particulates (PM2.5) into the monitoring list in order to protect the health of the public."

Medical researches reveal that respiratory suspended particulates can aggravate existing cardio-vascular diseases or lung problems. Fine suspended particulates (PM2.5) are on the other hand able to penetrate deep into the lungs and impair the functions of lung sacs. Some suspended particulates may even cause cancers.

Paul Tse Wai-chun, acting member of the Legislative Council for the tourism functional constituency, concerns about the problem. "The air quality of many tourist spots is poor. Many of these spots are full of suspended particulates. Also, the two sides of the Victoria Harbour are always smoggy. In the long run, Hong Kong's image as the 'Pearl of Orient' will be damaged. To rescue Hong Kong's tourism, I now urge the government to amend the Air Quality Objectives according to the World Health Organization's (WHO) standards, so that the air quality can be improved and the interest of the industry will thus be protected." he said. A survey done earlier showed that 48.8% of tourist guides in Hong Kong had received complaints from tourists about air pollution. Also, 10% of tourist guides said that some tourists had felt sick due to air pollution.

Greenpeace sets up "Greenpeace Tourist Information Centre" in Mong Kok Pedestrian Area today. The organization distributes the newly issued brochure "Clean Air Scenic Spots" with Paul Tse Wai-chun. The brochure introduces scenic spots with clean air in Hong Kong. Local residents and tourists can check the air quality in different areas by downloading "Greenpeace's Real Air Pollution Index" in order to enjoy fresh, clean and happy trips in the recommended scenic spots. The latest information of air pollution status in different districts is also given for tourists and local residents to understand better about air quality in Hong Kong.

Since 2004, Greenpeace has criticized Hong Kong's "Air Quality Objectives" of not being updated. Although Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah admitted in September that the Objective was obsolete, no timetable has yet been set for amendments. Greenpeace urges the government to step up concerns to the tourism industry and thus amend the Objectives as soon as possible. The government should set a stricter standard which targets suspended particulates according to WHO's latest standard so that tourists and residents will benefit. The public may also visit to join Greenpeace's online petition pledging the government to ensure a fresh environment with clean air.