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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 12:56 GMT
HK feels pressure over pollution
By Vaudine England
BBC News, Hong Kong

Smog in Hong Kong in September 2004
Smog levels in Hong Kong have reached record highs in recent years
Concerned scientists and public policy experts in Hong Kong have formed a group to pressure the government into taking action over air quality.

They say World Health Organization guidelines for air quality objectives, released in October, should be applied in Hong Kong.

The government says it plans to set its own standards in two years time.

Meanwhile, businesses are warning of the high cost to Hong Kong's economy caused by worsening air quality.

'Needed now'

Bad air quality is costing Hong Kong millions of dollars a day in health care and other costs, says the newly formed Air Quality Objectives Concern group.

Members of the group say more than half the particles causing the pollution and poor visibility come from factories across the border in China.

The scientists and policy experts accuse the government of dragging its feet in formulating plans to improve air quality.

They say the air quality guidelines recently released by the WHO should be made government policy now, because Hong Kong already has a health crisis caused by air pollution.

Professor William Barron, an environmental economist at Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology, said new targets were needed urgently as Hong Kong had not changed its guidelines for about 20 years.

"Other places have moved on in terms of tightening their air quality objectives. Hong Kong has not," he said.

Meanwhile, the investment bank Merrill Lynch advised clients to sell stocks in Hong Kong land-owning companies because of the impact of bad air on land values.

And business groups have warned that it is getting harder to attract professionals to live in Hong Kong because of the air pollution.

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