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Air quality is a major concern in Hong Kong, and the Government is undertaking a number of initiatives to improve it. The following provides an overview of the problems and the solutions that are being put forward.

Air Pollution

Hong Kong's air pollution is mainly contributed by motor vehicles, marine vessels and power plants. The two greatest challenges are local street-level pollution and regional smog. Diesel vehicles, particularly trucks, buses and light buses, are the main source of street-level pollution. Smog is caused by a combination of pollutants mainly from motor vehicles, industry and power plants in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta. The Environment Bureau released “A Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong” on 28 March 2013 which sets out in detail the various measures to tackle air pollution from power plants, land and sea transport, and non-road mobile machinery and to strengthen collaboration with Guangdong to deal with regional pollution.

The Government is working hard to reduce emissions. As of 2012, a comprehensive programme to reduce street-level pollution had lowered the roadside levels of respirable suspended particulates and nitrogen oxides by 42% and 31% respectively compared with 1999. Hong Kong’s new Air Quality Objectives (AQOs), which are benchmarked against a combination of interim and ultimate targets under the World Health Organization's Air Quality Guidelines, took effect from 1 January 2014. To attain the new AQOs, the Government has put forward a wide range of new air quality improvement measures. In addition, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and Guangdong Provincial Governments endorsed in November 2012 a new set of regional emission reduction targets/ranges for 2015 and 2020 respectively with a view to improving regional air quality.

Air Quality Health Index

The Environmental Protection Department releases Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) information hourly to inform the public of the short-term health risk of air pollution in Hong Kong and helps the public take precautionary measures to protect their health.  The AQHIs are reported on a scale of 1 to 10 and 10+ and are grouped into five AQHI health risk categories with health advice provided.  This is particularly useful for children, the elderly and those with heart or respiratory illnesses who need to take precautions when the health risk levels are high.  The AQHI forecast also advises the public before the onset of high health risk categories due to pollution episodes.

Pearl River Delta Air Quality

Cooperation between the governments of Hong Kong and Guangdong is working to ensure that regional pollution levels are brought under control. At the forefront of such efforts is the Regional Air Quality Management Plan, which is coordinating individual initiatives in different cities to ensure that everyone in the Delta benefits. The Regional Air Pollution Network is monitoring the results, which can provide you with information about the level of air pollution in the region.

Vehicle Smoke and Exhaust Gas Reduction

Pollution is a particular concern at the street level in the built-up urban areas of Hong Kong. Diesel vehicles are a large part of the problem, and the Government is working to reduce their effects. But there are also simple ways that you can reduce your own vehicle pollution, and in doing so help others. 

Importance of Indoor Air Quality

The Government's concern about air quality in Hong Kong also extends indoors. It is important to achieve and maintain a better indoor air quality as we spend majority of our time indoors, either at homes, offices or on public transportation facilities. Good indoor air quality safeguards our health and would also help enhance Hong Kong's competitiveness over other cities.

What You Can Do

There are a number of practical and easy ways that you can help to improve air quality both indoors and outdoors. For example, you can choose public instead of private transport and switch off domestic appliances and electric lights when they are not in use. Industry, developers and others can also play their parts by observing air pollution control laws and exercising good practices in their operations. What we do now will determine how well we live tomorrow.

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Last revision date: January 2014

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