Seeing through the SMOG in Hong Kong

25 10 2011  By HK staff | published Oct 20, 2011

In addition to all the particles and toxic gases floating through our city’s air, there’s a lot of misinformation, too. We tracked down the experts and combed research reports to debunk common myths about air pollution. We’re not gonna lie—some of the stats, and the general apathy towards the issue, are pretty scary. But since staying indoors all day isn’t an option, arming ourselves with knowledge is the next best thing, and it’s the first step toward a long-term solution. The air itself may not be crystal clear now (or ever) but we hope you come to see the situation a little more clearly.


China, rather than local sources, is the main reason for all of our air pollution problems.


Hongkongers shy away from taking responsibility for the air pollution problem afflicting our city. We have an easy scapegoat—which to argue that it’s factories and other sources on the mainland that emit most of the pollutants that invade our air, and that Hong Kong itself only plays a minor role. That is definitely not true—just look at the statistics.

A research study conducted by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2007 showed that local sources are the primary factors contributing to air pollution 53 percent of the time. Regional sources, on the other hand, are crucial influences on air pollution only 36 percent of the time.

At a local level, exhaust from vehicles (cars, trucks, buses stopped end-to-end in traffic) and marine transportation (yes, all those container ships constantly chugging through our waters) are major sources of pollutants. It is difficult for pollutants to disperse, especially in such a densely populated city, where they stagnate along the roads, trapped in by high-rise buildings that create urban canyons. At the same time, Hong Kong’s power plants, from Tuen Mun’s to Lamma’s—which burn coal in order to generate electricity—also plays a major role in dirtying our air. – Grace Tsoi





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