Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

“Ex­po­sure at the road­side is where we have the most se­ri­ous daily health risk from air pol­lu­tion,” says Loh. Old en­gines and heavy traf­fic pump emis­sions into nar­row streets flanked by tall build­ings that limit ven­ti­la­tion, con­cen­trat­ing a toxic mix that pedes­tri­ans can’t avoid in­hal­ing. Any mean­ing­ful clean-up must there­fore start on the street. This is where the gov­ern­ment has largely fo­cused its ef­forts in the past year, push­ing through schemes that man­date the grad­ual re­moval of the dirt­i­est ve­hi­cles, fund the fit­ting of pol­lu­tion-re­duc­tion de­vices to old en­gines, and en­cour­age the pur­chase and trial of elec­tric and hy­brid ve­hi­cles.

Start­ing this year, the gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted HK$12 bil­lion to sub­sidise the re­moval of 82,000 diesel com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles from our roads by 2020. “It’s the big­gest scheme of its kind in the world,” says Loh. The dirt­i­est goods ve­hi­cles, minibuses and non-fran­chised buses (known as pre-euro), and Euro I, II and III will be pro­gres­sively phased out, with the old­est set to be out­lawed from Jan­uary 2016. Diesel com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles regis­tered after Fe­bru­ary 1 this year now also have a 15-year limit on their ser­vice lives— an un­prece­dented move for Hong Kong, which has never pre­vi­ously im­posed a limit.

The liquified pe­tro­leum gas (LPG) used in many of the city’s taxis and minibuses is a cleaner fuel than petrol, but only if the ve­hi­cle’s cat­alytic con­verter, which trans­forms pol­lu­tants in the ex­haust into less toxic sub­stances through a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion, has not reached the end of its work­ing life. If it has, emis­sions are high. Since Oc­to­ber last year the gov­ern­ment has spent HK$180 mil­lion sub­si­dis­ing the re­place­ment of old con­vert­ers. Now it is in­stalling cam­eras and in­fared/ul­tra­vi­o­let sen­sors across the city to catch ve­hi­cles with in­op­er­a­tive con­vert­ers. Own­ers who fail to re­pair faulty de­vices will have their ve­hi­cle’s li­cence re­voked.

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