Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

Curb­ing emis­sions at their source is paramount in the quest for clean air, but bet­ter ur­ban plan­ning is vi­tal to stop pol­lu­tion con­cen­trat­ing in the city’s most pop­u­lous ar­eas. With 40 per cent of Hongkongers liv­ing above the 14th floor, we have “avoided the blight of ur­ban sprawl,” says Shaw, but we suf­fer the con­se­quences of an ex­tremely dense ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment. Close-packed high-rise build­ings and nar­row streets trap fumes in a phe­nom­e­non known as the “street canyon ef­fect.” This is com­pounded by the “heat is­land ef­fect,” whereby the con­crete jun­gle ab­sorbs heat from the sun (and en­gines) by day and ra­di­ates it by night, in­creas­ing night­time tem­per­a­tures. This drives up de­mand for air con­di­tion­ing and thereby elec­tric­ity. En­cour­ag­ing low-rise build­ings, es­tab­lish­ing more pedes­trian zones, ra­tio­nal­is­ing bus routes and cre­at­ing cy­cling lanes would in­crease ven­ti­la­tion, while ur­ban green­ing— plant­ing veg­e­ta­tion at street level as well as in roof and wall gar­dens—would help fil­ter out pol­lu­tants and cool the air through shade and tran­spi­ra­tion. En­ergy-ef­fi­cient build­ings would also de­crease elec­tric­ity use and re­duce emis­sions from power plants.

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