Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

China's 'New Workshop' Casts a Smog Cloud over Hong Kong

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

China's 'New Workshop' Casts a Smog Cloud over Hong Kong

Article excerpt


CLIMB Hong Kong's famed Victoria Peak these days and chances are you won't be greeted with a stunning view across the city's harbour but a shifting veil of smog.

The haze in China's top commercial centre has become so severe that boats have been colliding in its busy sea lanes, and anxious residents have been staying indoors.

"It's just terrible," says a British investment banker who has lived in the former colony for many years. "This has been the worst year that it's ever been, there's no doubt."

Poor air quality in the densely populated port city, which also serves as a business hub for much of Asia, is not new. But everyone now agrees the air is deteriorating dramatically.

"People genuinely are concerned about it," says Christopher Hammerbeck, executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. "It is bad; it has got worse."

Pollution concerns feature strongly in his members' gripes about the town, Hammerbeck adds.

The increasingly gross air is causing economic as well as medical damage.

There are concerns it will take the shine of the city's appeal as a tourist destination, a key source of income.

Some expatriates, especially those with children, already say they would decline a move to Hong Kong because of the airborne smut. There are also fears that wrecking the environment could eventually undermine the vibrant city's long-term growth rate.

The problem is twofold. Hong Kong's millions of homes and vehicles throw out clouds of pollution while local power stations burn coal, a chief cause of bad air.

But a great deal more pollution - as much as 80% - is spewed out by the thousands of factories in the nearby Pearl River Delta. Dubbed the "new workshop of the world", the region is China's manufacturing dynamo, and an unrivalled source of the smog.

"We are overshadowed by the Pearl River Delta, and most of the pollution that comes into Hong Kong is background pollution. It comes from further up the estuary," says Hammerbeck.

"It's very similar to what happened in the United Kingdom after the 19th century Industrial Revolution: you go through a period where the whole country gets trashed. …

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