The government on Friday vowed to step up collaboration with Guangdong province in tackling ozone pollution – a regional public health problem troubling major cities in the Pearl River Delta.
Briefing the city’s air quality in 2018, Dave Ho Tak-yin, assistant director (air policy) of Environmental Protection Department said that despite an improvement of overall air quality, the city’s ambient ozone level is still rising, becoming a major challenge.
Unlike nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant mainly contributed by local sources, ozone can be widely formed in a region and affect nearby cities
Dave Ho Tak-yin
Assistant Director of Environmental Protection Department
Last year, both the general and roadside ozone concentrations reached the highest levels in the past 19 years, according to the department. Their statistics also showed that in 2018, the annual ozone level monitored at half of the 16 stations across Hong Kong failed to meet the Air Quality Objective – an official goal set out by the city’s Air Pollution Control Ordinance.
Ground-level ozone is the main component of photochemical smog. An excessive intake of the pollutant may cause harmful effects to people’s respiratory systems, he added.
Unlike nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant mainly contributed by local sources, ozone can be widely formed in a region and affect nearby cities, Ho said.
He cited a study by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2014 that the ozone produced from local emissions had been decreasing in recent years. However, the statistics showed that the overall level in Hong Kong is still increasing. He concluded that the increase was mainly due to regional dispersion of the pollutant.
To tackle the regional problem, Ho said the special administrative region government will work collaboratively with the Guangdong provincial government to strengthen scientific studies on how to reduce nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds – two major components of ozone.
Ho said a cross-boundary scientific research team has been formed to conduct a study on post-2020 air pollutant emission reduction targets of Hong Kong and Guangdong. The study will also focus on the concentration levels of major pollutants in the two places.
In the future, Ho said both the Hong Kong and Guangdong governments will keep reducing ozone emissions from three major sources including power plants, vehicles and factories. Measures include using more gas in power generation and tightening vehicle emission standards.
To reduce VOC emissions, he said Hong Kong will explore the feasibility of further tightening VOC contents of architecture paint. Guangdong will also enhance VOC control by regulating 13 major industries associated with sources of VOC including the petrochemical, furniture and printing industries, he added.
Frederick Lee Yok-shiu, honorary associate professor of the Department of Geography at the University of Hong Kong, told China Daily most kinds of air pollution are regional problems; regional collaborations in this area have been going on for many years.
“It’s hard to examine which pollutant was generated from which jurisdiction as the pollutants could be spread far away,” said Lee, a senior expert on cross-boundary air pollution in the PRD.
To fight air pollution, he suggested local governments in the region should ramp up efforts in reducing vehicle emissions, which he believes is the biggest source of ozone.
Calling for more incentives for citizens to use public transport and electric vehicles, he also believes the government should consider carefully about the harmful effects of vehicle emissions when making transport polices.
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