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Hong Kong authorities urged to release air pollution report

An environmentalist group is urging Hong Kong authorities to come clean about reports commissioned seven years ago on air pollution in the Pearl River Delta which covers Hong Kong, Macau and the Chinese province of Guangdong.

HONG KONG: An environmentalist group is urging Hong Kong authorities to come clean about reports commissioned seven years ago on air pollution in the Pearl River Delta which covers Hong Kong, Macau and the Chinese province of Guangdong.

The pressure comes after local media reported that Guangdong authorities had objected to the reports' release.

Comparative studies from two years ago show that air quality in Hong Kong is three times worse than New York City and twice as bad in London. Based on the World Health Organization standards, the air quality in Hong Kong is in the healthy range only 41 days a year.

With pollution levels at such highs, air quality is a serious topic in Hong Kong and some environmentalist groups saw red when the South China Morning Post reported that Guangdong authorities had blocked the full disclosure of two Hong Kong-funded pollution surveys.

Commissioned in 2007 at the cost of US$2.5 million, the surveys were aimed at getting raw data on sources of air pollution in the Pearl River Delta in order to set new cross-border emission targets by 2020.

But the Guangdong authorities, who have a binding agreement with Hong Kong, objected to the release of unspecified "sensitive information", and only released summarised reports.

Kwong Sum-yim, CEO of Clean Air Network, said: "We really wonder maybe, perhaps, it's some kind of individual officials just being over-sensitive to the report."

The Clean Air Network said it is strange that the reports were being kept secret since authorities in Hong Kong and Guangdong had been more transparent in releasing air monitoring data over the past few years.

Despite being completed in 2011, Ms Kwong argued the data collected would still be useful now. One of the findings of the report is that ground level ozone caused by road side pollution has worsened.

"We're actually quite concerned because it's been showing a trend that there's been a reduction in most of the pollutants, like PM or NO but the problem is, we actually can see that the ozone is actually on the rise, said Ms Kwong. “So we do have some concerns about whether our government and Guangdong side can actually reach the reduction target set in 2015."

The report went on to say that reducing traffic in the Pearl River Delta by half would be an effective way of reducing smog in the region. However, it didn't elaborate on how traffic could be halved.

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