Mon, Nov 27, 2006 - Page 4 News List

HK businesses snub smog initiative

FEW TAKERS Only 100 companies have signed up for a protocol that aims to reduce factory emissions that have harmed health and caused executives to flee

AFP , HONG KONG

Pedestrians cover their faces while waiting to cross a busy street in Hong Kong in August. In conjunction with a report released on Tuesday, a Hong Kong Cabinet member has warned that worsening pollution in the territory will drive out professionals and undercut the city's competitiveness.

PHOTO: AFP

Hong Kong's businesses are snubbing an initiative to help ease the city's worsening air pollution, a report said yesterday, amid reports that chronic smog is hurting business and health.

Just 100 Hong Kong companies out of tens of thousands have signed up to a protocol aimed at cutting emissions from smoke-belching factories in southern China.

Most of Hong Kong's pollution comes from the region's heavily industrialized southern Pearl River Delta and most of those are owned by companies based in Hong Kong.

The initiative put forward by the local General Chamber of Commerce compels signatories to adopt international emissions standards -- which are much lower than the often antiquated factories and power plants of China are capable of matching.

The move had been backed by the Hong Kong government as a step towards combating pollution, which has become a highly emotive political issue as air quality has worsened in the past few years.

But a chamber source told the Sunday Morning Post newspaper that companies had shown little interest.

"We are disappointed by the cool response," the source was quoted as saying.

"When we are talking about how to clean up the sky, many companies and big bosses do not even bother to sign a piece of paper," the source said.

The revelations were likely to embarrass Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang (曾蔭權) because many of his government ministers own factories that have not signed up, the report said.

Smog is an almost daily nuisance in Hong Kong, as pollutants from factories and power stations in China's industrial hinterland mix with the fumes of the region's growing fleet of vehicles and wafts into the city on prevailing winds.

Government estimates said that more than 50 days last year suffered visibility of lower than a kilometer as a result of the smog.

Environmentalists tests at the airport which found smog reduced visibility on more than 100 days of the year.

Such is the concern over pollution that many business groups and even a senior government Cabinet member have joined environmentalists to warn that it is not only bad for the city's health but also bad for business.

Ronald Arculli, a member of the government's Cabinet, last week said the poor air was deterring foreign businesses from setting up shop in Hong Kong because they could not find executives willing to settle in such unhealthy conditions.

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