Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Air pollution levels ill-fitting a place with claims to being "Asia's World City"

The kind of (clear air) day I'd love to see Hong Kong having more of

The kind of gray, polluted air vista that threatens to make me blue

Until a few weeks ago, I've actually been worrying more about water pollution -- and trash being dumped by the tides onto beaches -- than air pollution in Hong Kong in recent months.  Since the beginning of this new year though, there's been a number of worryingly super high air pollution days that the surprising number of beautiful blue sky days in the same period have not been able to mitigate.   

On at least a couple of occasions now, I've abandoned -- or at least postponed -- plans to go hiking because of how visibly bad the air looked.  And on days like today, I really do feel less healthy after venturing outdoors for even a short walk than if I had stayed indoors and not exercised all day since I got back from my brief time outdoors this afternoon still with a sooty smell in my nose and inclined to sneeze a bit because of the dust that went up my nose and into my airwaves.

To be sure, I've not felt that the air pollution in Hong Kong has been as bad as the haze that envelopes Malaysia that comes from the annual burning of forests by Indonesian "slash and burn" agriculturalists.  (I particular remember the haze that I experienced in Kuala Lumpur in August 2005 in the days before I left that Malaysian city, when the air smelled of burnt rubber -- even in air-conditioned indoor spaces -- and my skin would itch when I perspired as a result of my sweat and whatever particles floating in the air lending and sticking on it.)

Even so, one would hope -- and should expect -- that Hong Kong's air pollution situation will improve rather than get worse in the ensuing days, weeks, months and years.  Frankly, it's long been one of my frustrations that the government of "Asia's World City" doesn't seem to care and do more to combat environmental problems and, in fact, can seem to allow and even advance it as a result of certain of their actions as well as non-action

My distrust of the Hong Kong government extends to its Environmental Protection Department's Air Quality Health Index.  Frankly, I think the readings I see for Hong Kong on the World Air Quality Index are far more truthful as well as reliable.  (For the record, as I write this, the Hong Kong government's air quality health index has the air pollution levels in my area of the territory being "moderate" while the World Air Quality Index real-time air quality index marks it as "unhealthy for sensitive groups".)

In view of its (lack of) general air quality, it is really amazing to find that Hong Kongers lead the world in life expectancy.  But rather than marvel at both female and male Hong Kongers have the highest longevity rates in the world, perhaps it's worth pondering how much longer -- and healthier -- many people could be if the city they lived in had higher air quality?  

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