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The World Health organisation estimates that 4.6 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution. Air pollution in Hong Kong has become a severe problem in the recent years mainly due to high-density of motor vehicles, marine vessels and coal-burning power plants. Air pollution in Hong Kong is also compounded by high levels of industrial pollution in neighbouring Chinese factories of Pearl River Delta. While Hong Kong can do little to control wind patterns from China, it can take greater measures to combat air pollution. Despite concerns that imposing stricter regulations concerning air pollution will harm Hong Kong’s reputation as one of the most business friendly cities in the world where economic success must be achieved at all cost, something must be done. Hong Kong Government must legislate stricter laws and enforce penalties to combat air pollution in Hong Kong, to prevent further destruction of the environment,  safeguard human health, and make Hong Kong a more attractive place to live and work. 
It is indisputable that air pollution has a serious toxicological impact on human health. More deaths per year are linked to air pollution than to automobile accidents. Exposure to outdoor air pollution causes 3 million premature deaths around the world each year, largely due to heart and lung diseases (World Health Organisation).  There were more than 1,600 premature deaths in 2016 because of air pollution (Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health). People exposed too high enough levels of certain air pollutants will experience breathing difficulties and worsening of existing lung and heart problems, such as asthma. In the long-term, air pollution can cause cancer and damage to the immune and respiratory systems, and even death, in the most extreme cases. Hong Kong, being one of Asia’s premier economic hubs and one of the most densely populated cities in the world, has faced the serious problem of air pollution due to high concentration of cars and marine transport, and proximity to China. 60- 70% of the polluting particles matters come from China, especially in the winter. (Hong Kong Environmental Department). Levels of cancer-causing pollutants have exceeded the World Health Organisation norms for the last 15 years, and are often 3-5 times more than WHO acceptable levels. An airborne particulate linked to cancer and heart disease increases the risk of dying of breast cancer by 80% in Hong Kong. In the first month of 2017 researchers estimate there were more than 300,000 doctor’s visits linked to smog.  A landmark study in 2016 found that air pollution increased the risk of dying from any type of cancer by 22% in Hong Kong” (The Guardian). Therefore, it is of great importance that the Hong Kong government takes immediate measures to control the emission of CO2 polluting particles in order to protect the health of its citizens.
In addition to being dangerous to human health, air pollution can have severe negative environmental effects, such as acid rain, haze, and global climate (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Leading scientists predicts that average world temperature will rise by 1.5 to 3.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, and sea levels would rise between 0.25 and 1 meter. Extreme weather events, droughts, cyclones, floods, will happen more often, and be more severe. Hong Kong in recent years has experienced a great number of environmental problems such as harmful tides, severe black rains, unusually high temperatures and intense tropical storms. These events cause irreparable damage to Hong Kong’s fragile eco-system and disrupt the daily life of its residents, both their business and leisure activities.
The detrimental effects of air pollution on the environment and health make Hong Kong a less appealing place to live and work. Historically, the city has been considered one of the most dynamic and vibrant place, in the world, attracting people who were looking for a proximity with China, a liberal, business friendly environment combined with the great quality of life provided by Hong Kong’s ample green spaces and magnificent nature. But this will change if Hong Kong does take more measures to combat air pollution. Residents and global companies that have their headquarters in Hong Kong, will look for other cities to live and work in, and Hong Kong will lose its competitive advantage. Although, Hong Kong government states that it is addressing the problem of air pollution, many of its actions have been ineffective because it does not want to jeopardise its reputation as a business friendly city, and impose a number of new, stricter regulations on neighbouring factories, and transport. The government has signed a series of agreements with Guangdong province directly to the north. However, they are unenforceable, and have failed to provide “a meaningful impact” according to the local governments and activists. (The Guardian). Hong Kong government has not banned older diesel vehicles or regulated the level of sulphur fuel the many container ships can burn right up until their sail into port.  Power plants that supply more than 50% of the city’s energy that rely almost entirely on fossil fuel (South China Morning Post). The government thinks that extra regulation will harm its reputation as a business friendly city, but in fact, stricter measures to control pollution and improve the environment will in the long term contribute to the health, well-being and prosperity of its citizens. Hong Kong has a lot of sunshine and winds and can do more to promote wind and solar energy, and electric vehicles, such as city’s public buses and mini-buses. Providing incentives to local businesses to make the city ‘greener’ will also improve the economy.
In conclusion, the Hong Kong Government needs to take immediate and serious measures to tackle the dangerous air pollution caused by land and sea transport, power plants and neighbouring industrial province of Guangdong. Air pollution has already had a severe negative effect on the health of Hong Kong residents, on the beautiful but fragile environment, and on the city’s reputation as a great place to live and work. While in recent years, Hong Kong has recognised the problem, more aggressive measures such as tougher controls on vehicle and industrial emissions and targeted support for renewable energy solutions are needed. Finally, a greater awareness and a collective effort from residents to live a greener way of life will enhance Hong Kong’s quality of life now and in the future. 

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