The Asian Voice

Discourage private car ownership to reduce air pollution in Hong Kong: China Daily contributor

The hilly terrain and the frequent traffic congestion in Hong Kong's urban areas have contributed to the unacceptably high level of roadside pollution.
The hilly terrain and the frequent traffic congestion in Hong Kong's urban areas have contributed to the unacceptably high level of roadside pollution.PHOTO: AFP

In his commentary, the writer says fossil-fuel burning motor cars are a key reason for the city's toxic air.

HONG KONG (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) Air pollution is getting worse in Hong Kong, but not that many people recognise its devastating effect on public health.

They should.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) links air pollution to the death of 7 million people a year, accounting for more than 30 percent of the fatalities from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease.

More than 90 percent of children are breathing toxic air every day, the WHO says.

In Hong Kong, the root cause of the problem can be traced to one source - fossil-fuel-burning motor cars.

The ratio of car ownership to total population in Hong Kong is lower than in some major cities.

But the hilly terrain and the frequent traffic congestion in the urban areas have contributed to the unacceptably high level of roadside pollution.

Studies have shown that worsening air pollution has greatly reduced Hong Kong's attractiveness to overseas talents in finance and technology.

They are the people with the skill sets that the government and businesses are trying to entice to help enhance Hong Kong's competitiveness with its regional rivals.

What the government has done so far is to install thousands of air-quality sensors to warn people of where and when air pollution is at its most dangerous.

But the government is seen to lack the will and courage to tackle the root cause of the problem by taking strong measures to reduce the number of cars on the road.

The registration tax on car ownership is high.

But it is not high enough to stop the growth of the car population.

People not only love cars, they have a special fondness of the gas-guzzling and pollutant-belching minivans that are anything but "mini".

Many of these monsters are too big to squeeze into a typical Hong Kong-sized parking space.

For the sake of public health, the government must raise the cost of car ownership in Hong Kong to prohibitive levels, just as Singapore does.

The excellent public transport system in this city should make car ownership a luxury that people can do without.

In London and New York, more and more young people prefer ride-hailing services to car ownership when they need personal transportation.

It makes you wonder why so many people in Hong Kong still want to drive around through dense traffic in their own cars.

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