Beyond Borders

The ungreenest city of all

2011-03-04 08:05
Simon Williamson is a South African currently in Hong Kong.

Simon Williamson is a South African currently in Hong Kong.

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Simon Williamson

Whatever your beliefs are around whether humanity is destroying the environment or it is doing so itself, one cannot get past the clear observation that Hong Kong is one of the most wasteful, polluted and un-green places in the world.
 
It starts with air quality. So many people living in such a small place which contains as many carbon-burping buses, building equipment and factories relative to anywhere will create hygiene problems.

However, Hong Kong ranks ninth in the world for the most disgusting air (after Beijing, New Delhi, Santiago, Mexico City, Ulaanbaatar, Cairo, Chonqing and Guangzhou). And efforts to reduce it – to the tune of HK$29bn (approximately R25bn) since 1999 – have failed miserably. According to a publication called The Daily Finance using data collected by 247wallst.com the pollution in 2010 was as bad as the pollution in 1995, and a Gallup Poll reveals that 70% of Hong Kong residents are unhappy with the air quality here (to be fair, though, 70% of Hong Kongers do look unhappy in general).

The air alone is not the problem. An even larger issue is the lack of space to throw rubbish in this, the most disposable of cities. Recycling in Hong Kong is not unheard of. It just isn’t done. Of the four countries I have lived in, Hong Kong is easily the least renewable, although according to the South China Morning Post, one out of every three tonnes of rubbish is recycled.

I proffer my scepticism of that claim as not one piece of rubbish that I have produced in Hong Kong has undergone that treatment – not unless I drag it to the bins at the bottom of the escalator every morning which is about a kilometre away, and treated as ordinary refuse receptacles by the pedestrians of town’s main thoroughfare.

The problem is this: landfill sites are nearly full and attempts by the government last year to convert half of a country park into one were rejected. Are we to expect a new skyscraper of Chinese takeaway containers? Or will Hong Kong pay a poor country with space to take it away and do something with it? The Philippines should have a bit of extra room as a large portion of its female inhabitants clean houses here.

The only discernible victory the greenies – of which there are seemingly few – have made here is to turn one of the down escalators off in the underground stations outside peak hours – which is something like after 22:30pm – saving a portion of electricity used by the city.

Well, below is what the city’s skyline looks like at night.


Excuse me while I laugh myself to death with rapid inhalation of the ninth dirtiest air in the world.

- Simon Williamson is a freelance writer. 

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