Micron Associates: Hong Kong joins world study on health impact of air pollution
Hong Kong will be one of about 10 international financial centres taking part in a clean air and health initiative to be launched by the World Health Organisation later this year.
The project will study air-quality improvement measures in the cities and examine their impact on health, said Dr Carlos Dora, head of the WHO's "intervention for healthy environments" unit.
"We will develop collaborations with global cities that are economically important," Dora told the South China Morning Post. "The project is still being discussed with the cities and with funders."
The programme, details of which will be confirmed in the next few months, will examine and compare how cities tackle air pollution and look to formulate models based on different approaches. It will also track changes in policy and their impact on air quality and public health.
Dora visited Hong Kong in October to meet government officials. He praised the Hong Kong government's clean-air policy, saying it demonstrated that the administration had clearly identified the problem.
An Environmental Protection Department spokeswoman said she understood the project would draw lessons from the experiences of different cities and the impact on pollution of policies on transport, land use, buildings, energy and port management, among other areas.
"We look forward to discussing with [the WHO] how we could contribute to it," she said.
The government has put forward a series of environmental policies in recent months, including offering subsidies for the replacement of old diesel vehicles.
It also plans to help vehicle owners replace old catalytic converters - devices which reduce harmful emissions.
But some environmentalists say the policies do not go far enough to tackle the problem.
The department has also commissioned Chinese University's school of public health to develop a methodology for quantifying the health and economic impacts of air pollution in Hong Kong.
The 15-month study was commissioned in January.
"We are hoping to help the government by offering it a more adequate cost-benefit rationale when it implements policies, to answer the question of whether the money is worth spending," said Professor Wong Tze-wai, who is part of the study.
"There is not much such data at the moment."
The University of Hong Kong developed its Hedley Environmental Index to estimate the number of deaths, medical consultations and other costs linked to air pollution.
Wong said the data gleaned from the new study would be more comprehensive and its design would make it easier to apply to policy-making.