The Hedley Environmental Index estimates that, from January to June 2013, air pollution led to 1,606 premature deaths, 18,683 million in dollars lost, 76,361 hospitalizations, and 3.61 million doctor visits. The death toll due to air pollution for the first six months in 2013 is four times higher than the total number of deaths caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome in Hong Kong in 2003.
Due to its high concentration in close proximity to us, roadside pollution poses the biggest threat to public health. Roadside pollution in Hong Kong comes mainly from diesel commercial vehicles, franchised buses, taxis and minibuses. It consists of pollutants such as respirable suspended particulates (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and exposure to these pollutants can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, or even cause lung cancer.
To compound the roadside pollution problem, the growth of private cars has worsened Hong Kong’s congestion.
Private cars make up 90% of the total number of newly registered vehicles in Hong Kong between 2008 and 2012. Statistics from the Transport Department showed that the number of registered private cars rose from 421,062 in 2008 to 494,646 in 2012.
Due to this increase in vehicles, many of the main roads in urban areas saw a decline in vehicle speed, for example, the average speed in Lung Cheung Road, Kowloon dropped from 49.3 km in 2005 to 29.7 km in 2010, a decrease of up to forty percent.
To reduce roadside emissions, a multi-pronged approach must be taken so that Hong Kong can make a transition to a low car use, or even a car-free community. This petition seeks to urge the public to play their part and make a pledge to not drive private cars for a day.
If 100,000 people participate in the pledge, we will submit the collected signatures to public transport companies and set up a “Public Transport Day”, requesting companies to organise free rides, in order to encourage usage of public transport and improve the quality of life for all Hong Kong citizens.