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April 20, 2005 2:39 am

HK’s Disneyland park to suffer ‘constant haze’

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The US$1.8bn Disneyland theme park due to open in Hong Kong in September will “suffer from constant haze” because of worsening air pollution over Hong Kong and southern China, according to a report released on Tuesday by CLSA, the investment bank.

“Worsening visibility is having an impact on public health and the economy,” says the report, which also warns that property prices on Lantau island, where the Disneyland is being built, could be depressed by the flow of polluted air from China. “Data shows clearly that Hong Kong and south China have a serious visibility problem.”

The conclusions of the report on Asian air pollution, commissioned by CLSA from Civic Exchange, a Hong Kong thinktank, will worry Hong Kong policymakers because the territory wants to position itself as a tourism and services centre for Asia. Most manufacturing industries have already migrated to the Chinese mainland in search of lower costs.

Hong Kong Disneyland, which says its will make Lantau a “world-class tourist destination” for 10m visitors a year, made no immediate comment on the problem of air pollution.

Restrictions on high-sulphur fuels and other measures have improved the air quality in several big Asian cities in recent years. Seoul, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo now enjoy better air than Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai and New Delhi, the report says.

Hong Kong has greatly reduced its own emissions of pollutants, but is often shrouded in smog from the cars, factories and coal-fired power stations over the border with mainland China. The only diesel sold for vehicles in Hong Kong, for example, is ultra-low in sulphur, but on the mainland sulphur levels in fuel are 50 to 500 times as high.

Emissions control measures taken by Hong Kong in the 1990s helped to reduce pollutants such as particulates (dust), nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, but from 2003 onwards there has been a significant deterioration of air quality as industry in southern China continues to expand.

Residents of particularly polluted places, such as Tung Chung on Lantau, have begun to complain about the air, while some expatriate executives say they would like to move to Singapore for the sake of their children’s health.

Although Hong Kong is the victim of pollution from China, Hong Kong businesses are partly to blame, since many of the factories in China are owned and run by Hong Kong companies.

“Businesses cannot complain on the one hand about poor air quality and the health impact it is having on them and their families, but at the same time neglect to act,” the CLSA report says. It recommends the use of cleaner fuels and improved energy efficiency.

The governments of Hong Kong and China’s Guangdong province have agreed to cut emissions by up to 55 per cent in 2010 from the levels of 1997, but they have produced no evidence to show they are on track.

“The good news is that Tokyo and Los Angeles, two of the most polluted cities in the 1970s, have managed to clean up,” said Christine Loh, head of Civic Exchange. “So it must be in south China.”

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