Air quality objectives for 2014 can hardly protect public health, the Director of Audit says in criticizing officials who have failed to meet standards that began to be set 25 years ago.
People had to suffer through 175 days last year when the air pollution index topped 100, which means levels are at high or very high and the stuff of serious health warnings. That compares with 74 similar bad days in 2007.
And even as the Director of Audit's report was released yesterday, the API touched 140 - an alarmingly high level - in Central.
The auditor noted that 2014's quality objectives that take into account four major pollutants "do not provide adequate protection of public health" when compared with World Health Organization guidelines.
And as roadside pollution levels caused mainly by emissions from diesel vehicles indicated, schemes to offer incentives to replace vehicles have been far from effective.
Only 54 percent of diesel-driven public light buses ran on LPG by the end of a HK$142 million scheme in December 2005.
Also, a HK$772 million scheme in 2007 saw 12 percent of pre-Euro-standard buses switching to Euro IV. But only 11 percent of vehicles that needed to convert to that standard had done so by March this year under a HK$261 million scheme that started in 2010.
By the time another HK$261 million scheme ends next June there will still be a large number of old standard buses running.
There was also a failure to cut emissions from buses to any marked degree by reducing the number on the road. A spokeswoman for KMB admitted there was a cut of only 2.9 percent from a fleet of 3,900 buses.
Simon Ng Ka-wing, head of transport and sustainability research for Civic Exchange, said: "Air pollution in Hong Kong is so worrying that we must go for policies and measures that would not just bring a marginal difference but substantial and measurable improvement in air quality and public health."