Tackling air pollution - just take a leaf from Lion City
Updated: 2017-10-27 06:20
Hong Kong and Singapore may be rivals in many things, but they share some common problems too.
One of the more obvious ones is that both cities have limited space with an almost unstoppable growth in car population, resulting in unbearable traffic congestion on the roads. In Hong Kong, the problem is aggravated by worsening air pollution due to toxic exhausts from the growing number of SUVs, vans and trucks.
Foul air not only threatens public health but also undermines the city's competitiveness as a regional business center at a time when the government is going all out to entice overseas talents to help develop the IT industry, which is falling way behind those of Shenzhen, Seoul, Taipei and Singapore.
While the Hong Kong government looks weak and helpless in confronting the business people who need cars to ferry them around and vans and trucks to move their merchandise, the Singapore government is poised to take the most drastic action that promises to rid the problem once and for all.
The Lion City has now decided to freeze the number of vehicles allowed on the roads from February next year.
Car ownership in Singapore is already a costly proposition. In addition to punitive taxes on car purchases, motorists have to pay to enter certain restricted areas, particularly the central business district, during the morning rush hours.
Such strict policies have cut the rate of car ownership in the island republic to well below those of many other wealthy cities. But that's still not good enough for the "proactive" Singapore government.
In contrast, the Hong Kong government is seen to have abandoned any real attempt to control the city's growing car population. The SAR's highly efficient and affordable public transport system has done little in discouraging people from buying cars, which are estimated to number more than half a million this year.
The government has also done little in promoting the use of electric cars to reduce air pollution, and turned a blind eye to illegal parking that's endangering pedestrians while crossing the roads.
Singapore has shown Hong Kong there's a simple solution to the problem. All the government needs to do is to summon the political will to stop the increase in the number of cars.
(HK Edition 10/27/2017 page9)