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Health & Environment

Health & Environment

Budget 2024: Monthly fireworks may have limited effect on tourism but cause air pollution

Fireworks will be set off every month over Victoria Harbour in the coming year along with drone displays to attract visitors, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced in today’s budget speech.  Chan said last year's fireworks displayed along the waterfront in Victoria Harbour, Wan Chai and West Kowloon were all well received. "We will make full use of these valuable resources to provide a more engaging and diverse experience for the public and visitors,” he said. "Regular events are important to tourism," said Professor Chong Tai-leung, 55, executive director of Chinese University’s Lau Chor Tak Institute of Global Economics and Finance. "Monthly fireworks displays are a great way to attract foreign visitors from far and wide." “There are obviously more people visiting Hong Kong, especially on the second day of the Lunar New Year when people gather at Victoria Harbor to admire the fireworks,” said Peter Lo, 62, an electrical engineer, “it almost felt like the traffic flow before the pandemic.” But Lo does not believe that Hong Kong's tourism industry will bring sustained appeal. "There are only a few interesting attractions in Hong Kong, the fireworks won’t attract tourists for a second time."  "If it happens every month, I can choose a time that suits me better and avoid the severe rush during the New Year," said Cao Kailuo, 21, a mainland college student who plans to visit Hong Kong during his vacation. Sara Leung, chair of the Hong Kong Tourism Industry Employees General Union, told RTHK that she is not optimistic about fireworks and drone shows because many nearby areas are hosting similar events and visitors will lose the novelty.  "In fact, the government doesn't need to spend a lot of money on fireworks displays, they usually get sponsors to host them," Chong said. "For example, last year's …

Society

World’s First Hydrogen-powered Bus Hits the Road

Hong Kong’s first hydrogen-powered double-decker bus hit the road on Sunday, marking Citybus’ s first operation of zero-emission vehicles. The bus, running on Route 20, embarked on its first journey at 11 am from Kai Tak and arrived at  Cheung Sha Wan Terminal in around 40 minutes. The services ended at 8 pm. “The new hydrogen-powered bus has opened a new page of Hong Kong’s transportation development,” said Anson Li, the operations officer of Route 20.  The bus will operate six to eight trips  per day along Route 20 on the “Waterloo Road Line” through Kowloon City during its initial month, then gradually expanding the services to Routes 20A and 22M. The bus operated from and refueled at Hong Kong’s first hydrogen refueling station in the West Kowloon Depot. Li said the hydrogen-powered bus can be fully charged in only 10 to 20 minutes, much faster compared to the two to three hours required by an electric bus.   Over a hundred bus enthusiasts gathered to experience the rides. Among them, Lee Wan, 23, captured the moments of the last bus returning to the Kai Tak Terminal.   After the ride,  Wan said that the hydrogen bus was  more comfortable, as it ran more smoothly and was quieter. Citybus spent HK$ 8 million on producing the hydrogen double-decker bus, which emits only water after transforming the fuel into electricity to power the vehicle. “To me, I think the production costs are too high. It's well worth being rolled out on a large scale if the price can be lowered as the technology improves,” Wan said. Citybus launched the first electric double-decker bus in 2021. The company pledged to operate a complete fleet of zero-emission buses by 2045.      

Health & Environment

Brisbane faces Heaviest Rainfall since 2022 floods

  Brisbane faced its heaviest rainfall since the 2022 floods on Friday, as a tropical cyclone crossed the Northern Territory-Queensland border, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. The Bureau reported that rainfall was 184 millimetres of rain in 24 hours. The downpour flooded streets, submerged cars and overflowed rivers. The cyclone is expected to continue through the weekend.  In the Brisbane suburb of Rosalie, 197 millimetres of rain was recorded and there were, 189 millimetres in Mt Cootha, 173 millimetres in Bowen Hills, and over 160 millimetres around the city this morning.  One fatality was reported when a woman's car was swept away by floodwaters at Malbon River, near Cloncurry Duchess Road, on Friday afternoon.  The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services told 7news that they received 58 calls for help between midnight and 8 a.m. due to floodwater and roofs collapsing.  In 2022, heavy rain in Brisbane killed at least 13 people and flooded more than 23,400 properties. The highest flood level reached 3.85 metres on Feb. 28, 2022, which was the second-highest level since the 4.46-metre peak recorded in 2011. In a statement to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Brisbane City Councillor Fiona Cunningham said that residents were unable to receive weather alerts for hours after the first thunderstorm warning was issued. The city’s weather alert system, Weatherzone, was assured to be fixed after the technical error.  Naura Miyantari, a university student, experienced the flood while on her way to a class on Friday morning. She said that there was no clear warning about the weather conditions. Due to the heavy rainfall and flood, her plans for the day were delayed and cancelled.  “There were a few accidents down the road and road closures. The weather alert should have been more accurate in predicting the weather and alerting residents of …

Society

Waste-charging Scheme delayed to August

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: XIA Fan、ZHANG YipingEdited by: Ji Youn Lee、Yuqi CHU
  • 2024-01-24

The start date of the new waste-charging scheme based on the pay-as-you-throw principle was pushed back again by four months to Aug 1, announced Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan on Friday. The scheme was scheduled to start on April 1. The delay is to better explain the details and ease public confusion, Tse said in the press conference. Justina Chan, a street vendor selling socks in her 40s, said the scheme was a disturbance to her normal life. “When the day comes, I have no choice but to obey the rules. Though I would never say I support it from my heart,” said Chan. The scheme, initially proposed over two decades ago, seeks to address public awareness of recycling and reduce waste through a requirement for dumping rubbish with government-approved bags. Marcus Lo, 26, a government employee, said he agrees with measures for environmental protection, but is concerned over resistance. The price of the new government rubbish bags is HK$0.11 per litre. For bulky waste and large furniture, a "fee label" with a standardised price of HK$11 is required to be purchased. According to the Hong Kong Waste Reduction report, the disposal rate of Municipal Solid Waste was 1.51 kg per person per day in 2022. A family using a 10 or 15 litre government bag every day is likely to spend about HK$30 to HK$50 a month on the bags, compared to under $10 at the current price. Lo called for more attention being paid to the vulnerable groups. “If the government could put more effort into helping the low incomers, the enforcement process would be smoother as the new launch will drive up their living cost,” said Lo. The Finance Committee Procedure last December passed a bill giving a monthly subsidy of HK$10 to people receiving …

Society

Australians volunteer to conserve endangered species

  • By: Jayde Cheung、Tracy LeungEdited by: Jenny Lam
  • 2023-06-08

Native Australian animals are increasingly under threat as natural disasters fueled by a changing climate ravage their habitats. The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that there are less than 57,920 koalas left in the wild in 2022, possibly as few as 32,065. Koalas in the southern part of Australia face a threat of habitat loss because the woods and woodlands there are being destroyed for urban development and agriculture. Koalas are also killed in domestic dog attacks, bushfires and road accidents.  As a continent prone to a range of devastating natural hazards including bushfires, flooding and tropical cyclones, the government has committed to spend AU$2,300,000,000 (HK$11,740,000,000) on environmental preservation in the latest budget,  Up to AU$100,000,000 is specifically allocated to biodiversity preservation. People from all walks of life work together, some volunteer to be firefighters or animal rescuers, all with the aim of saving the country’s natural environment before it is too late.  In June 2019, a deadly fire swept across New South Wales and demolished 6.2% of the wildlife natural habitat. The country set aside AU$200,000,000 (HK$1,020,000,000) to restore the habitats, according to the Australian government’s website.  Jane Willcock is the senior registrar and museum operations coordinator at the University of Queensland.  “The koalas are too afraid in their place, and they are very picky about what they eat, so they are very difficult to accommodate,” Willcock explained. Financial and physical support since the woods were ignited in July 2019 put an end to the fatal bushfire that impacted three billion animals between 2019 and 2020, either killing them or reducing their homes to ashes, according to the data from World Wildlife Fund.  “My school had posters about koala-saving techniques all over the campus,” said Chong Yan, a veterinary student at the University of Sydney. The veterinary society she joined …

Society

Hong Kong elderly struggle to age with the extreme heat

  • By: Yi Yin CHOW、Runqing LI、Jemima BadajosEdited by: Nola Yip、Ming Min AW YONG
  • 2023-05-09

Chan Yin-chi, 77, lives alone in Kwai Hing. Every Tuesday, he visits the local community centre to dance with other elderly people. She is health conscious and brews her red dates tea every morning. The hot summer nights in Hong Kong though make it hard to sleep without an air conditioner, yet the damp cold air is a problem for Chan. “The cold wind from the air conditioning during the night makes my muscles and bones ache,” she said. “From here to here, there is pain in the whole body,” she said, pointing at her shoulders and legs.  Over the past two decades, the number of days when the temperature in Hong Kong was more than  33°C in a year has increased by 50%, according to the Hong Kong Observatory. Depending on how serious the greenhouse gas emissions are, the annual mean temperature of the city is expected to rise by as high as 1.7°C from 2041 to 2060. Joey Ho Wai-yan, a registered Chinese medicine practitioner in Hong Kong, explained that elderly folks are particularly vulnerable to the effects of high temperatures. Her clinic is often packed with people who suffered from heat stroke after staying outdoors for a long time .“Elderly people are physically weaker, have lower energy, poorer perspiration and they have difficulty adjusting to air conditioning, which affects the balance of their body temperature,” said Ho. “Even after seeking medical advice and taking antipyretic medication, the fever may still recur.”  Heat stroke is caused when the body temperature reaches 41°C or higher. Symptoms include dizziness, headache, nausea, shortness of breath and mental confusion, according to the Centre for Health Protection. Ho explained that climate change is making  Hong Kong becoming hotter and more humid from mid-spring to the end of summer. This makes it harder for …

Society

Lapsap Beach

  • By: Wisha LIMBU、Rajnandini PANDEYEdited by: Tsz Ying CHEUNG
  • 2023-05-02

Frequent tropical cyclones wash marine litter to the shores of Hong Kong. Hong Kong Clean Up, a local non-government organisation, helps to ease the aftermath of climate change by organising weekly collecting trash activities since 2000. 

Society

Farewell To Tai O

  • By: Yee Ling TSANG、Huen Tung LEI、Wai Sum CHEUNGEdited by: Yu Yin WONG
  • 2023-05-02

Colourful soda cans shaped into lanterns that dangle from long pieces of wires is a type of traditional wind chime at the fishing village of Tai O. But when you walk around the many huts on stilts there these days, some of the chimes are rusted and broken because the owners have left for good. They were evacuated because flooding destroyed their homes. Tai O, is one of Hong Kong’s oldest fishing villages. It is in a low-lying area on the western coast of Lantau Island. This “Venice of Hong Kong” is threatened by inundation because of climate change.  Residents recalled their survival experience from two of the most devastating typhoons in Tai O: Typhoon Hato in 2017 and Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018.  In August 2017, Super Typhoon Hato smashed into Hong Kong with an estimated sustained wind speed of 185 kilometres per hour. The Hong Kong Observatory issued Hurricane Signal No.10, the strongest tropical storm warning signal possible here. It was the first No.10 in five years. Hato brought severe flooding and destruction in multiple coastal regions, including Tai O, Cheung Chau, Heng Fa Chuen, and Lei Yue Mun. In Tai O, the damage was the worst in nine years, according to the Observatory. When the government sounded the flood alert system, many residents there had to evacuate. The rising water approached faster than residents expected. Kenny Wong, a villager in Tai O, said they didn’t have time to prepare because the official forecast underestimated the typhoon’s impact. “The flood was up to my knees at home. Many of my furniture and electrical appliances were damaged during the storm surge,” Wong said.  He said Typhoon Mangkhut was even worse than Hato.  When Super Typhoon Mangkhut hit Hong Kong in September 2018, it brought the most severe wind strength recorded …

Society

Climate change takes a toll on construction workers in Hong Kong

  • By: Tsz Yau CHAN、Yau To LUMEdited by: Tsz In Warren LEUNG
  • 2023-05-01

Wong Ngai, 49, a construction worker in Hong Kong has been on the job for six years and has already got used to the physical demands and challenges of his work. But when he was assigned to install street lights next to the airport, he realised his working conditions might get even tougher. Wong had to work in a two-metre wide space three metres underground. The lack of ventilation or fans made the air thick and stifling while the sun was beating down on him relentlessly. “Every time I go into an underground site, I immediately feel dizzy as the heat surrounds me,” said Wong.“I felt like an omelette frying under the sun.”  Lai Chun-Lok, 33, a surveyor who has worked in the construction industry for 13 years, said heat strokes are common on construction sites. “It could get up to 40 to 50 degrees Celcisus on the rooftop. The iron is so hot that it will burn your skin if you touch it,” Lai said. The hot and humid weather in Hong Kong has been worsening over the past decade due to climate change. According to the Hong Kong Observatory, the total number of hot days has increased five times over the past two decades, reaching 55 days in 2022, and it is expected that this summer will get even hotter.  Outdoor workers bear the brunt of climate change. The number of heat stress related work injuries has increased by 75% since 2020, according to the Labour Department’s data. According to the document from the Human Resource Committee of the Legislative Council, the Hong Kong government plans to launch a new heat index guideline, the HKHI, in order to protect people who have to work outdoors in the summer. The heat index calculates temperature, humidity, and ultraviolet radiation from …

Society

Hong Kong: Sweltering summers challenge residents of "pigeon cages" as temperatures soar

  • By: Yuqi CHU、Juncong SHUAIEdited by: Chengqi MO
  • 2023-04-28

At the end of the narrow aisle crammed with household goods, an old air conditioner hums as it struggles to cool the flat where 11 residents live in eight tiny cells separated by makeshift wooden walls.  Around noon, Xia Renhui 52, who has been living in this subdivided flat in Tsuen Wan for five years, prepares his lunch in the shared kitchen. The thermometer hanging on the wall records a temperature of 37˚ C. The scalding water from the tap and the steam spurting out of the rice cooker make Xia feel smothered.   "The whole room feels like a smelting furnace. Every inch of my skin is burning," said Xia.  In Hong Kong, more than 214,000 people like Xia live in subdivided flats, according to government statistics, where increasing summer temperatures are made worse by cramped, unventilated construction and expensive air-conditioning bills. Globally, over the past few hundred years, greenhouse gases from industrialization have led to global warming and an increase in extreme climates, according to a United Nations report. Hong Kong keeps breaking its temperature records. Last year, Hong Kong residents survived the hottest July in the past 138 years, when record keeping began, breaking a previous record set in 2020. And a high temperature of 35°C or above was recorded for 10 consecutive days in July last year, topping the annual record, according to the Hong Kong Observatory. At least five cases of sudden death at work suspected to be related to heat stroke have been reported between June and July in 2022. Hot nights increase the risk of death by about 2% to 3%, while a prolonged period of five or more hot nights raises the risk to 6.66%. Women had a six percent higher risk of dying from hot weather, while older adults had a five …