Hong Kong's population increases dramatically as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee China, straining the land's natural resources. Severe deforestation and erosion result.
Rapid industrialization and inadequate government controls further degrade Hong Kong's environment. Untreated industrial sewage is discharged directly into the waterways. Urbanization results in an accelerated deterioration of air quality.
Agricultural chemicals, domestic sewage, and industrial effluent contaminate the rivers that flow into the harbors. More than 1.6 million cubic meters of waste flow into Victoria Harbor every day. Repulse Bay records water quality 52 times worse than European safety standards. The Environmental Protection Unit is formed but remains largely ineffective until years later.
Environmental protection legislation begins to develop, but the process is slow, and regulations are weak and often ignored. Factory emissions and heavy traffic pollute the air. Wildfires destroy thousands of trees. Green groups begin to appear. A government White Paper of 1989 recommends new protections and goals for the next 10 years. Building begins on proposed waste disposal facilities.
A chemical waste treatment center begins operation. Industrial sewage laws are enacted, but critics say only heavier fines will deter the illegal dumping of hazardous waste. Landfills are nearly full. Diesel fuel emissions add to deteriorating air quality, and water and noise pollution are problems. Tourism suffers, and Hong Kong's poor environmental health leads businesses to relocate.
The chief executive's 1999 Policy Address includes a framework for improving Hong Kong's environment. It proposes to improve air and water quality by phasing out diesel vehicles; improve the sewage disposal system; cooperate with Canton (Guangdong) Province to reduce cross-border pollution; reduce waste; and promote sustainable development.
The government blocks the Kowloon-Canton Railway's construction of a new line through wetland and bird sanctuaries, marking the first time a permit is rejected on environmental grounds. An outbreak of avian flu forces a massive poultry cull and attracts criticism of the government's handling of the crisis.
back to top