Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2019 (Chung Lin Cheng)
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12th Launch8 Tolo Harbour 10K Race (Sundae Lam)
Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon (HKRun)
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ASICS Hong Kong Island 10K City Race (Cheng Chung Lin)

Air Pollution

How do people feel about running in the extremely poor air quality in HK? I know that I get concerned about my long term health. I don't know if many of you are aware but HK was recently ranked 8TH WORST CITY IN THE WORLD for dangerous air pollutants(!!

Are any of you active in efforts to lobby the government to try to improve the situation such as becoming involved in organizations such as Clear The Air ( If you are, I am very interested in knowing what people are doing.

It seems like the issue has recently been getting some attention at least in the press, but as runners who breath this air deeply, I think we should do what we can to be at the forefront pushing for improvements. There is technology available to reduce pollution but the political will is needed and pressure needs to be applied!

I would value your opinions.


Re: Air Pollution

Having run in Hong Kong for over 11 years now I guess if there is damage to be done I am already doomed. Having said that my perception is things seem to have improved in the last few years. We still get some horrible days but we are also getting a lot of really nice days also. This last weekend being an example.

Personally happy to support efforts to keep the pressure on but sometimes i think Hong Kong gets an unfair rap. People say that even though we have clear blue skies and cool weather the air is still be polluted. we live in a city and recently London was judged to be badly poluted too..... do we really have credible science to back up the claims of impending doom or is this topic being hijacked by ecomentalist ?.... overstating the case can also weaken the argument....

Re: Air Pollution

Here's a scientific (or at least demographic)fact: HK people have almost the longest life expectancy in the world.

Here's a self-evident truth: It's easy to think of at least 20 mainland cities where the air is far, far worse than in Hong Kong.

Here is a political fact: The only body that can clean up the air in Foshan is the CCP, and until Foshan cleans up its air, anything we can do in Hong Kong is just pissing up a rope.

Bill Purves

MichaelCheung's picture

Re: Air Pollution

Agree with Bill's comments. The majority of pollution issues are all coming over from the monstrous factory output from China, espcially in Guangzhou. Unless HK developers massive fans to blow it back at China, there's nothing we can do. Lobbying the CCP is not going to to achieve anything in the short or maybe even the medium term.

I've been running among some of the most polluted areas and I'm not smiling about it, but sometimes it's just something to accept. I've done medical tests and my lungs have been fine. (Along Hennessy Road... along Connaught Road Central... through the tunnel under the Shuk Tak ferry pier area... Ran along Caine Road and Robinson Road...)

There are routes that you can run that are relatively safer, and feels cleaner: Bowen Road, Happy Valley racetrack, The Peak Trail, TST-Hunghom promenade, Laps around the Western Cultural District area are just afew places that I frequent. Must be more whne you factor in the New Territories areas!

Re: Air Pollution

Thank you for your comments they are very interesting. It is great to hear how others feel on this issue. I've been doing more reading and came across this article:

"...a study conducted by the Civic Exchange think-tank showed that Hong Kong's own emissions - not those from the factories in mainland China - are the dominant sources of air pollution, affecting the city 53 per cent of the time."

"Hedley urged Hong Kong people to pressure the government to take faster and more aggressive action.

"My advice to Hong Kong people is to write to the chief executive and tell him we want clean air now," he said. "We are all paying a heavy cost for it.""


Re: Air Pollution

Compare to the good old days that I was a child, the sky in Hong Kong was blue and I really love to see it again everyday. I always have the impression that most polutant was came from our northern neighbour and surprise to read the quoted Civil Exchange report that over half of the problems were came from ourselves. However, the quoted mentioned only two sources of polutant: our power stations and our buses.

In terms of power stations, it seems that people worry about nuclear power stations after recent Japan's incident, yet gas' energy content is much lower than oil and coal. Such that the alternatives are taking up more of our precious land in Hong Kong. Not to mention the willingness of Hong Kong people paying even higher energy bills due to the power companys' investment. The other options like wind, wave, solar, ... etc. none of them look promissing for Hong Kong. I do not think of any viable solution in the term of a couple of decades.

Regarding the buses, using more environmental friendly models certainly imrpove the situation. Then, the pressure should be toward the bus companys. At a second thought, I wonder could part of the problem was actually due to the number of air-conditioned buses running on our streets? I had the experience that I was waiting at a bus stop while a bus stopped in front of me due to Red traffic light. I could hardly breath due to the very hot air blowing out from its engine and air-conditioner. How many buses are in traffic jam everday? On the other hand, running the air-conditioner increases fuel consumption and in turn increases air polutant generation. I wonder by reducing and limiting the number on certain days for air-conditioned buses may also help in improving the situation?

Pressuring the government, I wonder if more specific measures may be suggested?

Re: Air Pollution

Actually it's exactly articles like this that I object too. Refers to a 2002 photograph, some small amount of data. The government were right to object to that image being the defining image of Hong Kong. I run up to the peak regularly and apart from the days of low cloud (which also reduces visibility and has been a famous part of living on the peak for ever) I would say by far the majority of the times I am up there the view is majestic. I am often shocked by the in built perception my international visitors and work colleagues have of life in Hong Kong and sometimes have to be coaxed to step foot outside of the hotel. They get it from these sort of articles. At the same time it's hard to argue against the cause because of course we all want cleaner air. A sense of perspective is needed however. By all means keep up the pressure but choose your battles carefully if you want to be taken seriously.

Re: Air Pollution

Just want to share my observations which do not have any scientific support. In general, I see that there are much more clear days in summer than in winter (it's more hazy in winter no matter how strong the wind is). In summer, most of the time HK is facing southern wind (blowing from the S China Sea) while in winter time it's northern wind (blowing from Guangdong). So to me, I feel that definitely the polution from Guangdong is the major source of polution in HK.

Does anyone else have similar observations ?

Re: Air Pollution

What I did is move to Lantau (as my name thus shows) and I rarely run on the roads, mainly just on trails or catch waters. In both cases, there are no nearby vehicles, and there is lots of greenery (trees, plants... emitting O2, taking in CO2). I think (or, hope) that this reduces pollution levels down to manageable levels. Besides that, I run on treadmills in the gym.

In sum, regardless of where you live in HK, I think you can probably find places that are away from traffic (ie. the trail system, catch waters...etc) or use treadmills. I think running at roadside in busy parts of the city is most likely dangerous in the long run.

Re: Air Pollution

"Here's a scientific (or at least demographic)fact: HK people have almost the longest life expectancy in the world."

I fear you are deluding yourself here. I think you will find the reason why there a lot of elderly in HK is because most of them were already adults when they moved to HK from rural parts of China, so they lived most of their life in a pollution free environment. The industrialisation of Guangdong province is fairly recent, and people who lived in HK in the 1950s,60s and 70s will tell you that the air was very good back then.

If you want to look at the health of HK people, don't look at those in their 80s and 90s, look at the cancer rate among those who are now 30 to 50 y/o - Lung cancer is a major killer in HK, even among those who never smoked.

Re: Air Pollution

Any immigrant from the mainland will have grown up a smoker in a family of smokers. If he comes from the countryside he will have been raised in a home heated with coal dust briquettes and cooking over fires of dried leaves and ferns. If he has survived to old age, it may in part be because he escaped to Hong Kong's relatively clean environment.

Bill Purves

Re: Air Pollution

Greetings from the wind-swept and nearly air pollution-free coast of Rhode Island, East Coast, USA.

I was lucky enough to visit HK in late 2007. I stayed just over 2 weeks in the Fortress Hill area, enjoying as much of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon as I could cram into that relatively short time frame. While in HK, I ran a daily distance run along the north perimeter of HK Island, always starting out in Fortress Hill and ending up in (usually) anywhere from Central to Kennedy Town, where I would turn around and head back to Fortress Hill. I also ran the UNICEF half-marathon at the Disney complex at Discovey Bay. Living and running where I do here on the breezy coast on the ocean in Rhode Island, with its negligible air pollution, one might think that I would be easily susceptible to the air quality in HK. I have to say that I didn't notice any manifest problems with HK's air while running; there was no evident reduction in my running performace. Again, I was only in HK for slightly over 2 weeks, so perhaps I can't judge what it would be like to be a permanent distance running resident of HK. Nor am I going to say HK's air was Alpine fresh. Hey, it's a huge city, like New York. All cities of this size aren't going to have perfect air all the time for running. I just know I enjoyed my too brief of time in HK immensely and would love to somehow how find a way to revisit it again. I thought HK was the most exciting and magnificent place I ever had the good fortune of visiting and running in.