in Hong Kong
Many vegans will also have a keen interest in environmental issues such as pollution and wildlife conservation. These issues are all the more important in a small, densely populated area like Hong Kong where modern life has already taken its toll on the environment. Perhaps one of the first things a visitor notices in Hong Kong is the abysmal air quality. Economic growth and constant urban development and expansion poses a serious threat to surrounding pockets of wildlife reserves which are home to many species of animals and plants.
With the current levels of air pollution, it's a wonder that Hong Kong (Fragrant Harbour in Chinese) hasn't changed its name. People walking in the streets with their hands over their mouths is a common sight, especially in the Causeway Bay area. Diesel vehicles (in particular, buses), construction and factory emissions from as far afield as the mainland all contribute to the air pollution. Respiratory problems are already on the up and things certainly don't look bright unless drastic action is taken swiftly. The South China Morning Post newspaper receives a barrage of letters on the current state of pollution in Hong Kong and they don't make good reading. The government, which seems to be doing very little, would do well to take notice of what some citizens have to say. Hopefully, what they do have to say won't fall on deaf ears. Read the Sunday editions for yourselves.
Victoria Harbour has suffered years of abuse from the pumping of sewage, as well as belching fumes from ferries obviously in need of repair. The amount of litter on many streets is truly painful to the eyes and nose. Apparently, the seas and parks also make a convenient dumping ground for some. Individuals must learn to take responsibility but, sadly and unsurprisingly, the threat of small fines appears to deter only a few. Even if all litter were disposed of in the proper manner, there remains the problem of landfills. Recycling efforts have only just begun in Hong Kong. Paper recycling has been hampered by the lack of government subsidies which have led to a reduction in the number of recycling factories. Whilst we are waiting for local bottle and can banks to make an appearance, Hong Kong still has a long way to go before it reaches the standards set in many other countries. Perhaps supermarkets could think twice about using so much waste packaging and offer some sort of incentive so that more customers re-use their plastic bags.
The threat to Hong Kong's wildlife already started hundreds of years ago when early inhabitants stripped bare the forests which once covered the region. Today, places like the New Territories and the islands of Lamma, Lantau and Cheung Chau still have much to offer in way of plant life and insects. Both nature lovers and wildlife benefit from the many protected country parks. Two show-pieces of Hong Kong are the pink dolphins and the Mai Po Marsh reserve. The pink dolphin population has somewhat dwindled recently, mostly due to pollution in the form of raw sewage and chemical pollutants. It now remains to be seen what long-term effect large scale reclamation for the new airport will have on the population. Mai Po Marsh, in the western New Territories, is home to water birds. Not only does untreated sewage from neighbouring Shenzhen reach the reserves, but slurry from pig farms has been building up nearby. In fact, the future of pig farming in the New Territories is now under the spotlight. Even with control measures, pollution levels in parts of Deep Bay can reach 30 times the maximum recommended limit.
Hong Kong, although not alone, faces many environmental problems. The solution lies within the government, the big companies and the individual. Action needs to be taken by all sides. The key to making the individual aware of the consequences and take some responsibility for his or her actions is proper education, preferably at an early age.