Overview of Hong Kong/Shanghai/Hangzhou Summer Research

Overview of Hong Kong/Shanghai/Hangzhou Summer
Miranda Chien-Hale
July 14th, 2012
Hong Kong Partners
1. Civic Exchange
Contacts at Civic Exchange include founder Christine Loh, researcher Simon Ng, and
researcher Veronica Booth. This reputable and independent NGO is working on
many issues: marine emissions, walkability, wind circulation, water vulnerability, to
mention a few. During my stay in Hong Kong I met with Simon and Veronica, and I
attended a CE seminar called, “Dirty & Thirsty: Is this the future of DongJiang.” This
seminar raised awareness about the water sources in the Pearl River Delta region,
especially in light of increased urbanization and industrialization. As with any issue,
this seminar highlighted the importance of “low hanging fruits,” or those relatively
straightforward issues that can be understood and spearheaded by the community
at large.
Civic Exchange is a reputable NGO and is open to projects and ideas; this NGO seems
to encourage interns, exchanges, and collaborative research projects.
2. Clean Air Network
Contacts at CAN include Erica Chan, and campaign manager, Yuling Jia. CAN is
affiliated with Civic Exchange, but is more of an activist group focused specifically
on air pollution issues in Hong Kong. During the meeting with Erica and Yuling, we
discussed the various projects CAN has been working on. They, like the Hong Kong
University of Science and Technology (hereafter HKUST), have a program geared
towards educating high school students on air pollution. CAN received funding for
this project from the Hong Kong government’s Education Fund. CAN’s high school
program involves one-day workshops using “Sidepak” monitoring tools that
measure otherwise undetectable particulate matter (PM 10, PM 2.5, and smaller) in
the air. Some council members voluntarily perform experiments similar to those of
the high school students. These council members take measurements two times per
day over a set period of time and then set-up booths in their respective districts in
order to report and educate the public about their findings.
Both Erica and Yuling are interested in pursuing joint fundraising opportunities. I
also sense they are, at the same time, cautious about such collaboration; they seek
specific details about how such joint projects might work.
3. Chinese University of Hong Kong
Contacts include Professors Linwei Tian of the Public Health department, and Xu
Yuan of the Geography and Resource Management department. Lin Wei has done
research on the health effects of coal exhaust and other air pollutants. Lin Wei was
particularly enthusiastic about future projects that aim to engage and educate
community members about the consequences of air pollution.
4. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Contacts include Professor Chak Chan, Professor Arthur Lau, Professor Paul
Forester, Professor Alexis Lau, Professor NT Lau, and Professor Ming Fang, all
affiliated with HKUST. Also interacted with Emily Bian, a graduate school student
working on atmospheric research at HKUST, Jessica Cheng, an environmental
engineer knowledgeable about the EXPLORE project, as well as several
undergraduate students from the Division of the Environment. One undergraduate
in particular, Leo Chan, participated in an exchange with Occidental College to
conduct comparative research on walkability issues in China and the US. During my
stay, I also gave a presentation to HKUST students about life at Occidental College
and about, specifically, the Urban and Environmental Policy program.
HKUST is currently involved in a number of environmental projects. In particular,
HKUST has initiated the EXPLORE project which aims to help educate high schools
students about the air pollutants common to Hong Kong. During the years 20092012 this project has relied on funding from the government’s Quality Education
Fund. Students measure sulfur dioxide, ozone, black carbon, and visibility over a
long period of time. They then analyze and report their results to the EXPLORE
website. Students are then able to use the results to compare and contrast the levels
of air pollution around various regions in Hong Kong at various time periods.
In order to quantify black carbon levels in the atmosphere, students have adopted
the Black Carbon Imaging technique. This technique relies on the use of a simple
scanner and Adobe Photoshop. With a little re-engineering, this scanner can be redesigned for use on a camera or cell phone. The public could potentially analyze the
amount black carbon in the air very easily given a filter.
HKUST has one of the best-equipped air monitoring sites in Hong Kong, “the
supersite.” This is because of the supersite’s size, location, and extensive monitoring
equipment. In addition to the supersite, there are fourteen government-monitoring
stations around Hong Kong used by government officials, academics and
researchers. They are located in different districts around the region.
HKUST also houses a state-of the-art Mobile Air Monitoring Platform that measures
and reports real-time air pollution levels. This project was initiated under Ming
Fang, the previous head of the Division of the Environment at HKUST. The Mobile
Air Monitoring Platform serves to track and map pollution levels on streets, or in
busy districts that do not have any comparable air monitoring systems in place.
Unfortunately, the platform is not used often because it costs so much to maintain.
The Division of the Environment at HKUST hosted the Pearl River Delta trip for their
students, which I was fortunate enough to attend. During this trip I was able to see
first-hand the effects of industrialization in the Pearl River Delta region. As with
other rapidly growing regions in the world, cities in Southern China are faced with
ever increasing energy needs. It is this energy shortage that makes particularly
challenging implementation of sustainable methods of generating energy.
On the trip we visited the Daya Bay Nuclear Power plant, which currently houses six
nuclear reactors. We also visited two hydro PowerStations, a toothpaste factory, and
a car factory. In order to meet China’s increasing demand for energy, at least twenty
new nuclear power plants are being developed along China’s eastern coast. The
implications of these new developments are enormous, especially given the recent
radiation disaster in Japan.
Shanghai/Hangzhou Partners
I attended the 2nd Sino-US Conference of Regional and Urban Air Quality
Management: The Challenge of Fine Particle and Ozone Pollution in Shanghai, China.
The general consensus and drive of the conference was to mobilize the Yangtze
River Delta region to regulate and improve air pollution standards. There was a lot
of enthusiasm for finding ways to better air quality in China.
1. CAI-Asia, Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities.
“The Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia)” is a registered UN Type II
Partnership with more than 200 organizational members, eight Country Networks
and the CAI-Asia Center as its secretariat. CAI-Asia’s mission is to, “promote better
air quality and livable cities by translating knowledge to policies and actions to
reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from transport, energy and other
sectors.”” I met contacts May Ajero, Air Quality Program Manager, Liu Mingming,
Assistant, Wan Wei, Environment Researcher, and Maria Patdu, Air Quality
Researcher. CAI is an NGO with many offices across Asia. This group sponsored
Simon Ng’s trip to speak at the conference.
2. Environmental Protection Agency
I met contacts Carey J. Jang, National Expert/Senior Scientist, and Dale M. Evarts,
Group Leader for Climate, International and Multi-Media Group. Dale Evarts
emphasized the need for community outreach and education. He seemed excited
about Occidental’s China-US Environment Program and offered to help out in any
way he could. At the conference, he promoted the use of tools called AirNow,
AirNow International. These tools are systems for acquiring and distributing
information to the public, primarily by disseminating real-time data about air
quality in the US. He also spoke of EPA’s Mobile Source Road Map.
3. Shanghai Academy of Environmental Sciences, Atmospheric Environment
I met contacts director Changhong Chen and engineer Hongli Wang. The
Atmospheric Environment Institute is a prominent research institute in Shanghai
primarily funded by the government. Their air monitoring site holds similar
equipment as the supersite at HKUST. However, it appeared to be a slightly smaller
4. Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center
I met contact Shen Yin, an engineer at the monitoring center in Shanghai. The center
is one of the “leading environmental centers in China, providing analytical services
to the government, industry, and the private sector.” SEMC has taken part in water
quality monitoring, air quality monitoring, and urban noise control monitoring.
Shen Yin, a good friend to Simon Ng of Civic Exchange, is involved in monitoring
vehicle emissions in Shanghai. Funders for various research projects include the
World Bank, ADB, and foreign governments.
5. Hangzhou
I spent three days in Hangzhou with my family. Most notably was the citywide bike
share system. It is highly used and nearly free. The center of the city lies around
West Lake, making it a good location for public bikes to be installed around the city.
Future Project Possibilities
I hope to build upon the success of the EXPLORE project at HKUST by helping to
develop an applicable project in Los Angeles, and perhaps assist others develop such
a project in another Chinese city. While the University of Southern California already
uses a number of methods to engage the community and high schools with p-track
monitors, my idea would aim to improve the already existing programs. An
improved project would result in comparative study of multiple cities in China and
the US over a period of time. In theory, this project would help to increase the level
of awareness about air pollution in China and the US by empowering high school
students and community members to measure various levels of pollutants they are
exposed to in their everyday lives. These results will be analyzed and displayed on a
collective website.
I hope to see HKUST and other academic institutions such as the University of
Southern California and Occidental College provide support and resources for this
project. HKUST will help to orchestrate the EXPLORE program in another Chinese
city, perhaps Nanjing, in addition to continuing the project in Hong Kong. Ming Fang,
a retired HKUST Professor, is passionate about the expansion of the EXPLORE
project, and currently resides in San Jose, California. He is knowledgeable and could
potentially train trainers in Los Angeles on how to conduct the experiments.
The long-term and hands-on nature of EXPLORE project creates a realistic and
meaningful experiment for students and community members. Participants will
connect the smog they see in the sky, to pollutions levels on a filter, to the health
problems they witness in their communities. The results will be posted on a group
website, so that participants in the various cities can share information and
experiences. Furthermore, in order to foster additional engagement of the
community in Los Angeles, I would like to promote the adoption one of Clean Air
Network’s programs. After the initial air pollution experiments around LA,
interested community members could set-up booths along major streets in order to
educate others about local air pollution levels based on the data they themselves
I foresee further exchanges between Occidental College and HKUST, whether for
college students during the school semester, or for summer research projects. For
example, Leo Chan has already participated in a summer research exchange project
at UEPI this summer. Several of his classmates also intend to come to Oxy starting
the fall semester of 2012. There also seem to be additional opportunities for
internships between the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, Civic Exchange,
and Clean Air Network. These exchanges will create a network of collaboration,
shared information, research, and an opportunity to learn for one another.
I also want to support the creation of a trip in Los Angeles modeled after the Pearl
River Delta Trip, that I took in Southern China. This trip would allow students of
Occidental College to learn about some of the major systems that make Los Angeles,
Los Angeles. For example, how exactly does Los Angeles get it’s water, electricity,
and food? Where does the city’s waste go? What sorts of implications do these
systems have on the environment? Students participating in the trip would get the
opportunity to visit places in, or around Los Angeles, and then compare their
findings to a comparable city or region in China, perhaps the Pearl River Delta area.
Students participating in the PRD trip at HKUST could similarly research Los
Angeles. These comparison trips would provide further channels for education and
exchange between China and the United States.
Over the course of my time in China this seminar I was able to identify a number of
notable organizations that are striving to address environmental problems
prevalent across the world. These organizations include, but are not limited to, Civic
Exchange, CAN, EPA, CAI, as well as other academic institutions. They are all doing
great work and will be good contacts for the future.
Future projects relating to US, China, and the environment could be funded by Shin
Shin Educational Foundation, HK government funds, the Luce foundation, and the
Rockefeller foundation. Additionally, Dale Evarts of the EPA may serve as an
especially noteworthy connection for future endeavors. He has a large interest in
engaging and connecting with the community and might be aware of potential
funding opportunities. CAI also has connections and offices across Asia and may be
interested in future collaboration.
5. My Role
I had a great time this summer and learned so much from so many different people. I
would most like to be a part of the movement to engage the community and increase
their awareness about air pollution. I would love to spend more time in China after I
graduate if I felt I was helping to address issues of air pollution or water pollution,
two resources we cannot live without.