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Leading orchestral conductor flees Hong Kong due to pollution

Leading orchestral conductor flees Hong Kong due to pollution

The renowned conductor in charge of Hong Kong's leading orchestra has pulled his family out of the city because of its pollution, a news report said yesterday.
Dutch maestro Edo de Waart, who conducts Hong Kong's acclaimed Philharmonic Orchestra, told the Sunday Morning Post he had moved his wife and two children to the U.S. state of Wisconsin to get them away from the worsening smog.
His comments came as city leaders consider a new pollution alert system to give residents better and earlier warning of bad air days.
"We have a four-year old son who has some asthma problems," De Waart told the Post.
"The air quality is terrible in Hong Kong. I don't know what it does to the little kids who grow up there, and we just don't want to take the risk. It is that simple."
De Waart is one of the most high-profile figures yet to leave the southern Chinese city because of pollution, although his contract means he will return to work with the orchestra 14 weeks a year.
He took up the baton here in 2004 as chief conductor and artistic director on a five-year contract, with an option for a further five years.
Health concerns
Business groups and top companies have increasingly warned that Hong Kong's pre-eminence as Asia's financial hub is at risk as executives leave or refuse to be located here because of the unhealthy atmosphere.
Late last year, global investment bank Merrill Lynch warned that worsening air quality was likely to drive banks like itself from the territory.
Call for action
Its words echoed similar warnings by the British, U.S. and local chambers of commerce, who all called for immediate action to ease pollution.
A recent survey said one in every three days last year saw pollution levels that were bad for health. Pollutants, mostly drifting in from southern China's heavily industrialised Pearl River Delta, have reached near-dangerous levels.
Tourists have also lamented the disappearance of the city's famous harbor and spectacular skyline beneath a blanket of smog.
Although the Beijing-backed government insists it is on top of the matter, critics say it has failed to do anything to alleviate the problem.
The Post reported that one measure it is now considering is a color-coded bad-air alert system, which will warn citizens when officials expect the worst pollution.
Each color code would correspond to a specific warning and action plan.
A government panel, the Council for Sustainable Development, believes the present system does not encourage people to take personal action to avoid any health problems.
Environmentalists have long called for an overhaul of the present system, complaining that it is based on artificially low figures set in the mid-1980s and gives a misleading indication of the severity.
Among other proposals it puts forward are road pricing, ordering a halt to pollution-causing activities, and mandatory eco-friendly light bulbs.


Updated : 2021-06-19 23:36 GMT+08:00