I spent a year deluding myself that the Tai Po District of Hong Kong was (relatively) wholesomely clean. Then I hiked up Cloudy Hill on a ‘clear’ day and fully realized that China’s industrial epicenter — Shenzhen — had been just over my shoulder:
The small houses in the front, are “village houses.” Next back, the taller apartment blocks, are in Fanling, which is still in Hong Kong. Then, squinting through the smog, the skyscrapers, are in Shenzhen, China.
Shenzhen had been there all along. Shenzhen, a city of 11 million (official) residents working in factories making all of the crap the world buys, is in my backyard.
Intellectually I knew that it was there, but the view from Cloudy Hill forced me to fully appreciate how close I am to China’s first “Special Economic Zone” and industrial engine of growth.
And forced me to appreciate its impact on air quality. Standing on Cloudy Hill, but looking away from Shenzhen and towards Hong Kong’s Sha Tin and Sai Kung districts, one still sees haze, but also a lovely blue patch in the sky:
Both of these pictures were taken within minutes of each other.
In Tai Po, I am certainly lucky to miss out on the higher levels of roadside pollution that exist in Central and Kowloon. The pollution readings in Tai Po are generally better than either of those areas.
But my hike up Cloudy Hill forced me to realize just how close I am to the manufacturing heartland of China. It seems I’ve swapped breathing bus fumes for breathing industrial emissions.
The border between Hong Kong and Mainland China is stark. The Hong Kong side is relatively rural, mountainous and green — the key to my delusion of wholesomeness. Just over the border, however, is instant urban jungle:
It’s not hard to tell where the border is, is it?
Of course Tai Po is still cleaner than my former home of Zhuhai, a Chinese city whose sunset’s glowed a gorgeous orange-y red from industrial pollution:
For now, I’ll comfort myself with the knowledge that we’re entering the side of the year with relatively low air pollution. (With thanks to Phil at “Hong Kong (and Macau) Stuff” for pointing this out.)