PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 October, 2003, 12:00am

Q Is it worth filling in the harbour to prevent traffic jams?

Chan Wai-kwan, vice-chairman of the metro planning committee of the Town Planning Board, is the closest source of authority so far in communicating with the public about the reclamation of the harbour. Because of his authoritative position, his article, 'A harbour for the people' (October 3, Post) must be scrutinised.

The need for a Central-Wan Chai bypass and reclaiming the harbour to construct the bypass are two separate issues. While there is still debate about the need to resolve traffic congestion, reclaiming the harbour as the only way to fulfil that need seems to be altogether simplistic.

Alternatives must be studied without filling the harbour. The community has the right and obligation to scrutinise and debate the harbour-front plan.

While there is less resistance to reclamation for a harbour-front promenade than a highway, there is no need for such a promenade to be continuous. Town planners must utilise the existing waterfront. Until there is real public participation and consensus-building in town planning, public distrust about our town planners is justified.

Without a fundamental change of our Town Planning Board's way of planning the city, sidelined citizens have to resort to the courts.

John Yuan, Shanghai

It is difficult to come to terms with the stupid, erratic development policy of the government. We are doing our best to encourage tourism by coming up with snappy slogans, recruiting the help of hotshot film stars and launching high-profile cleanup campaigns.

Yet we embark on further reclamation, and another area of our beautiful harbour is put in jeopardy. People come to Hong Kong to see the harbour, not cars. They can stay in their own countries for that experience.

Hong Kong needs fewer cars, not more roads. If we were to remove even 50 per cent of the cars from Hong Kong roads they would not be missed, the economy would not suffer, we would still get to work on time and the air would be more breathable.

Fill in the harbour, pollution gets worse, the cars are still there and the city is much the poorer.

One bus can hold 100 passengers. That means 100 cars off the road. We must make owning a car a very expensive alternative to public transport. Smokers are rapidly becoming social pariahs - car owners are just as guilty of anti-social behaviour.

The harbour is precious - it is a priceless legacy for our children. Once it is lost, it is lost for ever.

John Brennan, Sai Kung

It is seriously flawed for the government to use the argument that road traffic in Central will double by 2006 as an excuse to further reclaim Victoria Harbour.

Many who work in Central or need to travel via Central are residents of Western and Pokfulam. Ever since the completion of the MTR island line in 1986, residents have been lobbying for the MTRC to extend to Kennedy Town, but to no avail.

The reluctance of the MTRC to extend its island line resulted in the construction of the Island Western Corridor - both an eyesore and an environmental hazard to residents of Western.

Rather than wasting billions of dollars on filling the harbour, why can't the government give the money to the MTRC so it can build and island western extension?

Bernard Yue, Kennedy Town

Green groups argue about the negative environmental impact of land reclamation. Most people miss the core issue.

Stopping the reclamation will not solve the traffic congestion problems.

To allow the reclamation will make the situation equally bad. Judging from what the government is doing now, we have to live with the problem of traffic congestion as well as noise and air pollution.

We need a new policy, and the people to implement such a policy, to turn around the urban environment.

It is true there is no space for further road expansion in Central to reduce the traffic bottleneck. The worrying part is that the government does not have the determination to restrict further land development in Central, notwithstanding the fact that various government officials might have observed such a necessity.

Without such a commitment from the government, the green movement's opposition to the reclamation remains a noble cause which deserves our full support.

We cannot blame the car owners. They pay for the right to own cars, and they have the right to use them, even in Central.

The government has a strange policy of not allowing sufficient parking space in Central, but it does not have a concurrent policy to deter drivers from entering the area. Road pricing is possible but not a practical tool for Central. More innovative traffic management schemes are needed.

The MTR has contributed significantly to traffic improvement in Central. However, its reluctance to extend the island line beyond Sheung Wan - albeit based on self-defined prudent financial principles - has crippled the chance of traffic streamlining in the city centre.

Both past and present authorities have failed to come up with a capital injection formula to encourage the early building of the needed extension line. By failing to do so, the government is in fact generating enormous cost in terms of traffic now to be borne by the general public.

It is high time that the government realigned and redesigned the street network of Hong Kong island, particularly in the city centre.

An overhaul is definitely needed in how Central should be developed. The government should lead and not be led by the voice of the green movement in the cultivation of a livable urban habitat.

L.H. Wang, transport consultant and former chairman of the Chartered Institute of Transport and Logistics



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