talk back

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 October, 2004, 12:00am

Q Is it worth losing 500 trees for a park?

It may indeed sound cynical that the planned park with a bonsai garden attached in Stanley calls for 500 trees to be cut down in order to plant 1,000 new ones. Is it worth it? It all depends.

It is a common belief that cutting down trees is bad. We have been forced to give up many development opportunities in the past in the name of environmental protection, and even sustainable development.

My former colleague, Professor C.J. Jim, of the University of Hong Kong, suggested giving each tree a price tag as a good solution to this problem.

If the trees to be axed are worth more than the social, cultural and economic cost of the planned garden park, including the new trees, then perhaps there is a case against cutting them. Notwithstanding that, the proposed project should spare as many existing trees as possible.

The idea of public-private partnership is urgently needed in the city. The public sector has failed in its capacity to improve our environment. We should make every attempt to strengthen the desire to contribute to - and especially to participate in - the private sector.

L.H. Wang, Urban China Research Foundation

The immense irony of the matter - cutting down 'inconvenient' mature trees only to replace them with 'convenient' immature ones. Good grief, what next?

The only thing that made me feel better was the observation by (Stanley bar owner) Rolf Schneider that 'the area was already beautiful and that it was absolutely senseless to cut down precious trees to make way for a park'.

My feelings exactly.

Your article said: 'The planned garden park has been welcomed by tourists and residents,' but I would question how much any tourist visiting Stanley for an hour or two - no doubt to go shopping - would know about any of it - or care, for that matter - when a microphone is jabbed in their face for an on-the-spot observation.

How many of the tourists will ever come back expressly to stroll under the new trees? As for the residents, I can't for a moment believe that anyone who chooses to live in the countryside atmosphere of Stanley, away from city pollution and as near as possible to hills and trees, could approve of the pointless removal of even five trees, let alone 500.

We have all seen, and felt delighted by, buildings whose architects have accommodated trees, wrapping them in one of nature's greatest treasures.

If there must be a park, couldn't the planners leave the 500 trees standing and plan the park around them?

Jenny Wu, Kwun Tong

In this concrete jungle we call Hong Kong, nothing is worth cutting down 500 trees for. And to lose more than 500 trees for a park is ludicrous.

The HK government has been far too lax and indifferent in its policies regarding the protection of trees. Too many trees are cut, damaged and destroyed without anyone giving any serious thought to how they can otherwise be saved and preserved.

The park at Salisbury Road in Tsim Sha Tsui is just one example of how old trees are levelled without any regret.

All over Hong Kong, one can find evidence of the government's cavalier attitude towards the preservation of the green, the old and the beautiful.

Too many developers are getting away with cutting down trees, cementing the plot and then planting pathetic shoots in their place.

No, we don't want to see the Stanley hills levelled or the mature trees cut - not in the name of redevelopment, not in the name of tourism, and not for the purpose of putting potted plants on cement slabs.

Mimmie Chan, Central

When I told my husband that I was going to express my opinion on this matter, he asked me to learn about that area before writing. Even though I know little about that place, I would like to give my general opinion on the project.

I live in Mei Foo. You may all know the same situation happened here a few years back when there was a plan to construct a KCRC station. It was revealed that a park area was going to be used for construction. All the residents protested against the plan. My son wrote to the newspaper saying he would miss the park, which had a very good play area.

So what was it like after the implementation of the plan?

We have got a more beautiful park in place of the old one, with more facilities. We have a children's play area, exercise equipment, a long jogging path, and a lot of greenery.

In addition to these facilities, we got an extraordinary park in the traditional Chinese style. It has become a tourist attraction. Many people take photographs there because of the area's well-planned, scenic beauty amid the high-rise buildings.

It is not unusual to worry that change may adversely affect residents. But it is better to think in a positive way. There has to be some compromise.

People may miss certain things, but may also get better things than those that existed. Keep in mind that residents can make suggestions to improve the conversion plan.

Chitra Sivakumar,

Mei Foo Sun Chuen

As a five-year resident of Hong Kong, yet another story about the government's failure to leave well enough alone when it comes to the territory's landscape leaves me shaking my head.

Did it never occur to the planners that birds might live in the trees they want to chop down? Loss of habitat is usually the prime reason for a decline in population of a species. And what grows on trees is not money, but green things that produce that greater necessity of life, oxygen.

In my reasonably short period of residence here, I have observed many projects which seem 'necessary', mainly to line the pockets of developers with a cosy relationship with various government departments. The result is the uglification of what was, and could have remained, a beautiful natural landscape.

This situation, and the increasingly polluted air on which we choke ... uh, sorry, breathe ... are fast degrading the quality of life here.

I call on the government to change its mindset and make conservation its first priority, rather than public works that we can do without.

And I would like whoever is responsible for the latest fiasco to listen to Joni Mitchell's famous lament, 'They paved paradise and put up a parking lot', and take it to heart.

Catherine McLean, Tseung Kwan O

Q Should dogs be allowed to use public beaches?

As a medical practitioner, I strongly oppose allowing dogs on to beaches used by people on medical grounds. The sanctioning of such a practice is extremely irresponsible.

It is irresponsible, ignorant and medically negligent of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to allow dogs to use and soil beaches en masse. I don't accept their argument that they cannot stop the use of the beach as it is a public area.

Dog excrement may carry the larvae of hookworms, which attach themselves to bare human feet on the beach (commonly between the toes), burrow into the body and cause serious systemic disease.

They can cause anaemia, visceral larva migrans, myositis, pneumonitis, possible asthma attacks, and eosinophilic enteritis. They can also enter the brain and cause meningitis, and even sepsis, or death from shock.

This worm is described as being widely distributed around the world, and the usual host is dogs.

Dr Yi Chung Yiu, Chai Wan

On other matters...

I am not exactly sure what the reviewer was expecting at the Alicia Keys concert. It was obviously not the powerful voice, skilful classically trained piano playing, extremely talented background singers and excellent musicianship of the band.

What he did notice, it seems, was what she was wearing. ('The evening would have been more enticing if the rhythms could have been as squiggling and risque as her attire?')

If the reviewer did not realise, Keys' music primarily uses live instrumentation. If he did realise and had maybe listened to her music (which shouldn't be hard - she only has two CDs), he would notice that it is heavily influenced by 1970s soul and jazz, from Curtis Mayfield to Stevie Wonder.

Why would you expect anything different from her live show?

Maybe if the reviewer had any soul himself, he would have appreciated that '15-minute melodramatic' version of How Come You Don't Call Me.

Isn't the purpose of going to a live show hearing and appreciating the music? The last thing Keys should be criticised for is bringing musicianship to a young audience bombarded by bubblegum pop.

If you want choreographed numbers, stick to watching MTV or boy bands.

Drafus Chow, Tai Hang