PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 May, 2007, 12:00am

Energy saving is not always good for environment

Global warming has prompted many governments to consider taking serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is, however, important to take the right measures and not harm the environment in other ways.

The alarming news recently about soil and water pollution, as a result of improper handling of electronic waste, has signalled a potential disaster arising from a common misconception that 'energy saving is always environmentally friendly'.

In fact, an 'energy-saving' technology is not necessarily an 'environmentally friendly' one.

The recent promotion of electronic compact fluorescent lamps by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department is a good example.

These lights are essentially folded fluorescent lamps with the electronic ballasts integrated inside the plastic covers. The lamp contains mercury and the ballast has toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

Their typical lifetime ranges from 6,000 hours to 10,000 hours. Using them to save energy for such a short time will lead to 'electronic waste pollution' for hundreds of years.

Many organisations have followed the department's advice and installed these lamps. In the near future, we foresee that there will be tens of millions of tonnes of electronic waste waiting to be sent to landfill areas.

The electronic waste problem will only get worse if the government, and society as a whole, do not take immediate action to avoid it.

In December 2006, Canadian authorities intercepted over 500 tonnes of electronic waste being smuggled to Hong Kong and the mainland for dumping. This was just the tip of the iceberg. The Canadians singled out electronic ballasts for fluorescent lamps as a major source of electronic waste. In Hong Kong, the government has never disclosed how many tonnes of electronic waste has been generated.

It is ironic that an 'energy-saving' initiative by our government could become a major reason for a huge amount of electronic waste.

The government should review its policy and promote the right technology that is both energy saving and green.

Without considering its impact, any climate-friendly initiative could put the environment at risk. We must not turn the 'Action Blue Sky' campaign into 'Action Blue Sky, Poisoned Water and Soil.'

Ron Hui, chair professor, electronic engineering, City University

Michael Tse, chair professor, electronic engineering, Polytechnic University

Pontificating on private matters

There goes another sanctimonious male telling women what to do with their bodies, 'The death of real freedom' (May 1). Paul Kokoski states that women's wombs are the most dangerous places in the world, more so than Iraq or Sudan, because of widespread legalised abortions.

More power to Mexico, I say, for 'falling under the spell of this evil', as Mr Kokoski quaintly terms abortion.

That country has obviously seen it must tackle its population problem, despite the outdated strictures of the Catholic Church.

Why do religious cranks keep pontificating about what should be personal matters?

If women went around calling for the forced sterilisation of oversexed males around the world, how would that play out?

Isabel Escoda, Lantau

Leong right on redevelopment

The last ray of hope has gone as our champion of democracy, Alan Leong Kah-kit, has been dropped from the Urban Renewal Authority, effectively removing resistance to anything the URA wishes to impose on us.

What is wrong with Mr Leong's suggestion of acquiring in one go all the properties for redevelopment in Kwun Tong? He is right in that it will be unfair to those included in the later stages. Take the example of Hanoi Road. Three buildings in that redevelopment were not in the original plans. As the project 'evolved', which means that as the greed of the developers grew, they made a bid for all three properties.

They were only able to obtain one building, the New Astor Hotel site, which belonged to fellow listed-company the Park Hotel Group. They offered top-dollar for that property.

However, the other two were not owned by affiliated listed companies; they were owned by small individual holders, and a different approach was taken.

If the same offer had been made for these two buildings, they would have been part of the redevelopment, instead of being bookends for the magnificent project which is now being slowly unveiled.

Nalini Daswani, Tsim Sha Tsui

Pay survey one-sided

Your editorial, 'Pay rise or not, the priority is civil service efficiency' (April 27), on the civil service pay survey commissioned by the government, would have been more credible had it also analysed data and methodology of both that survey and the one commissioned by the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce.

This would have helped the public to put in perspective your statement that 'some commentators have ridiculed the results'. Similarly, you make an unsubstantiated assertion that 'civil servants have - justifiably - received pay cuts'.

However, it has been a matter of official record, following the signing of the Joint Declaration a quarter of a century ago, that those civil servants prepared to stay on to serve Hong Kong after June 30, 1997, could continue in service with pay, allowances, benefits and conditions of service no less favourable than before, and 'terms of employment will not be changed to the disadvantage of serving officers' (from a letter dated September 27, 1984, written by then chief secretary, Sir Philip Haddon-Cave to all public officers).

That guarantee of contractual terms was given constitutional underpinning by the Basic Law. The Court of Final Appeal did not mention this evidence and law.

Unlike judges, the press is not bound by statutory oath to give impartial opinions according to the evidence and recognisable law.

The press, nevertheless, recognises its duty to maintain the highest professional standards in the public interest, particularly in its fourth-estate role as protector of liberties.

Michael Scott, The Peak

Going up ...

The Highways Department, no doubt at considerable public expense, is building two lifts for the footbridge across Hennessy Road at the Arsenal Street junction in Wan Chai.

Surely it would have been much cheaper, and more convenient for everyone, to extend the existing street-level pedestrian crossing, which already provides access from one side of Hennessy Road to the tram stop in the middle. Did the department ever consider this option? Or is it under pressure to spend its budget?

Alan Taylor, Wan Chai

Uneventful trip

Your reader David Eason has made some claims that are both interesting and disturbing regarding believers and non-believers of the Christian faith. ('Unfaithful civilisations doomed to fall,' April 29).

I am so glad that his prayers went unanswered while I was enjoying my trip up the Ngong Ping 360 cable car on Saturday.

Wu Shun-ping, Sha Tin