PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2007, 12:00am

Another set of polluted canyons

Others have written about the history of the Star Ferry clock tower. However, let us not forget its function as a marker for an unbroken line of clean air from the shoreline into polluted Central for the past 50 years.

The reason the government is fighting to move the clock tower away from its historical spot is to hide the fact that they are taking an area full of breezes and fresh air and turning it into yet another set of polluted canyons blocking the wind, amplifying the noise of traffic and increasing the stink from diesel exhausts.

The government cannot agree to put the clock tower back where it belongs because that would draw attention to their plans for six lanes of high-speed traffic serving the new government complex at Tamar.

This road will create a 'freeway' environment of speeding vehicles and a huge amount of noise and exhaust pollution - right next to the site for the proposed harbourfront park.

Drivers using this 'freeway' will start off from next to the Airport Express station then come to a grinding halt near the Convention and Exhibition Centre, where the highway ends, before filtering back onto side streets again.

Traffic studies have shown there is, in fact, no need for such an excessively large road system.

The clock tower should be put back where it was - and there should be no buildings built any taller than the tower anywhere on the reclamation. From our engagement with the general population of Hong Kong, we know that the majority want an attractive waterfront where people can actually hear something other than traffic noise.

This road should be a two-lane, tree-lined boulevard, and harbourfront tramlines should be built at the same time as the road to give the non-driving public better access to the shoreline park. This is the 'job' that needs to be done.

John Bowden, Save Our Shorelines

Education plan 20 years too late

'Building Hong Kong into a 'regional education hub' makes eminent business sense,' claims Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee in 'Integrate to educate' (May 7). I am sure it does, if Hong Kong can make substantial profits out of education as a commercial enterprise.

She adds: 'With the mainland economy continuing to charge forward, China's hungry companies are woefully short of trained professionals in management, business, legal, accounting and financial services to fill their corporate ladders'. What these companies need now are trained professionals with hands-on experience, accumulated over the years after graduation - something that universities cannot provide. Theory and practice are two different things.

Mrs Ip argues that 'raising or removing the ceiling on the admission of mainland Chinese or overseas undergraduates to Hong Kong universities would help our city's education in more ways than one'. She cites exposure of local students to a more 'international and culturally diverse environment', 'more competition' and 'more opportunities to practise their English with English-language speakers' as examples.

Interestingly, the three beneficial conditions in Mrs Ip's argument can be readily found in Hong Kong, not particularly at university level, but in the English Schools Foundation.

If Mrs Ip thinks the mainland student 'market' is still worth capturing for Hong Kong, she is almost 20 years too late.

Mainland professors and professionals started making overseas visits in the early 1980s, followed by mainland students studying at universities overseas in the late 1980s.

Was Hong Kong well placed to receive them then?

She says that 'a tertiary educational policy to facilitate the intake of the brightest and best from diverse sources is in line with general policy to maintain the openness of our society'. Let me put myself in the shoes of one such international bright spark, to see where it takes me and why I should choose a university in Hong Kong.

If I were so bright, I probably would already have other scholastic offers to choose from. Whether Hong Kong would be high on my list would depend on the availability of an established area of excellence in teaching or research that I am looking for.

But with even the University of Hong Kong's status as an English-medium university being called into question by the director of its English centre only six months ago, a non-Cantonese speaker would doubt whether he or she really wanted to study in Hong Kong!

Policies and political assertions are not the same thing, as the former should work for, and be of real benefit to, the community at large. Ms Ip simply cannot dabble with education policy like she can with her other political ideals.

Alex Tam, Sai Kung

Spotlight on lax lamp rules

Professors Ron Hui and Michael Tse, 'Energy saving is not always good for the environment' (May 3), made some valid points, but their letter also contained some misinformation.

There cannot be a lot of scrapped electronic ballast, simply because the technology is too new. The guaranteed life of such ballast from reputable companies is five years. Early failures from these brands were less than 0.1 per cent.

I suspect the alleged 'electronic waste' is, in reality, older magnetic ballast, made of copper wire coiled on a steel frame in a steel box. Hundreds of thousands of these have been scrapped in the past few years in Canada alone.

However, both copper and steel are extremely recyclable, especially given today's high copper prices.

I do agree with them about compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). These are wasteful and do not last as long as some other fluorescent lighting. Ideally, lamp and ballast should be separate items, not rolled into a single package. It is both costly and wasteful to discard a working ballast with each spent lamp.

The solution rests with the government to legislate environmentally friendly building codes and demand that CFLs, and similar products, meet specific minimum standards, including a proven life time and minimal mercury content.

Ralph Bishop, Pok Fu Lam

Bad taste of air

As a person on medication for a chronic cough, I can inform Ng Hon-wah, 'In bad taste' (May 7), that I did not find Winston Chu Ka-sun's cynical letter to be in bad taste. What leaves a bad taste is the lack of effective action on air pollution.

In fact, I would laugh at Mr Chu's satire, but, as the current roadside API is above 100, I have been advised by the Environmental Protection Department to 'reduce physical exertion as far as possible'.

Allan Dyer, Wong Chuk Hang

Stop moaning

Can we cease to be bombarded with moaning individuals who find fault with every effort the government makes to improve the environment. For the record on the Wan Chai-Causeway Bay park:

It is not exclusively for dogs, and is actually very enjoyable for humans.

It is easily accessed by bus, or you can use the pedestrian subway from Causeway Bay.

The advertising boards at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel serve as a noise/fume barrier to Wan Chai North.

Give the government a chance. This boardwalk park is only the beginning.

Fiona Leifer, Pok Fu Lam