PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2008, 12:00am

Key elements of old Wan Chai market will be preserved

I refer to the letter from K. J. R. Borthwick ('Authority is destroying heritage and environment of Hong Kong', January 13) and wish to correct misconceptions about Urban Renewal Authority (URA) projects and help readers understand the URA's approach to conserving important features of these projects.

The old Wan Chai market forms an integral part of a comprehensive redevelopment scheme implemented by a developer pursuant to a joint venture development agreement entered into by the Land Development Corporation (LDC), our predecessor, with the developer more than 10 years ago. The URA which takes over the contractual rights of the LDC, must observe the agreement's terms. It would be unbecoming for a public organisation like the URA not to honour such a contractual agreement.

However we also appreciate the community's concerns to preserve this building. We want to respond to this community aspiration as positively as circumstances may permit. We have come up with a 'core elements preservation' approach and are now pursuing it actively with the developer. This approach aims at preserving the key elements of the market building in-situ, while at the same time preserving the development right of the developer under the development agreement.

On the 'Wedding Card' Street project in Wan Chai, the redevelopment plan, supported by Wan Chai District Council, and approved by the Town Planning Board, has been drawn up after extensive consultations. We appreciate that the wedding card shops once gave Lee Tung Street a unique local character. Therefore, we adopted a wedding theme for part of the future commercial premises which serves appropriately as a link to the past.

All wedding card shops formerly operating in Lee Tung Street will be offered priority to lease premises at market rents to operate their businesses in the new development. Some 30,000 sq ft retail net floor space will be provided, which is more than twice the area of all the former wedding card shops combined.

As for the Graham Street project, we have stated categorically, time and again, that we will not demolish the street market in question, which is located outside the project boundaries. We will even do more to enhance this market by improving the operational environment for hawkers in the long term.

During the construction period, safety measures will be in place to ensure hawkers can continue their business on site.

Angela Tang, general manager, external relations, Urban Renewal Authority

Data shows pollution is getting worse

The government's much-heralded Action Blue Sky campaign is designed to reduce air pollution. Is it working?

A simple way to measure the extent of air pollution is to look at how often the air pollution index (API) is high or very high. This level is significant because it is the range that the World Health Organisation generally considers to be hazardous for health. In 2007, the API at general stations was high or very high 44 per cent (or almost half) of the time. This was the second-highest level of pollution since EPD records began in 1999, and the highest since 2004. There is a clearly increasing trend - the four years of highest pollution are the last four years.

Pollution is getting worse, not better. Action Blue Sky should be based around concerns of managing public health; the data shows it to be instead an exercise in managing public opinion.

William Hayward, Wan Chai

Sad demise of our wonderful harbour

Reclamation is defined as the process of reclaiming.

We often use the word 'reclamation' when we talk about the harbour and what's happening to it. You really have to think though about what that word means. I don't know about anybody else but I think we have really misused it. After all what is it we are reclaiming? The harbour was never a giant super-mall.

I think a word better suited for this is 'acquisition' because we're not really reclaiming any land.

We are in the process of acquiring it. Even with that, there is once again a misuse of words. Are we acquiring something or are we losing something? Personally I think we're losing something - our culture.

The harbour is so integral to our culture. Let's not forget that Hong Kong does mean 'fragrant harbour'.

We have already lost the 'fragrant' part of 'fragrant harbour', and soon enough we'll lose the 'harbour' part. When there's nothing left but a stream, the children will ask why Hong Kong is named Hong Kong. We'll only be able to say that there used to be a harbour.

Maybe we should save the trouble and rename Hong Kong 'fragrant shopping centre'.

Brennan Leung, Pok Fu Lam

MTR must get rid of noisy plasma screens

I have lived in Hong Kong for more than 10 years and I have always found it to be a fascinating city.

I am particularly impressed with its public transport. I have tried various modes of transport in Hong Kong - the Star Ferry, minibuses, double-decker buses, trams, and, of course the MTR.

I have always thought what a wonderful company the MTR Corporation is.

However, many MTR stations are now installed with huge plasma screens that incessantly produce an additional din that passengers do not need.

I normally go to work early in the morning and reach the MTR station at 7.15am.

As soon as I step into the concourse, I hear the blast from the commercials shown on the plasma screens hanging everywhere, from the concourse to the platform. MTR stations have a very high people flow and I guess this is exactly the point that the profit-oriented people on the MTR management team had when it put up these plasma screens in the stations to generate advertising income.

The MTR is already a very profitable company. Can MTR management stop thinking of dollars for one minute and think about its passengers? We do not need more noise in stations from loud music or narration from advertisements. Most people have a hard day at work and need some peace and quiet. It is already very hard to find peace and quiet in Hong Kong. Why is the MTR contributing more to noise pollution?

I would like the MTR to think about its responsibility as a good corporate citizen and to contribute to Hong Kong, not just through convenience in public transportation but by contributing to the general well-being as well.

Karen Kwan, North Point

Not exactly in the Olympic spirit

In the light of China's efforts to get ready for the Beijing 2008 Olympics I think there are some fundamental issues that still need to be addressed.

Recently, while in the Shanghai International Airport toilets, I heard two men talking in a toilet cubicle in Chinese.

With the door slightly ajar I was able to see two restaurant chefs dressed in their uniforms, next to a dirty toilet. They were sitting on the floor, which was wet and the toilet had not been flushed.

The chefs stepped out of the cubicle and threw their cigarette butts into the toilet without flushing it and left the toilet without washing their hands.

This raised two questions in my mind at the time. What has happened to hygiene standards and what about Shanghai International Airport's smoking policy?

This experience will certainly make me think twice about eating in mainland airports.

Terry Waterhouse, Discovery Bay