PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 January, 2008, 12:00am

Noise laws, saner hours improve city life

The most effective way to encourage renovation of buildings rather than redevelopment is to impose stringent restrictions on construction noise.

It is high time that the true cost to the community of noise pollution be evaluated.

The Environmental Protection Department's (EPD) website states that 'above certain levels, noise can affect everybody. It can lead to hearing loss and mental stress and irritation. It can also interfere with daily activities such as doing homework, watching television and talking on the telephone'.

Yet construction sites in Hong Kong can currently operate at any volume for 12 hours a day, six days a week. Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people are subjected to long hours of torture for years on end.

Visitors from more enlightened cities are astounded to learn that very loud and repetitive operations, such as drilling through rock face, are not restricted to a few hours a day.

A mandatory lunch break of one hour would give people living and working near construction sites some respite.

A five-day week would be in line with the aspirations of the community to a better quality of life and would have a positive effect on harmony in the home.

Reducing the number of hours daily that construction sites can generate noise would certainly encourage developers towards more sustainable forms of development.

Renovation generates much less construction waste, noise and air pollution. It can also be carried out in a fraction of the time required for redevelopment. It therefore has less impact on daily life in the area and is more conducive to retaining the community ties and collective memory that are finally being recognised as essential elements in promoting a sense of belonging within the community.

The EPD has been looking into the issue for years. Now it is time for action. The demolition of fine buildings like the Ritz-Carlton hotel just to further line the pockets of our tycoons is the manifestation of the Sodom and Gomorrah spirit that currently prevails in our society and for which we will surely pay the price sooner or later.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai

Tax is best way

to fight tobacco

Any consideration of tobacco tax cannot be viewed from the perspective of profit to industry or government revenue.

Increasing tax is the single most effective way to reduce tobacco consumption - it is an important public health tool to curb smoking in society, especially among the young, and thereby decreasing the diseases and deaths so caused.

As a public health physician, I congratulate Hong Kong for having passed the tobacco control legislation in 2006.

However, the proportion of smokers quitting has not been satisfactory. Tobacco is still the deadliest consumer product sold legally and it promises to kill more than half of its regular consumers. Any standalone controlled measure, even an effective smoking ban in public places, cannot be relied upon for lasting changes.

In 2007, the government did not boost its quit-smoking services to coincide with the smoking ban, thereby losing a golden opportunity for tobacco control. There remains another chance that tobacco consumption in the community can be controlled at no extra cost to the government, and that is to increase tobacco tax.

At present, our tobacco tax policy is shamefully below the world standard.

In Hong Kong, tax amounts to less than half of the retail price of cigarettes, while The World Bank proposes the proportion should be two-thirds to four-fifths.

Our tobacco tax policy is backward and uncivilised compared with other world cities, and the best time to increase tobacco tax is now.

Dr W. Y. Wan, director of Public Health Consultancy Network

Unfair to blame US for slump

'Blame it on the Americans' said a senior stock market professional, commenting on the Hang Seng Index's sharp fall ('Dark clouds in US rain on Hang Seng', January 17).

He said the US had given 'the world subprime mortgages and the latest financial meltdown'.

Would this, by any chance, be the same US whose robust demand for imported goods has underpinned the global economic boom for the past decade, propelling the economies of China, Asia and beyond, to new highs and providing Hang Seng speculators with record profits in the process?

It would appear that a selective memory, rather than a knowledge of economic history might be the key criterion for success in the equities and securities industry.

William Leigh-Pemberton, Shanghai


not gambling

May I implore the financial and media industries to put their heads together and adopt an alternative word for 'investors'?

It is clearly impossible for them to call their spades spades, and correctly describe stock exchange and hedge fund participants as 'speculators'.

How about 'traders'? The word has less of a pejorative connotation, and it covers all short-term speculators.

Let's please keep usage of 'investors' for the really admirable participants in the capitalist system.

Real investors put their real capital, not leveraged loans, at real risk by giving it to real companies that need funds to expand their business operations. In return, such real investors get shares with long-term potential and annual dividends.

Let's not pretend that our current stock exchanges' version of capitalism has anything to do with 'investment'. It is gambling, and only marginally less wasteful than 'investment' in Happy Valley's horses or Macau's dogs and casinos.

Barry Girling, Tung Chung


key to comfort

We wish to thank Jeff Leung for his comments regarding the behaviour of passengers while taking the MTR ('Keep quiet on MTR trains', January 22).

We couldn't agree with Mr Leung more, that a bit of consideration would go a long way in helping everyone to enjoy a comfortable and pleasant MTR journey. MTR by-laws are in place to protect passengers against nuisance.

In addition to enforcing the by-laws, the corporation holds regular promotional campaigns to highlight the safe and considerate behaviour passengers should demonstrate when using the MTR.

However, as a mass public transport operator, we must also rely on passengers' co-operation to help ensure a comfortable and enjoyable journey for all.

We wish to assure Mr Leung that the MTR is committed to promoting considerate behaviour among our passengers.

May Wong, senior manager, corporate relations, MTR

The case for

'fertility leave'

I refer to the letter by Paul Yip ('Leave can help lift birth rate', January 23).

I just wanted to point out that paternity leave is only granted after the baby has been conceived and delivered.

If we want to raise the birth rate in Hong Kong, maybe we need to introduce 'fertility' leave instead.

If fertility is the goal, then it would seem paternity leave is redundant.

Lance Chua, Yuen Long