PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2008, 12:00am

URA is trying to help people living in slums

I refer to the comments about the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) from B. Park, M. Chung, D. Lo and J. Pat ('Government is destroying the things that make HK unique', January 17).

The URA was established to improve the conditions of residents living in dilapidated areas.

To tackle urban decay, we adopt a holistic 4Rs urban renewal strategy comprising not only redevelopment but also rehabilitation, preservation and revitalisation. We conduct community engagement programmes lasting several years for major projects. We consult stakeholders and utilise relevant experts in tailoring renewal solutions appropriate to the needs of individual areas.

To date, apart from our redevelopment work, we have rehabilitated more than 400 buildings comprising 33,000 units. We are preserving some 40 old buildings and are planning preservation of many more.

Slum housing is often not only dilapidated, but also lacks basic sanitary facilities and lifts to carry residents up to high floors. Such substandard housing is often unfortunately located above ground floor shops like those of your correspondents. Nevertheless, it would be unacceptable for a modern, developed and compassionate city like Hong Kong to ignore the plights of families living in such slums who need our community's help. We recognise that in helping residents, we cannot avoid disrupting the ground floor businesses. We, therefore, compensate such businesses. Wherever possible, we try to retain and enhance the vibrancy of the neighbourhoods.

It is simply untrue to claim that the entire fabric of Graham Street/Peel Street will be destroyed.

The street market lies outside our project boundaries, on public streets and the hawkers are regulated by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and not the URA. We seek to balance redevelopment of dilapidated buildings with preserving local character, including the market which has been eroded by ad hoc developments and gentrification. By adding our 'Old Shop Street' theme, we will provide opportunities for traditional businesses squeezed out by gentrification to return and augment the street market, the environment of which will be improved by providing better utility supplies and other appropriate measures.

We will also improve future traffic management by moving loading and parking activities underground and expanding pedestrian areas, amenities and landscaping.

Anyone wishing to know more is welcome to view our model and plans.

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

High death toll in dictatorships

J. Y. K. Cheng's suspicion that China holds the record for death tolls stemming from authoritarian rule is most likely correct ('Dynasties do not last forever', January 21).

According to historian R. J. Rummel, about 90 million Chinese people met their deaths in the 20th century, directly or indirectly as a result of the actions of the various Chinese governments of that period.

He includes social experiments such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution in his figures.

All up, about 200 million people perished at the hands of their own governments in the 20th century. Take a note at how many were not democratic: the Soviet Union (62 million deaths), Nazi Germany (21 million) with 'notable' contributions by second world war Japan, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, world war one Turkey, communist Vietnam, post-world war two Poland, Pakistan, and communist Yugoslavia.

Rummel therefore calls China the greatest 'mortocracy' in human history.

Marcus Anthony, Tin Shui Wai

Get tough on car horn noise

Hong Kong is one of the noisiest places I have ever lived in.

Much of the noise has to be tolerated simply because of population density in some parts of the island. But one particular noise that should not be tolerated under any circumstances is the constant honking by inconsiderate drivers, especially in built-up areas. This sort of noise is intrusive, unpredictable and stressful to say the least. It is also entirely unnecessary. Some drivers will sound their horns for more than 10 seconds.

I urge the traffic police to enforce the Road Traffic Ordinance Regulation 43, which claims that any person using any audible warning device on a vehicle on a road except to warn any person on or near a road of danger, is liable to a fine of HK$2,000.

Mona Choo, Central

Let children go to the track

I do not understand the hullabaloo some quarters are raising regarding allowing children to go to racecourses.

The Jockey Club has done everything to ensure children understand they are not allowed to place bets. On the other hand, it is a chance to spend time with the family and see these majestic horses up close. If anything, the worst part of being at the races is listening to the loud expletives of punters when their horses don't come in.

If such a big fuss is to be raised about exposing children to horse gambling, the effort would be better spent on banning the free-to-air broadcast of racing, and moving it instead to an adult pay-per-view channel.

Children being badly influenced at the racetrack? What utter nonsense.

G. Marques, Mei Foo

Such a waste of lunchboxes

Every day, millions of students eat lunch at school, and this means that large quantities of non-biodegradable plastic waste are thrown into our landfill each day. This is very harmful to the environment.

To solve this problem, some lunch suppliers offer a recyclable or reusable lunchbox. This is a really good idea, and it is a pity that many schools have not taken up this option because they are worried about possible hygiene problems.

Another problem is that no one knows if the food suppliers have really recycled the lunchbox or not, since no one is monitoring them.

Recently, there was a case of a food supplier, who claimed to provide a recycling service, but actually threw the lunchboxes out after collecting them from school. So, I think it is really important for the government to send someone to monitor the food suppliers and check whether they are really doing what they claim to do.

Jamie Chi, Sau Mau Ping

Right approach

Your 'Around the Nation' news items from the mainland contained one that should be well noted by the larger retailers in Hong Kong ('Supermarkets to offer cloth bags', January 23).

If cloth bags were provided gratis upon purchase of a fixed dollar amount of product, Hongkongers would likely be more than happy to give up plastic bags. Your January 23 story reported that Beijing supermarkets will provide customers with cloth bags following the ban on free plastic bags from June 1, the Beijing Evening News reported. Wumart Group president Wu Jianzhong said the supermarket firm had started producing the bags and would provide them free of charge to customers who spent more than 50 yuan.

Danny Thurston, Sheung Shui