Politicians and tycoons show little concern for environment

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 October, 2008, 12:00am

It was pleasing to read that Hongkongers' concern for heritage and the environment could soon become a 'core value' ('Heritage and ecology values may become part of HK branding', September 29).

Yet, there is surely some irony here, as leading politicians and various tycoons seem little concerned with such matters.

Instead they apparently love projects with plenty of concrete - whether these be mega towers, mega bridges, harbour reclamations, new border crossings, new towns and a new cruise terminal, or even a wetland park dominated by a grandiose building.

Perhaps the irony is intentional. Visitors can come to Hong Kong and see the disconnect between what people want and what they get.

Here, people concerned about the environment:

Breathe some of the dirtiest air of any major city;

Have few parks and those that exist often have signs warning visitors to keep off the grass;

Are mostly restricted from entering various 'public spaces';

Have become used to several beaches being closed due to severe pollution; and

Find even the shorelines of our feted harbour are largely off-limits.

Children grow up with lungs infused with fine soot and may have so little contact with nature they are scared of creatures like butterflies. True, Hong Kong does have a natural environment that few other cities can match. But this results largely from it being in a superb natural setting.

It helps, too, that a country parks system was established when the government was relatively enlightened, at a time when local people were yet to become so concerned for the environment.

The recent cancellation of the liquefied natural gas terminal plan for the Soko Islands was a positive step, but this is outweighed by one mega bridge and plans for another.

Perhaps there will be a suitable slogan for the new brand. It could be something akin to: 'Hong Kong - where the people desire fresh air, but the government loves concrete.'

Martin Williams, director, Hong Kong Outdoors