PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 February, 2009, 12:00am

Should penalties for illegal work in the countryside be increased?

Country parks are Hong Kong's most important natural resource.

They should be protected and there should be efficient law enforcement to ensure this is done.

Any illegal work that is undertaken and damages parts of our country parks should be punished with sentences that act as a deterrent.

It takes years for trees and vegetation to grow in the parks.

When they are uprooted, the repair work can be costly and involves a lot of labour.

Sometimes, the damage done is irreversible. I feel the fines at present that can be imposed on people who damage the country parks are too lenient.

I hope the government will establish a taskforce to combat this problem and to prevent such illegal work being undertaken.

It would be timely to review our laws.

Hung Wing-kee, Tuen Mun

I refer to the report ('150 trees felled on sites zoned green belt', February 7).

The trees were cut down in anticipation of permission being given to a developer to build small houses. It was said by planning and land officials that little could be done about it, which is very sad. I have a couple of suggestions for officials.

They should make a statement that such action will mean an automatic refusal of the application, whether it be under the planning application system, or through the Lands Department's small house processing system.

Also the relevant bureaus that are considering what to do with the 'small house policy' should make it very clear that developers should not be involved in small house grants at all, bearing in mind that they are supposed to be granted to individual villagers who then build and live in them. That was the original intention of the policy.

The introduction of the small house policy coincided with the development of the new towns in the New Territories and now, with the elevation of Lau Wong-fat, chairman of the [rural affairs body] Heung Yee Kuk, to the Executive Council to help a smooth passage for the government's infrastructure proposals, I cannot help but think that all the intentions of scrapping this much-abused policy have disappeared and that even action such as I have suggested above will prove too drastic. I would like to be proved wrong.

Allan Hay, Tai Po

This month we have seen two reports of damage to the countryside of Hong Kong. The various government departments seemed powerless to act.

However, today we live in a far more environmentally aware world.

The government must update our land laws and take meaningful steps to increase the authority and control of, for example, the Lands Department, and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, to allow effective enforcement of the new laws.

We need properly empowered wardens who can enforce effective laws. Yes, there are limits on what control the government can exercise over private land, but at the moment the responsible government departments hide behind the limit of what they can do. Why don't they ask what more they can do and how to bring about this change?

Mark A. Turner, Sai Kung

How can diving safety be improved?

We sincerely offer our condolences to the family of Rosie Fan Hin-yi regarding her death while diving in November ('Coroner calls for safety rules after diving death', February 14).

The Hong Kong Underwater Association wishes to report that its diving safety and accident inquiry committee is holding discussions with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department on how to improve regulation of diving safety in Hong Kong territorial waters and adjacent waters.

The promotion of safe diving is our top priority and every effort is made to enhance quality training by instructors and safe diving practices by divers.

Last year we published several guides for trainee divers and are in the process of compiling a comprehensive diving manual for Hong Kong divers.

We have also held seminars, diving study groups and visits to fire services diving safety facilities to promote safe diving.

We will be reporting more fully as our discussions' progress with the Hong Kong government and the sport diving industry on safe diving.

Alex Wong, chairman, HKUA; John Fortune, chairman, diving safety and accident inquiry committee, HKUA

How can tampering with minibus speed monitors be stopped?

The speed monitors are designed to help prevent a tragic accident from occurring.

Given the number of traffic accidents on our roads, I think we need to tighten laws relating to speed displays on minibuses that have been damaged.

When I take a minibus on a long route, I can always tell when the speed display is not working correctly.

Also, I have noticed that drivers always travel at speeds exceeding 80km/h and simply ignore the beeper from the speaker indicating that they are going over that speed. Some of them even turn off the beeper. This is very inconsiderate. They are putting their passengers and other drivers on the road at risk with this kind of behaviour.

Police have said that enforcing the anti-tampering law could be difficult. However, surely there is something they can do. It would be better than doing simply nothing.

They can set a deadline and order that the drivers must have their damaged speed meters repaired by that date. If then the damaged meters have not been repaired, the drivers concerned should face heavy fines or other penalties.

Also there should be much more frequent monitoring of these machines.

Most passengers choose to put up with the bad behaviour of the drivers as they are afraid to complain.

The government and police should educate people about what to do, such as telling the driver to slow down.

Also, they should do more promotion on this issue, targeting both drivers and passengers. Although the figures tell us the number of deaths and injuries caused by speed-related accidents has dropped, we should still take this matter seriously.

When people show more consideration on our roads, the number of traffic accidents will obviously decrease.

Nicole Chan, Tsuen Wan