PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 August, 2009, 12:00am

Progress should not mean we neglect the needs of animals at risk

Over the years, Hong Kong has progressed with improvements in basic municipal services such as better draining, lighting and pavements.

It has come to be regarded as an international city.

However, during the construction process of some projects, some wildlife habitats have been damaged, some permanently. For example, I noticed a kind of native waterweed growing undisturbed in a stream in Ma Cho Lung within the Closed Border Area. A drainage project started earlier this year, and the waterweed was removed - presumably for good.

Also, I can recall 30 years ago seeing lots of fireflies at night in the rural areas of Hong Kong. Nowadays many villages are illuminated by rural lighting projects. This makes it difficult for these fireflies to breed, since they need the dark: their tiny, fluorescent spots attract the opposite sex. The habitats of many other nocturnal animals have been damaged without our even noticing that it has happened.

When we talk about sustainable development, this should include not just humans. The biodiversity of our environment is important to humans and to the earth as a whole.

Having said that, officials should be praised for their efforts. For example, in some road projects animal tunnels have been provided for such creatures as frogs, snails and centipedes. It is important to build on this and, in future projects, take measures to ensure the survival of other species. I would also like to see a reduction in street lighting in rural areas after midnight.

P. C. Cheung, Yuen Long

Safety is absolute priority for Airbus

We refer to the article in Postmagazine ('Ghost in the machine', August 9), questioning the safety record of the Airbus A330.

The article was based on speculative claims, none of which have been corroborated by any official authority or regulatory body. It was made worse by the accompanying graphics, which many readers may have found alarming and offensive.

Airbus wishes to reassure the travelling public that all its aircraft and their on-board systems are fully certified for commercial service by the world's leading civil aviation authorities.

This fact was recently emphasised by the European Aviation Safety Agency, which is the certification authority for aircraft types manufactured in Europe.

With specific reference to the A330, no evidence has been established by the authorities of any link between the issues mentioned in your article and the ongoing airworthiness of the aircraft.

Safety is the absolute priority for Airbus in the design, manufacture and in-service support of all our aircraft.

In the case of the A330, the world fleet of more than 600 aircraft has accumulated in excess of 13 million flight hours of safe and reliable operation with more than 70 airlines worldwide.

The tragic accident over the Atlantic in June was the first involving fatalities with the A330 since the plane entered commercial service 16 years ago. Airbus is fully committed to determining the causes of any incident or accident involving one of our aircraft.

We are providing every assistance to the authorities responsible for investigating the incident mentioned in your article, with the goal of enhancing further the already extremely good record of the worldwide aviation industry.

Rainer Ohler, senior vice-president, public affairs and communications, Airbus

US looking more like a socialist country

It took US President Barack Obama 100 days to turn the United States into a socialist country.

The federal government is controlling the banking and mortgage industries. Of the largest banks, 19 will have to undergo a stress test devised by the administration. It has given substantial loans to General Motors and Chrysler.

Mr Obama and the Democrats criticised the Bush administration for the deficit it created. But the projected annual deficit under Mr Mr Obama will exceed that.

Mr Obama has appointed so-called czars in various sectors, without congressional approval and with unchecked regulatory powers, who are accountable only to him. The government is now talking about taking over key companies whose failure might put the financial system in jeopardy.

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke might be allowed to stay in his job, not based on his capability but on whether or not he can boost Mr Obama's image.

The administration is talking about having greater control over schools, energy production, the environment and health care.

What will Mr Mr Obama target next - the wealth of US citizens?

Christopher Sully, Shanghai

Emotional response is not the answer

Regarding construction workers on scaffolding, achieving the goal of zero accidents for those working at height is probably more achievable than zero accidents on the road. But, to make progress, we must keep a clear, unemotional head about this vital topic. If we react emotionally we may actually make things worse.

The article ('It may look like art, but working on bamboo 30 floors up is a deadly business', August 9) cites information important in identifying the leading dangers of working at height.

It states that more than half of deaths from working at height were from bamboo scaffolding. This has meaning if we know what percentage of total workers or man hours are done on bamboo scaffolding compared to other structures.

For example, if a little over half of the deaths are from bamboo - but much more than half of all workers at height are on bamboo scaffolding - it means working on bamboo scaffolding is actually safer than other structures.

If less than half of all workers at height are on bamboo scaffolding, this means bamboo scaffolding is more dangerous.

You correctly point out that bamboo is slippery in the rain, but so is steel scaffolding.

Again, careful analysis of the statistics is required to determine which structures are most dangerous in which conditions.

If we react emotionally, such as banning a certain type of scaffolding without careful analysis, we could end up increasing the risk for these construction workers.

This need not be a long, expensive process.

A researcher and statistician with access to relevant data could produce such an analysis for thousands of dollars in a couple of weeks. But we should act fast and not be careless and cavalier with the lives of construction workers.

It is not unreasonable for Hong Kong to be a global benchmark for construction worker safety.

David Werner, Ap Lei Chau

Students who refuse test under pressure

The government has emphasised that drug testing in schools will be voluntary and that students will have a choice whether or not to take it. However, I wonder if, in reality, it is voluntary.

If a student refuses to have the test, a social worker will get involved and follow up their case. Why would the school need to do that? Surely the implication is that the student is abusing drugs. Such pupils will be end up being labelled by teachers and fellow students.

Also, if large numbers of teenagers test positive, what contingency measures does the government have to deal with this. Will it be able to cope?

I am concerned that this scheme could end up being a real mess.

Tai Kwun-kit, Sheung Shui