... and endeavour to become better citizens

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 November, 2010, 12:00am

Community spirit is also needed when plans are announced to locate an unpopular public facility in a place near where we live or work. Facilities such as rubbish dumps and public toilets are necessities. We need them, cannot go without them, yet do not want them located near us. The so-called Nimby - or not in my back yard - syndrome, is preventing such facilities from being put in place.

We see the Nimby syndrome at work time and again. It is evident when plans are announced to build an incinerator for our waste, or build a columbarium, or establish a drug rehabilitation centre. These projects are essential. Objectors argue the facilities will bring awful smells, bad luck or the 'wrong' kind of people. Inevitably, the logic goes, property prices will tumble or business will disappear.

That is why there is no toilet for the disabled at the Wing Fong Street wet market in Kwai Fong, despite it getting district council approval three years ago. It is needed, but stall holders and residents have told Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officers it will smell, so the project has been dropped. Likewise, construction of a centre for Cantonese opera in Yau Ma Tei has been thrown two years behind schedule over difficulty relocating a rubbish collection point on the site. Two other locations have been found in the district since 2003, but each time, communities have objected.

We all need to be more public spirited and understanding. These projects must be located somewhere. The government, too, has a role to play in ensuring that the Nimby syndrome does not prevail. If services are needed, they should be provided.

Nimbyism is best dealt with by education and primary prevention. Reducing the need for such facilities will lessen their impact on communities. That is especially important in a city with as limited space as ours. When there is no alternative, authorities have to ensure that they are open and transparent about every aspect of a project, and involve the community at each stage. Every effort should be made to resolve differences - and that will be easier if people remember to be good citizens.