PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 January, 2011, 12:00am

We must deal with problem of sick buildings

So you think Hong Kong air is bad? Check out the 'sick building' you are working in.

The new head of the American Chamber of Commerce says he is committed to pressuring the government to reduce our levels of pollution ('American business leader promises to push for cleaner air', January 13).

How about the sick office buildings where we spend most of our working hours and days?

I used to work in a building adjacent to this huge shopping mall in Mong Kok where its exhaust equipment polluted the neighbourhood. This caused the office building where I worked to become a sick building. After testing the quality of the air in the office and at my desk, my office had to install a hospital/industrial air purifier at my desk to help me stop coughing.

In Vancouver, submitted building plans have to pass through the design review board which approves the aesthetics design of the building. With the many high-rise buildings in Hong Kong, there should be a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning design review board, after all our buildings are all sealed and their mechanical equipment pollutes neighbourhoods.

This review board would look at the environmental impact the building systems have on the area and city, not on just the regular code requirements reviewed by engineers.

As an architect concerned about the deteriorating air quality in Hong Kong, I am anxious about the lack of policy towards creating a better comprehensive living environment for the city, in terms of air quality, air circulation, air and noise pollution, direct sunlight to streets and open areas; to mention just a few issues that need attention.

Plan for the future before it gets worse than it already is.

Errol Patrick Hugh, Tai Hang

Fight to save this island

In identifying Shek Kwu Chau as one of only two sites in Hong Kong said to be suitable for an incinerator, the government said it has avoided sites zoned for conservation.

This is at best a half truth. In the most recent planning study for Shek Kwu Chau and its environs, the publicly debated South West New Territories Development Strategy Review slated Shek Kwu Chau for conservation.

Setting aside the incomprehensible concept of siting an incinerator on an outlying island completely devoid of land area, and with neither a power grid to accept the energy generated nor a site to place the residual waste, the use of a proposed conservation area makes no planning sense whatever and is a betrayal of community intentions.

The public has successfully fought to have Hei Ling Chau saved from a mega-prison development, and the Sokos Islands from a liquefied natural gas terminal. As with Shek Kwu Chau, the development strategy review has these islands deservedly shown for conservation. Our government does not give up easily, however. We now have to fight to save Shek Kwu Chau.

Why do we again have to remind the government not to invalidate publicly debated and published planning intentions?

Clive Noffke, Green Lantau Association

Warm air for bus in winter

We refer to a letter from Anders Ejendal regarding air-conditioning on the Citybus fleet ('Air-con at full blast in winter', January 11). We have duly noted the comments made.

With the aim to provide more comfortable journeys for passengers, all our buses have an air-conditioning system, which facilitates a refreshing in-bus environment for passengers by keeping them free from roadside dust.

With its thermostatic function, the system is designed to generate cool air during hot summer and provide an air heating function that feeds warm air to both the upper and lower deck for use during winter. The design is to maintain the saloon temperature to a suitable pre-set limit. Moreover, the compressor will be cut off if the temperature of the compartment is lower than the pre-set limit.

To ensure the air-conditioning system functions properly, we allocate substantial resources in carrying out regular checks and investigating any complaints. In future, we will continue our efforts to provide quality services to passengers.

Charlize Liu, public affairs department, Citybus Limited

Good reason for screen doors

I refer to the letter by Ken Chan ('Do we need safety doors?' on January 18) regarding the MTR's ongoing programme of safety-screen installation, which he considers unnecessary.

The reason the MTR Corporation installs these barriers is to stop unwell people trying to kill themselves.

Any attempted suicide will disrupt train traffic for other passenger and it is not good public relations for a company.

Jason Ali, Sheung Wan

Railings will be pointless

I totally agree with William G. Swigart ('Old Peak Road handrails will be an act of bureaucratic vandalism', January 20) and the many other correspondents who have addressed these columns on this vexing matter.

I am able to get above our teeming city via my back door into beautiful countryside. It beggars belief why officials insist on fencing us in, and steadfastly refuse the knowledgeable opinions of people who use these trail facilities. I do not believe that safety is the real issue. I am at far greater risk walking down Spring Garden Lane in Wan Chai than walking along Old Peak Road or Hatton Road. Officials are using safety as a excuse to justify works.

There are many illogical places where railings have been placed. Has the government a long-term contract commitment with a fence supplier, and are the departments concerned running behind their annual quota?

Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels

Citizens need green lessons

Mainland citizens lack environmental awareness.

It is important that their awareness levels are raised so that they can become environmentally friendly. With more than 1.3 billion citizens, huge levels of waste are generated every day, in the form of solid, electronic and construction waste.

Last week, I had relatives visiting from the mainland. I was shocked by their wasteful habits.

Instead of towels, they used tissues to rub the table and their hands.

As a result, piles of tissues filled the rubbish bin. Also, they switched on all the lights in the house even when they did not need them.

I asked them if any measures had been taken to enhance citizens' awareness towards environmental protection over the border and they said no.

They have no concepts about the importance of saving energy and protecting the environment.

They have enough money to pay their energy bills, but that is no excuse for this wasteful practice persisting.

If the central government does not take action soon, the consequences for our planet will be huge.

Kathy Chau Ka-ying, Kwun Tong

Top official was not at meeting

Local legislation must be passed for the new constitutional arrangements for 2012 and as we all know that is not so far away.

To my knowledge, the date for the finalisation of this legislation has not been fixed (I am still awaiting a reply to an e-mail that I sent).

A week last Saturday, various groups formed deputations regarding this Hong Kong legislation in the Legislative Council building.

Granted, the session I attended was at 9am. Still, it was disappointing that the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Stephen Lam Sui-lung, was not in attendance, only various deputies and undersecretaries. Just as disappointing was the poor attendance of Legislative Council members, under 10, with the bulk of them being from the pan-democratic camp.

On second thoughts, maybe it is not that surprising the attendance was poor. We know that public consultation is not taken seriously by the government and most of the Hong Kong public knows this.

Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po

Finning of sharks is cruel

A number of letters have appeared in these columns condemning the practice of shark finning. Hong Kong is a major hub for the shark fin trade.

The sharks are [often] killed off the coast of Ecuador for their fins only, and just to make some soup. It is inhuman and unreasonable.

Sharks go through extreme pain as their fins are cut off and their bodies are dumped back into the sea.

Contrary to what the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora says, most sharks are only traded for their fins and not for their meat.

Their meat has no value and normally does not even make it to shore.

Regardless of whether the sharks are killed for their meat or fins, the practice of illegal finning is a major industry and most of the fins are supplied to Hong Kong to make shark's fin soup.

I understand that shark's fin soup is part of our local cuisine and that it is our heritage, but our survival depends on sharks.

Is shark's fin soup more important than our survival?

People look down on Hong Kong when they see documentaries about this practice of finning. We need to change our attitude and help the planet.

Joseph Lai Li-zhang, Pok Fu Lam