Murals can't disguise this blot on the landscape

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 April, 2011, 12:00am


It's the most idyllic of scenes. Murals of majestic trees dotting rolling green fields being lapped by sparkling blue waters cover a hoarding in front of construction work on the Central to Wan Chai bypass between IFC and the Central ferry piers. The implication is that such serenity will be revealed for all to luxuriate in when the walls come down. But the serene depiction is poles apart from the concrete and steel that will actually be on the site when a controversial multi-storey ventilation stack for the tunnel below has been built.

The pictures are merely nice images for passers-by to look at rather than the dirt and dust of a construction site, we've been told. Given the government's refusal to bow to objections about the stack, though, the decision is seen by some as rubbing salt in wounds. But whether the murals are misleading or not, they are certainly disappointing.

Views of the harbour from the public garden and bars and restaurants of IFC will be obstructed by the stack. Despite a year of protests, the government has refused to shift the location, claiming that it's too late to alter plans for the project, which isn't scheduled to open until 2017. The Highways Department has given a long list of engineering reasons why work must push ahead unchanged. Authorities' only concession is adding scrubbers to the stack to make fumes cleaner - increasing its height.

Overly-promising images have previously been presented with relation to the harbour. In trying to sell to Hong Kong the reclamation necessary for the bypass, the government released artists' impressions of future use of the area showing people dining directly on the water's edge. Due to roads and existing infrastructure like pump houses jutting above sea-level, this will not be easy to achieve.

Heavy construction work is noisy and dusty, so keeping it from public view makes sense. Brightening up what would otherwise be dull walls with murals is a good idea. But it is a pity the stack will blight the harbour views at IFC, which it seems set to do no matter how colourful the murals.