In rush to be seen do something, government goes parking mad
We apologise for starting the new year more or less where we left off with the old. That is, in highlighting illegal car parking. The police have evidently been active over the holiday. Somebody, somewhere, has thrown the switch and the police have transformed from being uninterested observers of this illegal practice into binge ticketing mode.
According to the government website, the police issued 302 tickets in Kowloon East for illegal parking and other parking offences in one day last week. Why they had to wait until the Christmas holiday before swooping into action is a mystery. A police Christmas present to the community perhaps?
However, we await with interest for a similar swoop on Central, where we sense there has been some reluctance to confront somewhat better-heeled illegal parkers - like the one pictured who apparently thinks using his own traffic cone makes illegal parking okay.
Making a hash of dash to ash
The trouble with taking on the government over its decisions is that the merits of the case get lost and it becomes an issue of face. Take the proposed monstrosity that the so-called Environmental Protection Department has planned for the scenic island of Shek Kwu Chau near Lantau. If all goes to plan, the scene of tranquility is to be transformed into a monster incinerator complete with a massive chimney stack. This site somehow received the green light in favour of an area near the landfill site near Tsuen Mun.
The other startling aspect of this scheme is the technology. The government is planning on using old moving-grate technology, which essentially moves the material over a grate and burns it. In the process it creates a noxious chemical cocktail that is either vented from the giant chimney or mixed in with powdery ash that will have to be transported by barge to a dumping ground providing further opportunities for polluting the air en route.
The various bodies involved in making decisions appear to know little about plasma arc technology. Instead of burning the waste, it is vapourised. The resulting gasses are captured instead of being vented and can be used to generate power or to create organic fuels such as ethanol or jet fuel. The solid residue can be broken up and used for making roads.
Not only is this technologically more environmentally friendly but is cheaper than the old technology. However, the government already appears to have decided against it, murmuring that the new technology is untested. But it has been used in Japan since 2002. The Tees Valley in Britain is set to build a substantial waste-to-energy plant using plasma arc technology, as is Ottawa, Canada. Other projects harnessing the technology can be found in Milwaukee, Shanghai and other cities around the world.
At the same time, a team from Imperial College London has been commissioned to carry out a survey on behalf of Britain's Health Protection Agency after fears emerged about the health risks posed by incinerators, particularly for young children.
This survey was commissioned after alarming discoveries of the higher incidence of infant deaths among those living downwind of a number of incinerators in Britain. These incinerators are of the type being proposed for Hong Kong. Surely Asia's world city can do better than this?
Sure, it's rough, but it's free
Anyone contemplating travelling to Albania will be relieved to know that as of January 1 you will no longer have to make that irksome visit to the Albanian consulate but can get a 14-day visa on arrival at the airport.
The entry for Albania in the CIA's World Fact Book makes dismal reading. It notes that communism collapsed in the country in 1991 and it is making a transition to a mixed economy.
'The transition has proven challenging as successive governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, widespread corruption, a dilapidated physical infrastructure, powerful organised crime networks, and combative political opponents.'
In 2006 it had the unenviable distinction of having the fourth-highest rate of murders per capita in the world, with 80.6 murders per million people, though things may have changed since then. The country remains one of the poorest in Europe.
However, one area in which it excels over Hong Kong is in its political development. It has been holding multiparty elections since 1991, which have been declared more or less free and fair by international observers. Hong Kong deserves better than the current pantomime we're being treated to that is supposed to pass for an election.