Inexpensive way to make slopes safer
Jake van der Kamp is quite right that the government's non-development-clearance programme was a significant contributing factor to avoiding deaths from landslides ("Think our moonscape slopes are safe? On your head be it", August 12).
Under this programme several thousand squatters were moved off slopes into temporary housing.
However, his comment implying a potential lack of longer term safety through the use of spray concrete slope surfacing is alarmist and not entirely correct.
Part of engineering slope- safety improvement practice is to keep water out of slopes by installing up-slope drainage channels to cut off surface water run-off as well as by providing slope surfacing systems to prevent rainfall infiltration.
In this regard, sprayed concrete is a very useful tool.
Drainage from behind the sprayed-concrete slope surfacing is addressed by the installation of "weep holes" through the spray concrete to let water out - if indeed, having prevented infiltration, there is any there - and, where necessary, through longer drainage tubes installed in the slope.
While I may not necessarily support its use, the application of spray-concrete surfacing is a quick and relatively inexpensive way of making slopes safer and is also fairly easy to maintain.
Outside of safety there are visual and environmental concerns about its use, as well as questions about use of alternative slope surfacing materials, but these are other matters.
Allan Watkins, Tsim Sha Tsui
Mall stores can end the big freeze
It is encouraging to see that around 100 malls have signed up for the citywide energy-saving charter introduced by the government.
It is something of a delayed reaction to the city's severe pollution problems but it is a step in the right direction.
However, the malls have a better chance of meeting their energy-saving goals if their tenants are offered the right incentives. Right now, the charter only covers the public areas of malls, not individual shops. Many of these stores remain very cold.
In shops I went to recently in Pacific Place and Admiralty Centre, the changing rooms in some clothes shops were freezing. You often find a similar situation in restaurants, with diners complaining that the air-con blast overhead is too cold.
Most of the time, managers will explain that it is difficult to adjust the temperature and so they try instead to relocate the diners.
Having paid a property-management fee at a fixed rate, it is not surprising that shops will try to maximise what they have paid for. Yet these freezing temperatures are unnecessary.
Shoppers don't need them and they increase malls' electricity bill.
If the shops were given cash rewards for cutting electricity usage, I'm sure most would make a bigger effort to keep temperatures at a reasonable level.
I therefore urge the government to revise the charter so that it can become more effective in reducing carbon emissions, while at the same time providing locals and tourists with a more pleasant shopping experience.
Ivy Wong, Siu Sai Wan
Wise words for wealthy in society
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus is not only giving society as a whole enlightened words of wisdom when he talks of being less selfish as a socio-economic cure ("End the money addiction, HK told", August 12). He has also indirectly given all those suffering from excess wealth and greed advice about achieving future happiness.
The only way a greedy man can be happy ultimately is when he or she selflessly gives without any expectation in return.
Ultimately money cannot be a means to true happiness. It can only buy you materialistic goods and fame. What is needed is to be as selfless as Mother Teresa was.
Can our billionaires sacrifice their wealth for the well-being of the poor? If God was a human, even he would selflessly serve everybody with unconditional love.
Gripe over tunnel about inefficiency
Rishi Teckchandani, Mid-Levels Gripe over tunnel about inefficiency
P.A. Crush ("Leave the car at home and catch a bus", August 12) in reply to my letter ("Paying more for longer queues", July 29), suggests I take a bus if I do not like queueing in my car every day at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.
Since getting to a bus stop would involve a 10-minute hike and the prospect of lengthy queues at the stop, I prefer to queue in my air-conditioned car at the tunnel every day. My complaint was not about queueing as such, it was really about the tunnel authorities' failure to manage traffic in an optimum manner, a fact that Jeffry Kuperus recognised with his constructive suggestions ("Modify lane system at tunnel", August 5).
Despite the problem being obvious to many motorists like me and Mr Kuperus, the authorities prefer to ignore the issue and pretend there is no problem or at least that there is no way to improve matters. More importantly, my letter was an invitation to the authorities to respond to my complaint and explain themselves, which so far they have not done. This failure to address issues is not confined to traffic matters - it is apparent in more serious areas such as pollution, education and so on.
I pay handsomely for the privilege of using my car and I expect the government to play its part by managing traffic on the roads. I pay the Autotoll company a monthly administrative fee for the convenience of not having to stop at tunnel booths every day. The tunnel authorities also benefit from this arrangement as they do not need to employ so many people to collect toll fees.
If there were additional Autotoll lanes (and fewer pay booths) they could employ even fewer fee collectors, more people would probably be encouraged to sign up to the Autotoll system and tunnel congestion would likely be reduced. In short, a win-win for everyone. And, that may result in a quicker ride for those on buses as well.
Mark E. Medwecki, Clear Water Bay
MTR Corp should have rations
When Severe Typhoon Vicente hit Hong Kong last month, many people were caught out by its strength and some passengers were left stranded in stations on the MTR Corporation's East Rail line.
There were complaints about poor contingency planning by the MTR and it showed that when we get a similar storm in the future, food and water rations should be available at stations to give to stranded passengers.
What would have happened if the problems related to the storm and the line had lasted for longer? The MTR Corp would be able to store dried and packaged food for a considerable period of time, so why shouldn't it put some aside?
People who are stuck in stations for a reasonably lengthy period will often become irritable and even anxious.
Providing them with some food and water can help relieve those feelings. They will feel better mentally and physically and will then be better equipped to deal with the problems they are facing.
The MTR also needs to improve its communication system when there is a typhoon.
The public needs to be informed in advance when the service is being suspended.
With Typhoon Vicente the MTR Corp knew typhoon signal No 10 was to be hoisted. Shuttle buses could have been laid on to evacuate people from stations.
We have one of the best metro systems in the world and hopefully the MTR Corp can learn from what happened during the typhoon and make the necessary improvements.
Kenneth So, Sha Tin
Smoking ban must be amended
With the law banning smoking in eating places having been in place for some time, it is really disappointing to see how it has been enforced.
At present, a smoker will only be prosecuted by tobacco control officers when they catch him/her red-handed during regular patrols or spot checks acting on complaints.
So a law-abiding citizen has to suffer when someone is found smoking in a restaurant.
Calling 999 is useless, as the police won't do anything about such smokers.
For me, I am used to calling the 1823 and lodging a complaint. But one will ask how effective it is when the officers can only take action afterwards.
I suggest the law should be amended so that restaurant owners will also be prosecuted. Of course, more officers and patrols can help to improve the situation.
Lawrence Choi, Sha Shui Po