Letters to the Editor, August 30, 2012

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2012, 2:40am

Bridge is likely to be a failure commercially

The decision to build the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge has been controversial, to say the least.

Not only does it contravene the Transport Department's stated policy to promote rail rather than road, but the Highways Department was keen on this "challenging sea-crossing road infrastructure project" so it could capture the world's attention and demonstrate the success of the "one country, two systems" policy.

Should such self-glorification form part our civil servants' motives and evaluation? There is little doubt that this project will have severely deleterious consequences for Hong Kong's and the Pearl River Delta's environment, and also that it will prove to be a commercial failure of massive proportions. A white woolly mammoth may well prove to be a more apt description of this infrastructure than a white elephant.

I read that Hopewell Highway Infrastructure is confident of achieving profitability for its toll expressway from Guangzhou to Zhongshan , and that it is planning to open ahead of schedule the toll extension from Zhongshan to Zhuhai ("Hopewell banks on Wan Chai land gain", August 21).

Hopewell's chairman, Gordon Wu Ying-sheung, was a leading cheerleader for this Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau road bridge, which obviously will have a major impact on the patronage of the Phase II and III West expressways. Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen never needed much encouragement to "pour concrete", on the premise that the mega-size of projects will create numerous business and job opportunities - for the construction industry.

It appears that the Hong Kong taxpayer will bear the brunt of the cost, while as usual tycoon interests will be the main beneficiaries.

Unfortunately it appears much too late for our new chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, to do the sensible thing and pull the plug on such a poorly thought-through road-only mega project.

Frank Lee, Mid-Levels


Only build lifts where they are really needed

Since its formation, the new government has suffered severe setbacks, from the scandal of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's unauthorised structures to making national education compulsory in the school curriculum. In a bid to restore public confidence, the government plans to install 230 outdoor lifts at footbridges, but is it really necessary?

Outdoor lifts can help Hong Kong become a barrier-free city.

Many elderly people - those with arthritis and respiratory problems, for example - find it difficult to climb stairs and may tend to stay at home. Having more lifts that improve mobility can give them a greater incentive to go out and enjoy richer lives. Installation of more lifts would also be welcomed by the disabled, as there are not enough ramps for wheelchairs in Hong Kong.

However, I believe it would be rash to have so many extra lifts.

A substantial sum of public money will be wasted. It is estimated that this project would cost HK$1 billion a year.

Also, the new lifts would use up a lot of electricity. The fact is that there are many footbridges that are seldom used throughout the day. Lifts would be a waste for those under-utilised overhead crossings. I would rather see public funds being spent on worthier causes, such as medical welfare and education.

Installing so many lifts would also involve extensive construction work, which would disrupt nearby residents' lives.

To ensure taxpayers' money is spent in a judicious way, it would be better for the government to hold public consultations. It could then identify those footbridges that are heavily used and where lifts would be of real benefit to the elderly.

The scheme, if properly implemented, can make our city more inclusive, but resources should not be poured down the drain.

Wallace Lau, Ma On Shan


We must know more about pollution levels

It was upsetting to read a detailed report about Hong Kong's drinking water ("Dongjiang water not fit to drink", August 22).

What is particularly worrying is the statement saying that the quality of water resources in the Pearl River Delta area has worsened, with only 54 per cent of some water samples taken meeting the mainland's drinking standards.

I wonder what those standards are.

The report said Hong Kong's water supply comes from "further upstream", implying that it's potable.

What is not said is that pollution may well be present in the "upstream" regions.

The authorities admit they have never made water quality data for the Dongguan section of the river public because "they were worried it could cause a panic". Just as happened during the severe acute respiratory syndrome crisis not too long ago, it seems obvious that the mainland authorities are withholding information about our drinking water for fear of creating a "panic".

Can the Hong Kong authorities remain complacent and negligent in the face of all this?

Vandana Marino, Lantau


MTR should store supplies of rations

Last month, Severe Typhoon Vicente led to the suspension of some MTR services. This meant that some passengers had no choice but to spend the night in affected MTR stations.

I think that the MTR Corporation should keep a store of food and water so it can deal with a similar incident happening in the future and can help passengers in need.

Some food could be made available to people after the typhoon signal No 8, or a higher signal, was hoisted. With a lot of public transport subsequently cancelled, people may have no choice but to stay in an MTR station for hours, and if they are not prepared for this they could go long periods without food.

I would suggest dried food like biscuits and also energy bars for people who may be suffering from low blood-sugar levels.

Critics of this idea say that it is wasteful, as the condition of the food and water rations would decay and this would be a waste of money. But the MTR would only have to keep limited supplies and then increase provisions when the Observatory announced the approach of a strong typhoon. I would have thought it would only have to ensure it had sufficient provisions for 300 to 400 people at each station.

Also, the MTR Corp would only have to store food which had a longer shelf life.

It is part of the MTR Corp's acceptance of its corporate social responsibility.

Damien Wong Tsun-yin, Ma On Shan


Doubts over TVB's wish for public vote

I was one of the victims of the failed public voting system during Sunday's Miss Hong Kong pageant.

TVB, which broadcast the programme, had begun promoting the public poll weeks before the competition, claiming it to be a first, and it invited Hongkongers to choose their champion through the unique online app.

I followed the instructions, and made around 50 failed attempts to enter the system within the 10-minute window you were given to cast your vote.

I felt let down by the station, and not just because there was a lucky draw with the winner getting a car.

My main purpose for voting was not to win the car, but to have the chance to choose my favourite contestants. It was important that Miss Hong Kong should be chosen by viewers, given that in the past there have been some controversial winners.

That TVB underestimated the response shows a lack of preparation. But I wonder if it was genuinely committed to the public vote.

I think in the end TVB wanted all along the internal judging arrangement to which it resorted when the public voting system failed.

Some might interpret the angry response of Hong Kong people as an illustration of society's strong belief in the right to vote and the principle of equality. However, in the end of the day, this is just an entertainment programme and should not be linked to political issues.

Vincent Tang Tsz-Chung, Tsuen Wan


Land policy bad for the environment

I support calls for the government not to continue with Hong Kong's past land creation policies in light of "a drastic reduction in the city's projected population" ("Land bank rethink in population slowdown", August 20).

I hope that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying will accept these arguments and overcome those who support substantial population growth in order to fill future job vacancies and take care of the elderly.

We have to bear in mind the number of jobs being lost now through computers and automation.

Hong Kong needs to go in a new direction when it comes to confronting the issue of an ageing population.

The policy of creating and selling land and inducing population growth through migration from the mainland is socially and environmentally irresponsible.

The downward projection for Hong Kong's population is a blessing as it is an opportunity for the administration to right the wrongs in its land and taxation policies.

John Yuan, Dalian