Letters to the Editor, November 5, 2012
Projects focus on pouring concrete
Living Lamma has been lobbying for community improvements on Lamma Island for the last four years.
Standard design and procedures often block action to clean up an area or make it look nice. As Markus Shaw pointed out ("The government must stop 'improving' our countryside", October 30), district minor works are indeed causing blots on our landscape. The Home Affairs Department is empowered to undertake these works but has no ability to make them look good, or budget to maintain the areas.
We examined a little of the history of the relationship between the district office and local indigenous leadership going back to the first colonial officers. We think the cause of the problem lies in this history - minor public works used to be about providing a bit of concrete for pathway improvement or well repair.
Though villagers might have asked for other things, such as nice-looking streetlights, the colonial powers did not entertain such requests, so quaint villages have the same lighting design as highways.
Villagers were given the standard design or nothing at all and the same holds true today. The limit for the district minor works budget has increased to HK$20 million for a single project, yet the only thing the department is able to spend that money on is concrete and railings.
There are undoubtedly local indigenous villagers, some of whom no longer live in the community, who only seek to monetise privileges without regard for the impact on the local environment.
We believe, however, that there are others who are more products of a system that does not allocate a budget (and therefore creates no perceived benefit for the community) for anything other than the pouring of concrete.
As non-indigenous villagers are cut out of the consultation process at the early stages, it is impossible to stop such projects or alter them so that they are fit for purpose and in keeping with the rural environment we live in.
Jo Wilson, chairperson, Living Lamma
Historic Pak Sha O must be preserved
Hong Kong's best conserved village, Pak Sha O, has been targeted by a developer.
Green groups warn that if the government doesn't take action to stop further work, this historic village with its unspoiled natural habitat will face destruction. I strongly agree with the arguments being put forward by these groups.
I think this village should be zoned to ensure protection of its heritage and ecological features.
It is a thriving habitat for many species, some of which are rare, and I am concerned that if there is further development, we might lose the endangered species.
Extensive development work can put at risk the entire ecosystem.
Also, this is a well-preserved Hakka village and is therefore a unique part of Hong Kong's past and traditions.
It is not easy to find similar buildings that have been restored. I do not want to see this place turned into high-rises and shopping malls.
I really hope the government will act to protect this precious village, so that future generations can enjoy it.
Valerie Suen, Tai Wai
Threat of losing village unacceptable
The words of Cat Stevens' 1970 song Where do the Children Play? could perhaps be adopted as the anthem for saving what is left of Hong Kong's natural beauty.
Hong Kong has indeed come a long way, we are changing day to day, but tell us, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, where do the children play?
The threat of losing Pak Sha O, home to 75 species of butterflies as well as numerous other animals, including rare and endangered species such as the Chinese softshell turtle and the hauntingly beautiful eagle owl, is simply unacceptable.
Built by the Hakka, Hong Kong's indigenous villagers, Pak Sha O represents our unique history. Allowing it to fall victim to development reflects an administration more in tune with corporate profit than community improvement.
Pak Sha O must be saved; it is Hong Kong's memory.
Mark Peaker, The Peak
Education can make us more eco-friendly
As a concerned environmentalist, I agree with Cherry Chen ("Melting ice causes more typhoons", October, 17) that the Arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate.
It is believed that the effect of global warming will be more obvious in the coming decades.
Yet, despite the alarming statistics, there still does not appear to be a sense of urgency about the problem and there is evidence of this even in Hong Kong.
For example, it is not uncommon to find that temperatures in big shopping malls are still way below 25 degrees Celsius.
Also, food waste remains a big problem.
It seems that only when people are faced with a natural disaster do they start to become more aware of the problems faced by the environment. People can become convinced about global warming through personal experience.
Apart from policies like subsidising owners of old, polluting vehicles to get newer, cleaner models, the government should put more resources into environmental education.
It is important to help people develop a commitment to nature and the need to protect our vulnerable planet.
Leung Kit-yan, Diamond Hill
Establishing a poverty line is so important
There has been heated debate over the proposed HK$2,200-a-month Old Age Living Allowance, with arguments made for and against the imposition of a means test.
One of the purposes of the means test is to ensure costs are controlled and the government does not spend over its budget in future years. When devising a scheme like this, officials must do a lot of forward-planning.
If the cost becomes prohibitive, then the government will be forced to raise taxes and then everyone suffers.
It is also important for the government to establish an official and internationally recognised poverty line, so that it can identify flaws in the social security and welfare system.
With a poverty line, officials can accurately quantify the poor and can then ensure that the money available will be allocated to the people who really need it.
Kitty Choi, Ma On Shan
Bizarre and fast driving habits
Spending the whole day behind the wheel of a minibus must be, as most of us will admit, a thankless task.
It must be one of the day's great pleasures, then, for these drivers (do we call them captains these days?) to find a nice stretch of road where they can put their foot down and zoom along in the fast lane at about 30km/h above the speed limit, leaving would-be commuters counting the spaces in their half-full vehicles and cursing foully (I confess to it) as they watch them disappear in a cloud of exhaust fumes.
I'm all for drivers having a bit of relaxation. But at the same time, I know that the moment I stick out my hand, a red minibus driver would cut across four lanes of traffic at 100km/h to pick me up by the roadside.
That, incidentally, is why I never travel on a red minibus. But it would be nice if the green guys stopped for me a bit more often.
Is it perhaps time to reconsider the premise of their licences?
I would like to offer one final piece of information: the few female bus drivers on the road are the soul of courtesy.
Andy Smailes, Pok Fu Lam
Segregated compartment not the answer
Some people have suggested women-only compartments on the MTR's trains because female passengers face the risk of sexual harassment.
Although it would appear to be an excellent idea, I think it faces some difficulties.
Not all women would benefit from such a policy. For example, during the rush hour the number of women-only carriages would be limited and presumably be at the front or back of the train. They would fill up quickly, leaving some female passengers who could not get on or were elsewhere on the platform having to use other carriages. Also, if a strict rule was enforced, it would stop couples and even families from travelling together.
It would also be very inconvenient for men and they would find the ordinary carriages even more crowded than they already are. It would be unfair as it would now be easier for a female passenger to get on during the rush hour than a man.
Establishing such a system would not get to the root of the problem of sexual harassment.
These attacks are not just confined to the MTR network. They happen on other forms of public transport and in other areas of the city. Women need to stay alert and there must be an attitude of zero tolerance. They must be brave enough to call police if they are attacked.
The government can ensure people who are caught face tougher sentencing. If courts impose stiffer punishments, this could act as a deterrent.
Mandy Lee Man-shan, Sha Tin