Letters to the Editor, May 4, 2013
Pass laws to enforce zero waste goal
I refer to Martin Williams' letter "(Mega incinerator project being driven by vested interests", April 26).
Waste means inefficiency and misallocated resources. A zero waste approach is a worthy and essential goal. Through the Urban Environmental Accords programme, more than 100 city mayors worldwide have committed to sending zero waste to landfills and incinerators by the year 2040 or earlier.
The implication is that existing waste incinerators should be retired, and no new incinerators or landfills should be constructed. Landfills are the biggest source of man-made methane emissions and the impact of landfill emissions in the short term is grossly underestimated. Methane is over 70 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame. The practice of landfilling and incinerating biodegradable material such as food waste, paper products, and builders' trimmings should be phased out.
The climate can be protected and soil restored by composting these materials.
Incinerators emit more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour than coal-fired, natural-gas-fired, or oil-fired power plants. Incinerating wood, paper, building debris, and leftover food has a negative effect on the climate.
Comprehensive government policies are needed to engage in climate change mitigation strategies such as waste reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, and extended producer responsibility.
Government policy incentives are also needed to create locally based materials-recovery jobs and industries.
Tony Henderson, chairman, Humanist Association of Hong Kong
Deal with downside of wonder dam
The Three Gorges Dam is the world's largest power station [in terms of installed capacity].
I appreciate the positive aspects of the dam, such as alleviating drought in some areas. However, people often forget the environmental downside to this enormous project.
The dam has seriously disrupted the lives of many nearby residents and destroyed the hopes of some people from the grass roots of society.
It has caused serious pollution problems and created an imbalance in the downstream flow of water, which results in losses of nutrients.
There has been soil erosion and this causes silting in rivers. Also, there is a greater risk of flooding. Affected farmers have called for help from the authorities, but they have been left to fend for themselves.
Also, the extinction of various species as a result has not been insignificant.
It is important for the central government to recognise that there are serious environmental problems connected with the dam project and deal with them before it is too late.
Jesse Ng Siu-yau, Yau Ma Tei
Education an advantage, not a threat
Alex Lo makes a sharp but important point in his column ("A lesson for the pig-headed bureaucrats", May 1).
It remains extraordinary that, though education is a key distinguishing characteristic enabling societies to become richer, our government often refuses to adopt solutions to educational problems that would benefit our children, our students and, in the longer run, our society.
With substantial budget surpluses and falling school rolls, we could do so many things to give Hong Kong the deeply educated citizenry and workforce it needs to prosper. Yet we do not.
Our top government officials and ministers are not poorly educated themselves, nor stupid, yet substantial reform in a helpful direction seems utterly impossible, driving even reasonable people to aggressive language in frustration at the damage to the public interest.
Perhaps the suspicion of many of my Chinese friends is not far from the truth.
They think that colonial times did not encourage the idea of an excessively well-educated workforce, and that post-1997 times suffer from the domination of political discourse and legislative power by a short-sighted, business-oriented mentality that sees education in a workforce as a threat rather than an advantage.
But for every docker that is troublesome enough to fight Li Ka-shing for decent working conditions, we would get a multitude of knowledge workers that would boost Hong Kong's competitive edge in high-value-added industries.
From that perspective, elimination of the functional constituencies, which do so much to paralyse Hong Kong's development, would be a major advance.
This should be pursued not just for the objective civil and political justice of one man, one vote, but for the economic benefits that would flow if we eliminated vested economic interests from the legislative voting process.
Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels
Rethink exam culture that causes stress
The Education Bureau has announced that for some Diploma of Secondary Education subjects, school-based assessment will be abandoned, simplified or deferred.
As a senior form student, I believe this initiative will relieve some (but not much) of the stress teenagers feel at school.
For most subjects, school-based assessment marks have very little effect on the eventual grade and we all know that. However, we cannot be half-hearted about the projects, because even a small deduction can affect the final mark.
The problem is, there are so many school-based assessments that we need to spend a great deal of time on them.
The effort wears us out and takes up time that could be used for further revision.
When it comes to getting a better final grade, revision is crucial.
As I said, even though this is a minor adjustment by the Education Bureau, even such a small change can make a difference and should be welcomed. I'm sure other students will agree with me.
The bureau has said that for some subjects these school-based assessments will be deferred. I think officials should go one step further and simply scrap them.
The fact that they are being deferred is proof that such assessments are simply not essential for an understanding of these subjects.
To defer them now and revive them at a future date makes no sense and will only put more pressure on students.
The main cause of the massive stress Hong Kong students feel is our examination system and the bureau needs to look at this.
Officials should be aiming to reduce exam content in the future.
Ho Tsz-sum, Tai Wai
Sense of unity paramount to progress
I refer to the report ("HK losing its competitive edge, Beijing warns", April 28).
This conclusion was reached by Zhang Dejiang , No 3 on the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee.
He fears the city will lose this edge if it "does not put its focus on economic development".
I disagree with his argument and believe a city which focuses only on economic growth will be disunited.
No government can ignore the needs of its poor and its workers. Only through unity can the city be strong.
People who love Hong Kong will want to help it develop and move forward. But how can you persuade residents on low incomes to feel this way?
The priority of the administration should be to focus on people's livelihoods.
We are seeing lots of disputes in our society, such as the strike by workers from Kwai Tsing Container Terminals, and concern over our tough education system.
Ongoing disputes like this, if unresolved, will slow down the development of Hong Kong.
The government needs to come up with solutions. If disagreements can be ended and there is unity, the economy can develop.
As I said, such progress will come to a halt without the support of the SAR's citizens.
Also, our government should ensure that it does not blindly follow advice or instructions that come from Beijing.
Cindy Hui Ching-man, Kwai Chung
Anson Chan a beacon of hope for Hong Kong
The recent passing of Maggie Thatcher reminds one of Hong Kong's only equivalent, Anson Chan Fang On-sang.
Fortunately she is still with us and hopefully will be in 2020, under her banner "Hong Kong 2020".
At a time when the governance of Hong Kong is under extreme pressure, due to the many mistakes that have been made, and also because of some, often stupid and minor, breaches of the law, Mrs Chan stands out as a beacon for all to behold.
It is quite astonishing that the administration is being proved, on a case-by-case basis, to be lacking moral judgment and subject to all kinds of temptation.
Let's thank the free press for its right and ability to continually expose these cases and the individuals involved.
This seems to be nothing to do with religious or other concepts of belief. It is all down to greed, and maybe ambition.
It is shocking how self- centred and short-sighted these people have been, and shows a clear lack of moral substance.
Hong Kong needs an Iron Lady, or two, to survive what Beijing has just dubbed our loss of competitive edge.
Richard Paine, Tai Hang