Health risk information easy to grasp
I refer to Fabian Pedrazzini's letter ("Air quality index should provide more accurate information", March 15).
The Environmental Protection Department launched the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) to replace the Air Pollution Index on December 30, to provide the public with simple and easy-to-understand health risk information arising from air pollution and advice on precautionary measures.
The AQHI is reported on a simple figure with a scale of one to 10 and 10+. It is grouped into five health risk categories, that is, low, moderate, high, very high and serious, together with specific health advice for people with different degrees of susceptibility to air pollution.
Reporting the maximum air pollution health alert by an AQHI of "10+" best serves the purpose of health risk communication to the general public.
Reference has also been made with other health-related air quality index systems overseas, for example, the UK and France.
Further breaking down this index with additional AQHI categories will not only cause confusion to the public as the health advice remains the same, but also undermine the significance of this health risk category by creating a false security to the public.
We fully recognise the demands of some members of the public for more detailed information on air pollution.
We are providing and will continue to provide the measured concentration levels and trends of the air pollutants alongside the AQHI at our AQHI website so that the public will be fully informed at all times of the quality of the air.
Pang Sik-wing, principal environmental protection officer (air science), Environmental Protection Department
Overuse of apps has a downside
Nowadays, Hongkongers can be seen using their electronic gadgets everywhere.
So many people walk around with their eyes fixed on their smartphones, rather than the way ahead; they are devotees of numerous games and downloaded apps.
Social media offers many ways for chatting, including WhatsApp and Facebook. Most people see it as the most convenient way to express themselves.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder, thinks so. He bought WhatsApp for US$19 billion, which is a huge amount for a very popular app.
I'm a regular user of Whats- App.
I like that it is so quick and easy to use and I hope it will not change for the worse. Yet I can't help thinking that so many of us spend too much time looking at our phones.
As a consequence, we are slowly losing the ability to chat and interact comfortably, face to face, with people.
Maybe we should invest more in life's simpler things - the time to talk to one another, without WhatsApp, Facebook or any electronic devices - just face to face, before we lose these skills.
Karla Fung, Kowloon Tong
New Kwun Tong market still not ready
Last month, the hawker bazaar in Mut Wah Street closed to make way for the Urban Renewal Authority's Kwun Tong town centre redevelopment.
This market served local residents for more than 30 years. It was a shopping paradise, especially for Kwun Tong residents on low incomes and they could buy all their daily necessities there at reasonable prices.
Stallholders were given a deadline if they wanted to get the full amount of compensation on offer from the government.
One of them held out as she was dissatisfied with the arrangements that have been made by officials. Stallholders have said they are concerned that they have had to vacate the old premises before construction work on the new bazaar was finished in Yue Man Square. It is being built on the site of the old Kwun Tong government building.
That building was closed two years ago, and yet Kwun Tong residents like myself are still waiting for the new bazaar to be ready.
By contrast, the Park Metropolitan, a single-block residential building, was completed in a year.
The reason for this is that the apartment block will be profit-making while the hawker bazaar will not. Why does the government think that earning money is more important than meeting the basic needs of Kwun Tong citizens?
The whole issue of the bazaar and its redevelopment has been handled inefficiently.
Consider the fact that public consultation on this URA redevelopment project began back in 2006.
The government's estimate is that the town centre project will be completed by 2021, but I have my doubts about that.
Chan Yue-ching, Kwun Tong
Spot fine can help clear pavements
I refer to the report ("Fixed penalty plan to clear pavement clutter", March 15).
The government is proposing on-the-spot fines of HK$1,500 for shopkeepers who extend their businesses onto the pavement.
When shopkeepers put their goods onto the street, it impedes pedestrian flow.
At the moment shop owners have to be taken to court and face average fines of less than HK$600.
I agree with those who have argued that the present fine is too low and it is failing to act as a deterrent to these shopkeepers.
That is why the Home Affairs Department has suggested this new HK$1,500 fine.
If it is approved, officials will be able to issue tickets straight away to those business owners who are violating the regulations.
Being able to act so swiftly is far more effective than a three- or four-month delay before the court can process the case and impose such a small fine.
If shopkeepers are fined and ordered to take their stuff off the pavement straight away, this will make our streets safer for pedestrians and motorists.
I hope this new measure can be implemented as soon as possible.
The sooner these obstructions are cleared from our busy pavements, the better.
They are not just a hazard but are also unsightly.
Yeung Sze-nga, Kowloon Tong
Get rid of some after-school activities
A study has found that many secondary students are not getting enough sleep. I think this is because of the heavy workload they face because of the Diploma of Secondary Education.
Sometimes they get depressed about how much they have to do and delay studying until later in the evening. They might not get to bed until after midnight.
Some teenagers have too many extracurricular activities. They should scrap some of them and get home earlier so they can do all their homework.
Mok Sze-lam, Kowloon Tong
Long-term reforms are essential
I refer to the report ("Data points to broad slowdown on mainland", March 14).
I do not think that this slowdown is just caused by the normal economic cycle and fluctuations.
I believe the main reason is an economic imbalance caused by globalisation, which is a double-edged sword for China.
Globalisation offers many opportunities, allowing the country to develop its economy thanks to substantial foreign direct investment, advanced technology and other resources.
However, it has become an export-led economy and as a result has come to depend on the global market over the last 30 years.
This led to massive investment in manufacturing and now there is an excess of industrial capacity.
A more serious problem is the relatively low domestic demand in China, which cannot consume the excess supply. I think this is what is leading to the economic slowdown.
Also, the competitive advantage China has enjoyed as the world's factory has decreased because of the rising cost of labour.
This has led to lots of companies shifting to other developing countries where they can pay lower wages.
These additional costs put pressure on the economic growth of China.
The central government cannot just tackle these economic problems with superficial, short-term measures.
Beijing has to establish a long-term strategy and reform China's economic structures so that it can rebuild the relationship between the global and local economy.
Barney Chick Wai-yin, Tsuen Wan
'Isolated' bird flu cases can prove fatal
I refer to the letter by Linus Wong ("Live poultry ban will lead to job losses", March 17).
Your correspondent is against any ban because locals want to eat fresh chicken, bird flu cases are "isolated" and people in the trade will be put out of work.
These isolated cases to which he refers have led to deaths.
Is eating fresh chicken so important to so many locals that even one death is worth the risk?
Your correspondent is right when he says there are risks with any food we eat, but bird flu is a known risk that has resulted in the loss of life.
I am certain if one of these isolated cases affected Mr Wong or a loved one, he would feel differently.
Finally, will our government ever take this situation with the seriousness that is needed to protect people's lives over their palates?
Terry Scott, Sha Tin