Letters to the Editor, April 18, 2014
Incinerator will not solve waste problem
I read with amazement the comments about a second incinerator by Secretary for Environment Wong Kam-sing ("Second incinerator not a burning issue: minister", April 11).
His comments raise serious concerns.
The planned first incinerator (phase one according to the government) with a capacity of 3,000 tonnes per day cannot solve Hong Kong's waste management problem. K. S. Wong has talked about phase two but given no details. Is he now admitting that there is no phase two and that he is content to continue to expand landfills? The Legislative Council should be told what the phase two plan involves before approving a vast sum of money for the first incinerator.
Mr Wong is now saying an incinerator at Tuen Mun cannot be built without a new environmental impact assessment based on the current environmental standards but seems willing to accept an incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau based on now outdated (lower) environmental standards because he has obtained an environmental permit.
Any responsible government, especially where the client department is the Environmental Protection Department, would demonstrate leadership and adopt the highest standards for any new project. No work has started and there are no reasons why the department should not adopt the new standards.
Mr Wong is failing to show leadership and failing Hong Kong by exploiting a procedural loophole to press ahead with an ill-conceived, outdated project that will cost the taxpayer over HK$20 billion when inflation is taken into account.
What a terrible legacy he will leave for Hong Kong.
Chan Fung-chun, Sai Wan Ho
AmCham support misguided
I was saddened to see the article by Richard R. Vuylsteke, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong ("HK must get behind plans for incinerator, landfill extensions", April 15).
He said the government was "engaging the local community and other concerned stakeholders over the location for the incinerator".
In fact the Environmental Protection Department is totally ignoring local objections, and frantically ignoring the various professional groups that have come up with better, cheaper, quicker and cleaner solutions. What was his motivation? Are AmCham members hoping for construction contracts from the department? AmCham must be aware of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where the city was bankrupted by the cost of retrofitting pollution controls to its incinerator. In New York, then mayor Michael Bloomberg refused to allow any such incinerators in the city.
AmCham is backing the department's desperate attempts to garner support for its tired and expensive schemes.
The department now has to rely on people with questionable credentials. I refer to Dr Elizabeth Quat who, as Lai See pointed out, received her PhD from a university in the US not accredited by a body recognised by the US Department of Education ("Dr Quat, I presume?" April 12). She was one of the legislators on the environmental panel who approved the incinerator, instead of demanding answers to fundamental questions.
R. E. J. Bunker, Lantau
Shek Kwu Chau site unsustainable
The article by Richard R. Vuylsteke, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, emphasises the need to tackle Hong Kong's waste management ("HK must get behind plans for incinerator, landfill extensions", April 15).
Where it fails is when he says there is no alternative to the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator proposal. I am disappointed to see many intelligent individuals say the same thing repeatedly. In fact, there are many better plans, and a little knowledge of Hong Kong's geography will demonstrate this. Who among the proponents has been to Shek Kwu Chau, or can even find it on a map?
It is so far removed from Kowloon and Hong Kong Island that it will cost a lot more to build, and operate. It clearly is the worst choice, as well as the most unsustainable.
With the cost being passed on to the people of Hong Kong, how can this location make sense, economically or environmentally? Hong Kong has one opportunity to get this right. Supporting a bad idea will lead to the destruction of a pristine site.
Will Huetinck, Sai Ying Pun
Flight paths causing noise pollution
Some can remember what it was like living or working near Kai Tak airport, when planes overhead brought conversation to a halt, or if you were sleeping woke you up.
One of the big selling points for the move to Chek Lap Kok was noise reduction. Indeed, for many years after the move there was relative quiet, even with a frequent rate of take-offs.
However, in recent months, planes headed for southeastern and southwestern points, which previously left the airport by sensibly taking off south over water, have changed course. Now, they usually take off to the north, make a U-turn to the right, and continue their laborious, noisy climb over communities, such as those on Lamma.
It is hard to see why this is being done. Flying directly south was more fuel-efficient. If that is not possible, there is a lot of water between Lamma and Cheung Chau, and if planes flew halfway between them it would not be as bad.
Now the noise has started by 7am, continuing until after 4am, leaving barely three hours for quality sleep.
As soon as the noise from one plane fades, the next plane can be heard arriving. One shudders to think of how the circuitous route affects Hong Kong's notorious carbon footprint.
I hope the authorities will restore the former flight paths.
Kangsu Lee, Lamma
More public housing needed
I think the government should build more public housing.
In addition, it should have the power to introduce some price controls over private flats. If it did this, many teenagers would not be worrying about their future and the prospect of not being able to have their own flats.
I also don't know why it has so many land auctions for private developers instead of using the land to build public estates.
Brian Heung, Tseung Kwan O
Government must close wealth gap
Swift action is needed to deal with the increasingly significant wealth disparity between the rich and poor in Hong Kong.
Many in the grass roots are experiencing poverty and the elderly - neglected by society - are becoming poorer. In some cases, they cannot apply for welfare payments if they are living in a family where their children are earning.
During their working lives, these elderly citizens contributed so much to our infrastructure and economy. They should be entitled to a stable old age and the government must adapt welfare rules to ensure this is possible.
Many children are living in poverty. They are the future pillars of society and should be valued.
If the government does not act now to help them, they could face the same fate as the elderly poor of today when they grow old, having to scavenge in the streets and live in substandard accommodation.
Some changes in education have exacerbated problems. In recent years, many government-aided secondary schools have asked to become Direct Subsidy Scheme schools, which in turn has led to fees being charged that are too expensive for grass-roots parents.
While the chief executive's policy address in January pledged support for children, it offered no long-term measures.
I strongly urge the government to come up with a pragmatic approach to address intergenerational poverty, such as creating more job opportunities. Only by providing people with stable living conditions can they hope to escape from the shadow of poverty.
Darren Tang, Tai Po
Democrats need to rethink their role
I agree with Paul Serfaty's well thought-out views on our local politics ("Time for brave spirits to break the mould so our city can advance", April 4).
However, the mainland authorities have little interest in promoting genuine democracy in Hong Kong, or elsewhere.
Whatever is allowed will be granted grudgingly and if our democrats continue to stand off with their holier-than-thou attitudes, they allow a conservative united front to brand them as "intransigent Western-orientated troublemakers" who must take the blame when the move towards democracy hits the buffers.
The democrats need to make it clear that the establishment - liaison office, civil service, chief executive, functional constituencies - will have to take responsibility for the disenfranchisement and social instability that a mock democratic system will surely create.
When are the democrats going to get their act together, and start playing the role of politician rather than lawyer?
Christian Rogers, Wan Chai