Defending cleaner air measures
Lai See has taken the government to task over air quality, most recently in the piece ('Light to be shed on air quality', November 3). These comments require clarification.
Improving air quality sits at the heart of the government's environment policy. We are now finalising our proposal for updating the air quality objectives (AQOs).
They provide not only air quality yardsticks, but also offer statutory standards to be achieved as soon as reasonably practicable. They are also the legal benchmarks for assessing the air quality impacts of major projects. It is imperative for us to identify the necessary improvement measures and draw up a realistic plan for updating the AQOs.
The AQO Review has proposed several measures for attaining the new objectives. Many of them, such as revamping the fuel mix for electricity generation and rationalising bus routes, are controversial and complicated. We must work with stakeholders to find the best ways to take them forward.
Meanwhile, we continue to introduce improvement measures supported by the community.
We have further tightened power plants' emission caps; enacted the law against idling vehicles; provided incentives to replace polluting vehicles; embarked on a trial of retrofitting selective catalytic reduction devices on franchised buses; set up pilot low-emission zones; set up the Pilot Green Transport Fund to encourage green innovative technologies; and subsidised trials of hybrid and electric buses. We will also strengthen control of petrol and liquefied petroleum gas vehicles and propose raising the quality of marine fuels.
The November 3 article accused us of using outdated equipment to measure air quality. The equipment and procedures deployed in our monitoring network meet the US Environmental Protection Agency's requirements.
The University of Science and Technology project on air pollution diffusion within traffic streams cannot offer direct comparison with measurements by the Environmental Protection Department's stations, which are more representative of the public's air pollution exposure.
As for environmental impact assessments (EIA), the department has considered all EIA reports in accordance with the statutory requirements. Air quality impacts are assessed using sophisticated computer models comparable to those of advanced countries.
All EIA reports are critically examined and comments by the public and the Advisory Council on the Environment fully considered before deciding whether to grant approval.
The merger of the department and the Environment Bureau has not brought any changes to practices or standards in approving EIA reports.
Pang Sik-wing, principal environmental protection officer (air policy), Environmental Protection Department
Wall trees proof of what can be done
I refer to the report ('Wall tree protection sets benchmark', November 19).
I supported the decision of the MTR Corporation to move its new West Island Line station in order to protect the three rare wall trees in Kennedy Town. These trees are part of the collective memory of Hong Kong people.
The MTR Corp should be praised for making this decision, even though it involved relocating Kennedy Town swimming pool at a cost of HK$600 million.
There is an urgent need for us to protect our natural heritage and the Kennedy Town example is only the tip of the iceberg.
There are so many examples of natural and cultural heritage which illustrate the unique fusion of East and West in Hong Kong.
If they are destroyed, future generations will only be left with photographs of what has gone.
Modernisation through the construction of new buildings is an ongoing process and helps with Hong Kong's economic development. But some projects pose a threat to heritage sites.
It is important to strike the right balance between preserving our heritage and having new developments.
There is no reason why with carefully planned renewal projects, the old and the new cannot live together side by side.
Cheryl Wong, Tsuen Wan
Hotel group has taken brave step
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals congratulates The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd on its decision to totally remove shark's fin from its menus - a remarkable act of leadership for the industry as a whole.
This action is a testament to the ethics of the hotel, which has demonstrated courage and progressive thinking in valuing the environment and animal welfare over profit.
It is through bold and decisive action that the tragedy of shark-finning can be reversed and we commend the company for this courageous step towards ending this abhorrent and disastrous practice.
Sandy Macalister, executive director, SPCA Hong Kong
Organise classes on recycling
Last week, while listening to a discussion on landfills on a Radio Three programme, I got the feeling that our officials don't get it.
To reduce landfills, a number of measures need to be taken as soon as possible.
There must be regular classes in schools on the environment. The next generation needs to understand the issues and problems now.
In Europe, everyone is under orders, so to speak, to recycle and separate their rubbish.
Why is it not part of our daily routine to do so in Hong Kong, to separate bottles, plastic, cans, newspapers and bring them personally to a nearby collection place? The rest is then done by the relevant government department.
The pressure on landfills is reduced considerably by enforcing this strategy.
If we want to be a first-class Asian city, then we need to act like one.
Peter Ortmann, Clear Water Bay
We must all become eco-friendly
I watched a television documentary where it was reported that Hong Kong's three-colour recycling bins are not being fully utilised.
Part of the problem is that some cleaners working for cleaning companies are not clear about what rubbish is recyclable or reusable.
This comes as something of a shock, but surely the employers are to blame.
This problem can be dealt with by ensuring that training with regard to recycling is put at the top of the agenda.
However, it is encouraging to see that there are organisations such as Ocean Park and Princess Margaret Hospital, which are co-operating with the recycling industry.
All citizens must realise they have an important role to play when it comes to recycling.
Promoting a green lifestyle begins at home.
For example, before throwing writing paper in the recycling bin, you should see if it is possible to use the other side of the sheet.
Or try to use an empty glass bottle for decoration.
We all have a role to play to develop a culture of recycling in Hong Kong.
Kan Man-ki, Kwai Chung
High rents fuel wage demands
I read a lot of letters in these columns about calls for salary increases of 8 per cent.
Supporters of this wage hike say it is necessary for people to cope with rising inflation in Hong Kong.
A major cost for SAR residents is housing, whether it is rent or mortgage payments.
Why don't we wake up and protest against these high rents, which Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen says point to the success of Hong Kong?
Most people have very small homes. A 'luxury apartment' here (as developers dare to call it), in some cases, would not be much bigger than a bathroom in other cities in the world.
If we did not have to pay these ridiculous prices for a tiny little flat, we would all enjoy far better lives.
These high rents and property prices are making a major contribution to the high rate of inflation as companies will raise prices of their products to cope with inflation, whether it is something we all need, like food, or a luxury item.
The government has to be weaned off this 'drug' called property and start finding a more sustainable form of income. In that way, we can at least control one part of inflation and all citizens can enjoy a decent life, not just our property tycoons.
Jeffry Kuperus, Clear Water Bay