Reclamation is a viable option
I refer to the letter by Derek Ho Wui-hei ('Old-site plan better than reclamation', March 15).
Optimising the use of derelict and under-utilised land in the New Territories has long been our planning strategy to meet development needs and upgrade the rural environment.
Better use of the so-called brownfield sites, such as the open storage and port back-up sites in the New Territories, is a major directive promulgated in the HK2030 Study.
By way of examples, about 250 hectares of land that falls under this category is included in the proposed Hung Shui Kiu and North East New Territories New Development Areas (NDA).
Apart from the NDA, we are exploring the opportunities for housing development in some 50 hectares of land in the New Territories that is zoned 'green belt' but is spoilt or without vegetation, and another 150 hectares originally used as industrial sites, temporary storage, or abandoned farmland in North District and Yuen Long, also for housing purposes.
Nonetheless, we must also appreciate that the open storage and port back-up operations in the New Territories are providing significant support for the logistics industry and port operation in Hong Kong.
With their nature of operation, some of these facilities cannot be housed in multi-storey factory buildings.
As the majority of them are situated on private land, to resume such land for other developments involves relocation and compensation, which can be a lengthy and complicated process.
To achieve an effective and sustainable land supply in the long run, the government proposes a flexible, balanced deployment of a six-pronged approach, including rezoning, redevelopment, resumption, reuse of ex-quarry sites, rock cavern development and land reclamation outside Victoria Harbour.
With the challenges and merits associated with each of these options, no single option should be relied upon as the sole solution, nor should any of them be dropped altogether.
Raymond W. M. Wong, deputy director, Planning Department
Rethink rate concession measure
The government has offered rates concessions to property owners on a tenement by tenement basis.
This was HK$5,000 per tenement per quarter in 2008-09, and is to be HK$2,500 per quarter in 2012-13.
This has been sold to the public as a measure to assist with the livelihood concerns of the city's citizenry.
The Housing Society and Housing Association have passed on these concessions to their tenants, but other occupants of rental properties are not so lucky.
It seems to me the luckiest of all are the large property owners, who are the largest 'accidental' beneficiaries of this 'livelihood measure'.
The concession administered in this fashion is ineffective because it is poorly targeted if the aim is truly to relieve citizens' hardship.
Increased financial returns on property potentially fuel property prices, which then need to be controlled by other administrative measures.
Therefore, to effectively target those intended, the government should re-evaluate the ceiling for this rates concession and remove the entitlement of commercial premises to the concession.
Lawrence Cheung, North Point
Education on epilepsy is so important
The needs of many of the estimated 40,000 to 70,000 sufferers of epilepsy in Hong Kong are being neglected.
The government has to provide these people with more medical support.
They will have to pay for medicine to deal with their condition for the rest of their lives and they should be offered subsidies by the government.
This will mean they are under less financial pressure and will not feel as stressed as they would if they had money worries.
I also understand that physiotherapy can often help and people with epilepsy should be entitled to free physiotherapy sessions. Giving them financial aid also sends a message to them that they are not alone.
The media could also play an important role by trying to educate the public about the condition. This would clear up misconceptions about the condition.
It would help if more people knew what to do if they see someone suffering from an epileptic seizure.
Most of us would not know how to handle such an emergency and would feel helpless.
Companies and other organisations must recognise their corporate social responsibility in this regard and provide more job opportunities for people who have epilepsy.
If they are offered work opportunities they will find it much easier to integrate into society.
Epilepsy sufferers obviously face a number of problems, however, with more help from the government and society they can find the strength and determination needed to overcome their obstacles and achieve their potential.
Kwan Cheuk-man, Kwun Tong
Help elderly with medical subsidies
The government faces rising costs for public health care as more Hong Kong citizens are living longer.
Many elderly people struggle with their medical bills and are desperately in need of financial assistance.
Therefore, the administration should increase taxes so it can offer medical subsidies to these people.
There must also be greater provision of public housing, because, again, there will be pensioners who have difficulty paying rent in private accommodation.
The retirement age in the government is 60 and this could be raised to 70, so that people who want to work longer and feel well enough can do so.
Given that we have an ageing population in Hong Kong more must also be done by the administration to encourage couples to start a family so that the birth rate increases.
Maggie Chan Fong-chau, Tseung Kwan O
Regular visits by police are out of order
It has almost become a bad floor show. Almost every night and while customers are having dinner at any of the restaurants in Peel Street, Graham Street, or the lower part of Elgin Street, there are visits by the local constabulary. Why is this happening?
There are no apologies. Police officers just walk in and there are a lot of them.
They disrupt service and take their sweet time going through whatever it is they are supposedly going though and then leave only to return a few days later and go through the same old foxtrot.
Speaking to these officers as to the reason for their presence, the usual answer is that they are only 'following orders'. Orders to do what, check on liquor licences? If that is the reason why must they do it almost every night? Isn't there something better they can do with their time?
I would like someone at Central Police Station to explain. Or perhaps a district councillor whose constituency includes Soho can explain why only these areas of Soho are subjected to this harassment.
Has it anything to do with the fact that many of the bars and restaurants in these streets are run, owned and managed by ethnic minority groups?
What if these eateries were owned by an Allan Zeman, a Christian Rhomberg, or a Bonnie Gokson - local restaurateurs with clout who would not suffer such buffoonery gladly?
Sad to say, this is just another example of Hong Kong life not being what it used to be and, instead, going down the toilet.
No wonder once 'boring' and 'robotic' Singapore is looking far more exciting, far more creative and far more welcoming to everyone.
Hans Ebert, Wan Chai
Waste levy rate is sensible
I think the proposal by Friends of the Earth to set the charge for disposing of a bag of refuse at HK$1.30 to be fair ('Public support waste disposal charges', March 22).
We all have to accept that we have a responsibility to protect the planet. Our landfills are nearing capacity and up till now no solution has been found with regard to waste disposal.
The volume of waste being generated in the city has increased and so a waste charge should be introduced as a way of encouraging people to generate less rubbish. If they are reluctant to pay they can start recycling more material.
The sum suggested by Friends of the Earth is not harsh. It estimates that the monthly bill for a typical family would be HK$40 and this is affordable.
Becky Luk, Sha Tin