Travel broadens ecological mind

Visits to wildlife parks and projects designed to protect the environment are some of the features students will enjoy on a study tour of Malaysia and Singapore. The trip is being organised by the Environmental Campaign Committee (ECC) and the Education Department as part of the Student Environmental Protection Ambassador Scheme (SEPAS).

The eight youths on the tour scored top marks out of 20 student ambassadors. They were chosen last month to join the scheme on the strength of essays they wrote on green topics and records they kept of environmental protection activity.

Accompanied by a group of teachers, the students will represent Hong Kong on visits to wildlife parks and environmental protection agencies in both countries.

Ip Chun-wah, secretary of the ECC and the official tour leader, said one of the most important visits would be to one of Singapore's Senoko incineration plants.

'Singapore burns its rubbish, while Hong Kong uses its rubbish for landfills. The group has already visited local landfills, so they will be in a position to compare the two methods of rubbish disposal,' Mr Ip said.

He added that a group of Malaysian youths will join the Hong Kong delegates when they visit sites such as Kuala Lumpur's famous Bird Park. There will be opportunities for the two groups to exchange views on protecting the environment.

Two of the student ambassadors, Bessie Ip Wing-hang and Joanne Hung Pui-Shan, believe that school is the best place to train people to be environmentally conscious.

'My experience from organising such activities is that Hong Kong students are aware of the environmental problems but aren't very keen to take action,' said Bessie, a student at Sacred Heart Canossian College. 'I hope the school activities I've organised will inspire them to do something.' Bessie chaired her school's Environmental Protection Club.

Both students were in Japan earlier this year on a two-week SEPAS tour where they learned of efforts to make the country more environmentally friendly.

'For example, I noticed how they can save electricity with escalators that automatically switch off if no one is using them,' said Joanne.

'Such a facility may not be prevalent across Japan, but it shows how very conscious the Japanese people are about saving energy,' said Joanne who is chairwoman of the Conservancy Club at St Mary's Canossian College.

Yuen Wai-fan, of Kei Heep Secondary Technical School and one of the 10 teachers taking part in the scheme, said that Hong Kong students are interested in environmental issues, but they need to experience the seriousness of the problems for themselves.