PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2008, 12:00am

Nanny initiative will need to be well-financed

I am very pleased to read the news of the proposal for a government-sponsored scheme for 'neighbourhood nannies' ('Pilot scheme to fund neighbouring nannies', March 6).

About 20 years ago the media and a couple of welfare agencies highlighted the dangerous and often fatal phenomena of 'unattended' children. Resulting from their concern the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights was born and the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society set up a 'neighbourhood nanny' type child minders service in Tuen Mun, a service for parents lacking support or a close community network. The service finds potentially caring families, assesses their suitability and introduces them to needy families. However the lack of specific legislation in respect of unattended children means that many families lack the motivation to seek safer local care arrangements, as a TV survey discovered in the New Territories some years ago.

Unlike the government support given to wealth-generating urban renewal, private housing and other infrastructural developments, support for needy families and the protection of children is often reluctantly provided at an incremental and snail-like pace. When legislation was mooted the administration objected, as did some women's groups who charged that such legislation would 'cage' them in their homes. A former legislator, Law Chi-kwong, claimed children could be at greater risk as mothers took them shopping in crowded street markets. Despite greater educational and publicity efforts there has been little improvement. Parents who leave small children alone are often either ignorant of the dangers, unable to manage on small household budgets, unwilling or unable to find willing carers or merely negligent. Unless there is specific legislation to highlight the dangers to 'unattended' children, proper assessment of neighbours to ensure the safety of the children from abuse, and adequate remuneration for the 'nanny angels of care', the children really in need of such service will continue to be neglected.

The flexible Residential Foster Care and Day Fostering services have much room for development but are held back by the lack of adequate support and the low incentives still paid to such caring families. I hope this will not continue to be the case and that Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung's initiative will be well-financed and successful.

Tom Mulvey, Wan Chai

Incinerator is not the answer

The Secretary for the Environment, Edward Yau Tang-wah has declared that a giant incinerator has to be built as the overflowing landfills are filling up ('HK waste crisis going Italy's way', March 8).

The waste-burning plant may be situated at Tap Shek Kok in Tuen Mun. Of course, nearby residents object to the plan, saying it will cause air pollution. They fear that burning refuse will lead to the release of toxic gas. They argue it will decrease visibility and contribute to global warming.

I do not think building this incinerator is the best way for us to deal with our solid waste. Hong Kong people produce about 3,000 tonnes of solid waste every day. It's too much for this small place. The government should not build an incinerator but should instead reduce the amount of waste produced in a number of ways, including collecting a waste levy and promoting recycling.

Hong Kong citizens should work hard to protect our worsening environment and produce less waste.

Rita Leung, Sau Mau Ping

We can all help to fight pollution

Hong Kong is one of the most polluted places in the world. Exhaust fumes from vehicles pollute our air. I wonder if motorists think about this when they get in their cars. We should all feel guilty about the quantities of greenhouse gas we produce. Most motorists still do not drive a more environmentally friendly hybrid car.

They should appreciate that, when they drive, they are putting more pressure on the atmosphere. If more of us used public transport, we could help slow global warming.

Those of us who have balconies could also grow more plants, which is good for the environment, and we should all play our part in recycling. There are simple things we can do at home, such as writing on both sides of the paper. If you are already doing these things, you should encourage other people to follow suit. For the sake of future generations, we all need to work together to solve this rising problem with pollution.

We cannot rely solely on the government to introduce initiatives.

Jenora Vaswani, The Peak

Give HK more green spaces

New buildings with new designs are always being constructed in Hong Kong.

However, what I would like to see us also developing are green areas.

The city is so densely populated and as more apartments and shopping malls go up, this contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

I think when a decision is made to demolish an old building, because it no longer serves its purpose and is environmentally-unfriendly, whatever replaces it, some provision should be made for a space where greenery could be planted.

Also when they are erecting a new building, they should get advice from the appropriate scientists and look at ways to make the structure energy-efficient.

Rachel Wang, The Peak

Officials have done fair job

The death from flu, of a three-year-old girl at Tuen Mun Hospital, was a tragic incident.

The flu problem this year deteriorated quite quickly and raised concerns among Hong Kong people.

However, up until this tragic death, health officials had been taking measures, such as, for example, sending staff to schools to vaccinate people and educating people about what precautions they should take.

Although I would not say the administration was as well prepared as it should have been, I think officials have done a fairly good job during this flu season.

There will always be unforeseen incidents with something like this.

The government has reacted rather slowly to this medical problem, but at least it has made the effort to help people ('Lesson from Sars outbreak 'not learned'', March 7).

There are many considerations to take into account with something like this and I think the government was right not to implement new infection controls immediately after the girl's death.

While it is right that the health authorities should be criticised when this is appropriate, the relevant health staff deserve praise when it is due and when they are making the effort to deal with the flu problems.

Becky Chan, Sau Mau Ping

Phone charges

We would like to thank Henry Parwani for the valuable comments in his letter ('Hotels ripping off tourists', March 3).

We will reflect his concerns [regarding local phone charges for hotel guests] to the Hong Kong Hotels Association and Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners.

Anthony Lau, executive director, Hong Kong Tourism Board