There are many parks in Hong Kong's urban areas but you might not want to stay for long, as they are so noisy. But a research team has been working in recent years to save us from this noise pollution. It is pushing for the creation of pleasant sounds - bird song, the whisper of a breeze and running water. Lam Kin-che, director of the Centre for Environmental Policy and Resource Management at Chinese University, found the word 'sound' had a negative, unpleasant connotation in Hong Kong. 'When we talk about sound, it is always about traffic noise. Talking only about noise reduction is not enough. We need to create a quality sound environment as well,' Professor Lam, who has been researching sound for 20 years, said. He said the focus of most parks was on the visual landscape, but sound should also be an important factor. Using sound barriers, planting certain trees to attract song birds and building fountains were ways to create pleasant sounds. 'Without consideration for sound, standing in a park is like standing in front of a picture. A waterfall or fountain is enough to create a garden with a desirable sonic feature,' he said. A survey of more than 100 sites in Hong Kong by Lawal Marafa, a colleague of Professor Lam's, found that the sounds of nature was one of the three key factors in attracting people to rural areas. 'When we went to Mong Kok, we found out that eight out of 10 people were wearing earphones. But only one in 10 people wore earphones hiking in rural areas,' Dr Marafa said. 'Instead of buying CDs to listen to the sounds of nature at home, why not go out for the real thing?' Professor Lam said. Recordings of natural sounds - such as waterfalls, thunderstorms, rainforests and dolphins - cost about HK$130 to HK$150, with some selling for as much as HK$550. The researchers agreed that Nan Lian Garden in Diamond Hill was a good example of a pleasant-sounding garden in a supposedly noisy area. 'Nan Lian garden is surrounded by Lung Cheung Road, one of the busiest roads in Hong Kong, but it is still a place with nice scenery and natural sounds because of its proper design,' Professor Lam said. 'The sound barrier here is pretty. It is not that ugly noise barrier we are used to seeing. The fountain and waterfall here help keep out noise as well. It could be done in other parks in the same way.' A landscape consultant and an architect agreed that sound was usually given a low priority in construction work in Hong Kong. 'Sometimes we recommend building a waterfall to our clients, as it is attractive to have the sound of running water in a busy city,' Patrick Lau Hing-tat, chairman of the Association of Landscape Consultants, said. 'However, there are many constraints because of management, finance, maintenance, cleaning, urban planning and even safety concerns.' Mr Lau said the luxury residential complex Hong Kong Parkview made good use of the idea of soundscape. 'There is a big waterfall outside the entrance of Hong Kong Parkview. This provides a country-park feel but that site is quite close to the city.' Wong Kam-sing, vice-president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, said: 'There are no sound-level requirements for parks in Hong Kong, so it doesn't matter [legally] if a park is noisy or not.' The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said it balanced different needs of people in the community when planning an urban park. Recording companies said the demand for natural-sound recordings had been increasing. 'There are customers of all ages coming in every day for natural sounds like waterfalls, the sea and streams. Some listen to natural sounds in their office to calm them down,' Antona Tang Shuk-man, manager of Classical & Jazz of Hong Kong Records, said. One wholesale record company has also seen such recordings grow in popularity. 'During Sars, the demand for natural-sound recordings was popular. Now, we can sell 50 to 60 records of natural sounds in one week,' Alan Wan Pak-lun, sales manager of Master Music, said.