Face-saving exercise

IN response to Ng Kang-chung's article on Cheung Chau's fung shui row (South China Morning Post, April 18), I fully support the protest referred to, by which the villagers are hoping to save a 100-year old banyan tree.

The Territory Development Department's plan to widen the lane, in order to allow the fire brigade's vehicles to reach the east side of the island, is not at all necessary, since Cheung Chau's customised fire engines and ambulances are small enough to negotiate the lane in which the old tree stands.

Besides, there is an alternative and quicker route from the fire station - driving along the waterfront, the firemen can make a left turn just before King's Cafe. This leads directly to the eastern resorts and beaches. Clearly, the road-widening project, which involves removing the tree, is an exercise in face-saving.

It is no more than an attempt to justify the vast sums of money wasted on the full-sized Dennis vehicle that some crack-brained noodle believed Cheung Chau's fire brigade needed as a status symbol, together with a full-sized ambulance.

The situation is rather pathetic, since any status symbol merely betrays a lack of confidence.

An anonymous Territory Development Department spokesman was reported as saying that the scheme cannot be dropped because, ''It is good for both the residents themselves and the island's future development.'' This is utter nonsense. The villagers are quite happy with the mini fire engines that already exist.


Moreover, given that there are an estimated 50,000 inhabitants (the Government has always understated the population here, in order to avoid the cost of upgrading the island's hospital) on Cheung Chau, which is only 0.93 square miles in area, future development is the last thing anybody wants - except, perhaps, those landowners who are greedy for more rents.

More fire hydrants, as one villager has suggested, would seem to be the most satisfactory solution to this problem. There is one thing that planners ought to remember: in a place like Cheung Chau, road improvement scheme equals village destruction scheme.