Letters to the editor, December 8, 2015

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 December, 2015, 5:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 December, 2015, 5:39pm

Contractor difficulties led to delays

We refer to Michael Ko’s letter “Roadworks delay needs ­explaining” (October 30) and his follow-up letter, “Department did not reply to query on delay” (November 30), raising his concern about the slow progress of the water mains laying works at Ching Hong Road and Tsing Yi Road.

The contract in question ­involves the rehabilitation and replacement of about 70km of water mains in the Tsing Yi, Kwai Chung and Tsuen Wan areas, with a 45-month contract ­period. At the peak of construction, there were over 40 work fronts at the same time.

The section of works along Ching Hong Road and Tsing Yi Road involved the laying of 3.3km of new water mains, replacing aged water mains. This part of the works started in May 2012 and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2015.

The works are technically difficult, with heavy traffic ­constraints, a large ­volume of rock excavation and congested utilities.

Various measures to overcome these difficulties have been implemented to ensure early completion. For example, the construction method of some sections of the water mains has been changed from open-cut to trenchless method to deal with congested utilities, despite the higher cost.

However, the contractor has in recent months had resource problems, resulting in a significant decrease in the ­number of workers deployed to the works. Despite high-level meetings, repeated warnings and the imposition of sanctions such as marking adverse performance reports and suspending the contractor from tendering for works, the situation has not improved and works virtually came to a halt on many work fronts.

To mitigate the delay, particularly in sections where traffic would be seriously affected, we engaged another contractor to take over the troubled work fronts.

Despite the additional lead time needed, including for the application for new excavation permits and the mobilisation of plant, materials and labour, work in the affected work fronts can be completed around mid-2016 (barring ­unforeseen circumstances), much earlier than would have been achieved by merely ­pressing the original contractor to catch up with the delay.

With the concerted effort of various parties concerned, the new contractor has now ­commenced work and the ­display board on site now indicates the new completion date of June 30, 2016.

We will closely monitor the progress of the works to ensure its completion as early as possible to minimise any further disruption to the traffic in the areas concerned.

David Wong, senior engineer/public relations, Water Supplies Department

A harbourfront cycle path for our children?

I took part in the 7th Harbourfront Bicycle Ride on November 29, when about 900 people from six to 70 years old rode from Kennedy Town to Sai Wan Ho, with a stop at the Central government offices to petition the government for a harbourfront cycleway.

Hongkongers from all walks of life rode on unicycles, bicycles, tandem bikes, rented bikes, skateboards and roller blades for almost 10km. I met six-year-old Joyce riding with her dad. She wanted to tell her classmates the next day about the ride and what it was for.

Here’s hoping that by the time Joyce and her generation come of age, Hongkongers and visitors alike will get a harbourfront cycleway that all can enjoy for leisure and use daily.

Srinivas Padmasola, Discovery Bay

Unfair to tar all Muslims with same brush

The backlash against Muslims is a grave concern not just in the United States, but across the developed world. Edmund Burke argued that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing”. It behoves all public-minded citizens to come forth and lodge a protest at the horror inflicted by the massacre of innocents under the twisted banner of a new caliphate.

However, we need to cognizant of the fact that, since the September 11 attacks in 2001, the majority of Muslims have borne the searing burden of living under the suspicion that ties them, broadly and unjustly, to criminal atrocities committed by killers linked to Islam. Many Muslims are concerned that they have been tarred by the same brush because of their religious affiliation and that their safety would be threatened by those driven by the primeval regression to ignorance and hate.

Although the London Tube stabbings and the Paris and San Bernardino killings have given rise to more fear, murderous gun rampages – a common occurrence in the United States – have been incited by non-religious motives of workplace resentment, anti-abortion and anti-government zealotry, paranoia, suicidal megalomania, various other forms of sociopathy, and by no evident reasons at all.

There is nothing wise – particularly from a law-enforcement and security perspective – about the urge to isolate and stigmatise the majority of Muslims who aspire to peace for all, regardless of faith or heritage.

Joseph Ting, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Dissident’s release is no sign of softening

Despite the release of Chinese journalist Gao Yu (高瑜) late last month, there is little evidence that Beijing’s crackdown on dissent has abated. That Ms Gao, 71, has been granted a medical parole is a welcome gesture on the part of the regime.

What is disconcerting to her circle of family and friends is that she was forced to confess a “crime” which she did not commit.

It is true that Ms Gao is not alone. China’s dismal human rights violations are well known, but rarely challenged. The White House refused to set preconditions for the release of American political prisoners in Iran while negotiating the Iran nuclear deal. That being the case, is it conceivable that the administration would dare to speak out on behalf of China’s beleaguered dissidents?

Brian Stuckey, Denver, Colorado, US

Struggling students need support, not just scolding

I’m sure many Hong Kong students have experienced the hardship of having our parents and/or teachers scold us for not getting satisfactory results in school. Instead of understanding our situation and encouraging us, they choose to blame us for not studying hard.

But what if we had? Do parents and teachers know how disheartening it is for hard-working students to hear such words? They make us question our ability and our endeavours. Not only does such criticism do nothing to help us study better, but it in fact dents our motivation and self-esteem.

I’ve seen too many teenagers lose their confidence this way. They don’t think they can achieve their goals, so they give up studying to avoid disappointing their parents and, more importantly, themselves.

I blame typical Chinese parenting. I went through this kind of scolding and I found myself losing self-confidence. At that time, I always had the feeling that I wouldn’t be able to get good grades. Luckily, I met a good teacher who admires and encourages me. She helped me get back on track and my grades are now much improved.

Chinese parents and educators have the mindset that if they praised youngsters for doing well, it would make them arrogant, whereas criticism would push them to go further. This is not true. What our youth truly need is support and approval.

I really hope teachers and parents can be careful about what they say to children and teenagers, because youngsters can easily be influenced by them.

Dora Chan, Sha Tin

Bad idea to disallow cars in Central

I refer to Bernard Chan’s article, “No good reason to choke idea for car-free Central” (November 24). I disagree. Hong Kong is an international trading centre and the headquarters of many enterprises are set up in Central. If most traffic on Des Voeux Road in Central is banned, the whole of Central might descend into chaos.

The proposal would inconvenience many commuters and businesses that are accustomed to the current flow of cars, buses and vans. We can’t just rely the tram and the MTR to get around. Congestion in some places will worsen.

Under the proposal, only a segment of the road would be pedestrianised. Sure, the proposal may benefit us by providing more seating and green spaces, but it creates other problems such as congestion. A balance must be found.

Some supporters of the idea say the consequences will be manageable, but I think it is not sustainable and would inconvenience many commuters and businesses.

Arielle Ling, Kowloon Bay