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A view of buildings in Kowloon. Photo: Sam Tsang

Letters | Hong Kong needs a one-stop platform for sharing spatial data to speed up infrastructure projects

  • Readers discuss how the city can and must improve infrastructure planning, the health risks facing outdoor workers during hot weather, and the threat to Christian groups in China
Hong Kong
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In tandem with the Hong Kong government’s promise to nurture innovation and technological advancement in the city, legislators Elizabeth Quat Pei-fan, Chan Siu-hung and Andrew Lam Siu-lo have been advocating for the use of technology to improve infrastructure building.

They propose using a geographic information system (GIS) to collect, integrate and analyse geospatial data. Displayed coherently, the integrated data would allow government bureaus and departments to make fast yet accurate decisions, avoid the duplication of research, and speed up the planning and construction of new development areas.

In short, the idea is to build a one-stop data platform with GIS to coordinate infrastructure projects and improve efficiency.

The Elizabeth Line in the UK, one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe, is also managed using this advanced technology.
Back in 2015, the Commission on Strategic Development suggested that the Development Bureau and Planning Department use the Fanling North and Kwu Tung North new development areas to pilot the use of GIS technology. They pointed out that a “Common Geospatial Information System Platform” (CGISP) would “facilitate planning, construction, monitoring and maintenance”.

Their recommendation stems from the fact that typically, during the planning of new development areas, the databases used are in different formats and stored in different software and systems. It is difficult for different government departments and the public to interact and participate effectively in different stages of the planning process.

The commission therefore proposed the creation of a CGISP to assist urban planning and facilitate public participation. It is an ideal tool for integrating spatial data from different sources.

Three types of data are generally required for the planning of new development areas: land data (base map, boundary, quality, quantity, use and Outline Zoning Plan); engineering data (road, slope, building, transport, water supply and drainage); and environmental data (country park, heritage site). A CGISP would allow stakeholders to view, search, compare, analyse and share project information so that all parties can follow up on the development.

Unfortunately, these efficiency-improving measures have not been implemented over the years. The government’s tendency to “discuss without decisions, make decisions without execution” has arguably wasted years of Hong Kong’s smart city development.

Dr Winnie Tang, adjunct professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering, the University of Hong Kong

More rights for outdoor workers suffering in extreme heat

I was shocked to learn that at least five outdoor workers have died on the job since June, possibly due to the heatwave (“Extreme heat taking toll on Hong Kong’s refuse collection workers with most feeling unwell on job, charity finds”, August 29).

Climate change has been a global concern for years, and many different parts of the world have been experiencing extreme weather.

Hong Kong is vulnerable to severe storms. In 2018 when the city was buffeted by Typhoon Mangkhut, the most intense storm to hit Hong Kong since records began, some 1,500 trees were uprooted and hundreds of windows on both sides of the Victoria Harbour were smashed.
The heat this summer has also been a nightmare for Hongkongers. July became the hottest month on record with the average monthly temperature reaching 30.3 degrees Celsius, and the daytime temperature exceeding 33 degrees on many days.

It is hard to imagine outdoor workers having to clean the streets and collect rubbish in such unbearably hot weather.

Even though the government regularly disseminates information on how to prevent heatstroke, it is not enough. Outdoor workers such as refuse collectors need better working conditions.

The government should consider improving their work environment, such as by installing air conditioners, ensuring good ventilation, and cleaning up refuse collection points. How can workers take a proper break at their workplace when it is infested with bugs and the air quality is bad?

Enhancing employment benefits for outdoor cleaning workers is only a temporary solution. A longer-term plan is needed to bolster workers’ rights through legislation, as well as guidelines for companies that can be enforced.

Pages Ng, Tuen Mun

Like Uygur Muslims, China’s Christians face repression

At last the United Nations is speaking out against China’s repression of Muslim Uygurs in Xinjiang. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a report declaring “serious human rights violations” that “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity”.
But the Uygurs are not the only targets in China’s crackdown on religious minorities. Christianity has been under siege for years, but no one is talking about it any more. Where is the outcry over China’s beleaguered Christians who no longer have a voice?

Brian Stuckey, Denver, US