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March 8th, 2005, 11:53 PM
Fishing ban mulled
Matthew Lee, Hong Kong Standard
March 9, 2005
The government may impose an annual no-fishing season, similar to that in the South China Sea, to preserve diminishing fishing stocks in Hong Kong waters.
According to a study conducted in 1998, the catch in most areas has dropped by more than 50 percent since the 1980s.
The government plans to introduce amendments to the Fisheries Protection Bill this year.
The three proposed measures include a fishing license system, setting up fisheries protection areas and imposing a one- to two-month closed season for fishing. "According to a consultation that finished last Sunday, most parties, including the fishing community, green groups, academics and the public, support regulating the horsepower of fishing boat engines, nets and setting up 'no-take' zones," Health, Welfare and Food Deputy Secretary Eddy Chan told the food safety and environmental hygiene panel Tuesday.
"But the fishing community mostly opposes a closed fishing season for fears about their livelihood," he said.
Principal assistant secretary Vincent Liu said:
"We would mainly ban trawling because it is most devastating to the seabed and ocean habitat."
March 13th, 2005, 08:02 PM
Long wait for diagnosis of harbor health
Chester Yung, Hong Kong Standard
March 14, 2005
A team of 10 marine scientists are investigating whether the government's multibillion-dollar scheme to clean up Victoria Harbor is cost-effective. AFP
A comprehensive assessment of Victoria Harbor's ecological recovery from the damage caused by sewage and other pollutants will be known in about three years.
City University launched the study last year to ascertain whether the government's Harbor Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) has been effective or not. The government began its ongoing cleanup of Victoria Harbor in 1994.
A team of 10 marine scientists led by City University's Professor Rudolf Wu is investigating whether the government's multibillion-dollar scheme is cost-effective and if there has been any dramatic progress in the harbor's recovery.
The researchers also want to see if diverse species of marine life have returned to the waterway.
Wu, director of the Centre for Marine Environmental Research and Innovation Technology (MERIT), said marine scientists generally regard the return of diverse marine life as a strong sign that the water quality has improved.
Wu expects the ecological and recovery study to offer a comprehensive "diagnosis" of the harbor, using the ecological systems of unpolluted areas of Hong Kong as its reference.
This study is far more ambitious than simply detecting the quality of water by such commonly used criteria as dissolved oxygen and levels of toxic ammonia and E-coli bacteria.
It will address basic questions of ecological restoration, including what makes certain groups of animals come back first after pollution is reduced; their succession patterns; and whether changes in chemical cues in aquatic organisms play important roles in the ecosystem's recovery.
Wu said answers to these questions would help establish indicators to predict the state of recovery.
As public alarm grew over the harbor's environmental decline, the government launched a multibillion- dollar initiative in 1994 to stem the increasing flow of sewage into Victoria Harbor and divert it to a new treatment plant at Stonecutters Island.
Before HATS, sewage generated by some 4.5 million people on both sides of the harbor was discharged directly into the waterway virtually untreated, according to the Environmental Protection Department (EPD).
The first stage of HATS included sewage collection on both sides of the harbor - On Kowloon side from Tsuen Wan in the west to Tseung Kwan O in the east, and on Hong Kong Island from Chai Wan and Shau Kei Wan to Stonecutters Island via a 23.6-kilometer system of tunnels.
The government said the scheme collects and treats about 1.4 million tonnes of sewage and removes 600 tonnes of sewage sludge per day that were previously discharged into the harbor.
Wu said the current stage of HATS presents a unique opportunity to study the harbor's ecological recovery.
"Victoria Harbor and its vicinity is the largest natural laboratory for ecological research" Wu said.
The government claims the scheme has improved water quality significantly.
"The compliance for the dissolved oxygen water quality objective in the harbor has increased from an average of 55 percent in 1992-2001 to 97 percent in 2002-2003," the EPD claims.
"The level of pollutants in the harbor has also decreased significantly, with the level of toxic ammonia decreased by 25 percent and E coli, an indicator of disease-causing bacteria, decreased by 50 percent overall."
Wu said improved water quality was expected, although he noted the qualifying standards adopted by the government are not scientific.
March 19th, 2005, 02:24 AM
South China Morning Post
March 16, 2005
Hong Kong deserves the gift of green
Most of us are satisfied with gazing from a distance at the vast empty lots that scar the city. Not Peter Lee, who decided to take a walk around one of them - the rocky knob of reclaimed land built to serve as a platform for the Western Harbour Crossing. The tunnel's air shaft is currently the only structure on this 40-hectare plot, the rump end of an $ 8 billion, 340-hectare reclamation project designed to link the city centre with Chek Lap Kok, an even grander engineering feat. There are larger empty plots in Hong Kong, notably the 280 hectares of the abandoned Kai Tak airport, and more convenient ones, such as the petite Tamar site, once a British naval station and now used as a parking lot in its prime waterfront location.
But Mr Lee decided to visit West Kowloon, together with some friends. Surprisingly, he found it beautiful. Now, he has joined the throngs of people who think they have a better idea than the Hong Kong government's plan to create a peninsula of culture, luxury flats and Lord Foster's giant canopy. Instead of these, Mr Lee would like to see a park.
It would not be the largest urban park - less than one-eighth the size of New York's Central Park and one-sixth that of London's Hyde Park - but it would be more than Hong Kong's existing Victoria Park, Kowloon Park and the Happy Valley recreation area put together. It would have spectacular views of sunsets and the skyline, and give Hongkongers a little more breathing space - Mr Lee estimates that the city has 0.05 sq km of parkland for every 1,000 people, compared to 0.72 sq km per 1,000 people in Manhattan and 0.7 sq km in London. If Kai Tak became an urban park as well, Hong Kong would suddenly jump up the league table and begin to rival London in this vital ratio.
Mr Lee, regional chief of a multinational packaging materials company, is not the only one with good ideas. Last Friday, Swire Properties launched an exhibit in its Pacific Place complex amplifying its disqualified bid for the West Kowloon cultural district. Judging by the wide-eyed crowds viewing the models over the past few days, including a design by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry for a museum on the Tamar site, the developer has struck a chord. Its proposal links multiple sites across Victoria Harbour in a self-proclaimed "holistic" design that also makes ample use of green space.
It only takes a stroll through Victoria Park or Kowloon Park at the weekend to see how famished people are for open space with flowers, trees and rest areas. The correlation between parks and urban branding is so complete that the dimensions, beauty and safety of urban parks could serve as an index for cities where people want to live.
Nor would there be any hint of cultural bias in such an index. Asia's most ambitious cities have some of the world's best and largest parks, where people can unwind from the office and eat their noodles on park benches - Tokyo's Shinjuku Gyoen, Beihai Yuan in Beijing, and Singapore's Botanical Gardens. If anything, the poorer the country, the more impoverished, dilapidated and dangerous the parks are likely to be. Manila's shabby Luneta Park would not be my first choice for a stroll.
The problem with ideas is often timing. The proposals by Mr Lee and Swire both conflict with decades of official spadework in the public interest, and cynics will ask why they have waited so long to make them. Yet for once, acting Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen may wish to assess current projects against broader values, such as the need to counterbalance decades of development with a substantial gift of green. It would, for one thing, prove that this government has no hearing problems.
Edith Terry is a writer based in Hong Kong
March 29th, 2005, 12:35 AM
New Territories toxic alert
Chester Yung, Hong Kong Standard
SAR a dumping ground for world's hi-tech waste
Giant dumps of electronic waste in the New Territories are causing long-term pollution problems and endangering health. -GREENPEACE
Children in the New Territories North are in danger of developing mental problems while adults there face long-term complications such as strokes, cancer or kidney diseases if nothing is done to eliminate the high levels of lead found in the soil.
According to a Greenpeace study, announced Monday, lead levels in the soil are between five and 10 times higher than the standard.
This is because Hong Kong is being used as a dumping ground for hi-tech waste from all over the world by traders illegally selling the harmful trash to China, Greenpeace said.
It said it found five sites where large stockpiles of discarded computer monitors, keyboards, circuit boards and components had been stored.
Many of these areas are exposed to the elements and the lead is washed into the soil by rainwater and then carried to other areas by underground streams or rivers.
"This heavy metal is highly toxic to plants, animals and humans," the organization said.
Greenpeace urged the government to tighten regulations on electronic waste (e-waste) management.
To investigate the extent of pollution, Greenpeace investigators went to the e-waste workshops in Hung Lung Hang, near Fanling, on March 6 and collected two soil samples.
One sample was found to contain 51mg/kg of lead and the other 142mg/kg. The accepted standard is 10-30mg/kg.
Also found in the soil samples were brominated flame retardants, used in plastics, which can affect the hormone level in humans and disrupt the reproductive system.
Greenpeace assistant campaigner Edward Chan said farmlands and chicken and pig farms in the area are being affected.
He warned that the pollutants could be transmitted to humans through the food chain system.
"It [the lead] will accumulate in the brain and could damage the nerves, respiratory and blood circulation systems," Chan said.
He anticipated that the other 90 e-waste workshops in New Territories North - around Fanling, Ping Che, Pak Heung and Tin Shui Wai - are facing the same problem.
Chan urged the government to launch a large-scale environmental assessment in these workshops.
In order to prevent environmental pollution, China tightened control over the entry of discarded electronic appliances from foreign nations in 2004.
But the Hong Kong government is still lagging behind, Chan said. According to the Environmental Protection Department, about 18,000 tons of e-waste was discarded into landfills in 2003.
Since the average lifespan of a computer has shrunk from five years to two, Greenpeace estimates that approximately 300,000 computers were discarded last year.
Yet, the government is reluctant to tackle the problem.
"The government does not consider these products [e-waste] to be sufficiently hazardous," Chan said.
He said the existing Waste Disposal Ordinance in Hong Kong does not cover the management of most of the e-waste except for cathode ray tubes, while mainland law has clearly prohibited the import of obsolete electrical equipment ranging from computers to televisions and computer monitors.
Chan feared that the loopholes in the SAR's current legislation will make Hong Kong a main trading port for e-waste.
April 8th, 2005, 10:35 PM
Hot and cold energy device could save SAR $3.2b
Sylvia Hui, Hong Kong Standard
April 9, 2005
A new cost-effective, energy-saving device supplying simultaneous indoor cooling and heating could help reduce Hong Kong's energy consumption by up to 20 percent and result in savings of HK$3.2 billion annually, engineers at Hong Kong University claimed Friday.
"This system can offer a total solution for space cooling and heating, hot water, indoor air quality control and energy conservation,'' said Professor Michael Leung of the university's Faculty of Engineering.
Leung is the principle investigator in a project studying new integrated heat pump technology.
Combining air-conditioning with a heat pump and water boiler facilities monitored by artificial intelligence, the technology achieves high energy efficiency and produces five to six units of energy from one unit of electricity.
Current air-conditioning and heating systems produce one unit of energy from one unit of electricity, Leung said.
Should all suitable buildings in Hong Kong switch to the new system, 20 percent of the territory's energy consumption could be saved, Leung claims.
Savings on energy and reductions in the cost of production and maintenance could amount to HK$3.2 billion.
By saving energy, the device is also meant to be more environmentally friendly, resulting in a reduction of 2,000 kilo tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year, Leung said.
In addition, the system enhances dehumidification.
The system will be most cost-effective for hotels, hospitals, indoor swimming pools and wet markets - buildings which consume more air-conditioning and hot water year round than ordinary commercial buildings.
It is also suitable for larger residential housing. The cost of one integrated heat pump will not exceed one air-conditioning unit, Leung said.
Eaton Hotel, which uses a system similar to the integrated heat pump, saves 28 percent in energy consumption and more than HK$1 million a year, according to Leung.
Hong Kong consumes 140,000 terajoules of energy a year. Of this, energy consumed for air-conditioning takes up one-third, far more than the 21 percent used by industrial processes, 22 percent for lighting and refrigeration, 17 percent for cooking and nine percent for hot water.
The HK$1.3 million study into the technology, conducted over the past two years, was funded by the Innovation and Technology Fund.
A workshop promoting use of the system was conducted with industry last month at the university.
April 26th, 2005, 04:58 AM
Competition to promote Hong Kong's sustainable development
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Government Press Release
The Council for Sustainable Development has launched a competition that invites students and the general public to play a part in promoting Hong Kong's sustainability.
Speaking at the launch of the "Play Your Part in Sustainable Development" competition today (April 24), the Hon Choy So-yuk, who is a member of the Council, urged everyone in the community to think about how to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, so as to ensure a good quality life for future generations.
"In taking forward Hong Kong's economic development, we must ensure that we take account of the need to conserve and protect our natural environment and meet the social needs of our citizens," said Ms Choy. "Only then can we claim that we are on the way to achieving sustainable development in Hong Kong."
The competition requires entrants to design a poster, a booklet or an audio-visual presentation that will promote awareness of sustainable development in Hong Kong and encourage people to adopt sustainable practices in their daily lives.
The Council plans to use ideas submitted by the public in its own publicity campaigns, to help fulfill its aim of working in partnership with the community to raise awareness of issues related to sustainability.
Competition entries close on May 31. Results of the competition will be announced in July, and there will be awards for distinction and merit in each of the entry categories.
Copies of the information pamphlet and entry form are available at District Offices and public libraries. Details of the competition are also available from the Council for Sustainable Development's website at www.susdev.gov.hk.