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February 22nd, 2009:

Appalling Pollution A Nightmare For Elderly

Appalling pollution a nightmare for elderly Yau Ma Tei residents

Updated on Feb 22, 2009 – SCMP

It is a sad fact that people living in Hong Kong suffer from noise and air pollution particularly in Yau Ma Tei district. Residents are unable to enjoy peace and quiet and breathe fresh air.

The Highways Department has built more than 10 roads and flyovers close to Prosperous Garden without any mitigation measures. In fact, instead of alleviating the serious traffic nuisance, the department is planning to construct another Central Kowloon Tunnel portal and more skyscrapers close to Prosperous Garden, which will make traffic congestion worse.

Most Yau Ma Tei residents are elderly and they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pollution caused by traffic.

I have met Yau Tsim Mong district councillors but they say they do not have the power to handle the case.

I wrote to these columns (“Department must not build tunnel portal close to Yau Ma Tei estate”, December 14) and I and other residents also met legislative councillors in December and I hope they will now do something about this problem.

Noise insulation covers are needed at Ferry Street, which is adjacent to Prosperous Garden, and the proposed tunnel portal should not be built next to housing estates. To counter traffic pollution, there should be landscaped areas and barriers to mitigate the effects of the pollution.

Poor environmental planning and traffic pollution are the main contributors to the poor air quality in Hong Kong. A Legco committee should look at this important issue.

We need stronger laws to counter these serious pollution levels that are affecting the whole population of Hong Kong.

A great deal of work still needs to be done to improve the quality of our urban environment. We must improve our environment for the sake of public health and protect our basic human right to enjoy clean air.

Edward Lee, representative, Environmental Group on Central Kowloon Route

Retrospective Rezoning Of QRE Plaza

Retrospective rezoning of QRE Plaza has set a dangerous precedent

Updated on Feb 22, 2009 – SCMP

With the retrospective rezoning of QRE Plaza, in Wan Chai, from open space to commercial, the Hong Kong town planning process has crossed the Rubicon and ushered in a whole new era of over- development. Developers using this decision as a template can now build on green-zoned sites, and then apply for rezoning on any spurious claim.

In the case of QRE Plaza the developer’s argument, supported by our ever supine Planning Department, was there was noise and air pollution from traffic, hence the site was not ideal for open space. Surely it is because of these very conditions that it is appropriate to have some empty spaces on busy streets in order to mitigate the canyon wall effect? If all our open spaces were subjected to similar criteria most would fail to be ideal locations.

District planning officer Brenda Au Kit-ying claims that the open space planned for Lee Tung Street will provide ample open space for the district. Anybody sitting in the concrete space planned for that development will be bombarded by the exhaust of the hundreds of cars driving in and out of the extensive parking facilities included in the plan.

No mention has been made of the abuse of the zoning plans and why the Planning, Buildings, Transport and other departments involved in the approval process for the QRE Plaza all disregarded the zoning status of the site.

The administration in its desire to support Hopewell Holdings has now opened a can of worms, the repercussions of which we can only imagine. It is obvious by the number of incursions into our country parks recently and the cutting of trees and other pre-development works undertaken that developers have been anticipating the outcome of the town planning decision on QRE. Now with the collusion of indigenous villagers, residents and taxpayers in other countries who return to Hong Kong only to keep their right of abode and to join in some traditional knees-up, developers will be busy digging out any old document that can be used as a basis for developing green sites.

Our government will be only too happy to back their claims. Outline zoning plans have been rendered redundant.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai