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May 2nd, 2012:

Tsang has poor track record

SCMP letter May 2, 2012

Robert Lang said Hong Kong people should focus on the “good decisions” Donald Tsang Yam-kuen made during his time as chief executive, but he failed to list what they were (“Chief’s perks of office well deserved”, April 27).

Leung Chun-ying, our leader-in-waiting, is already in the news for various reasons, ranging from his personal wealth to glimpses of what we might expect to see from him as chief executive.

However, it already seems confidence in Mr Leung is high, as are the expectations of the people of Hong Kong.

Mr Leung will not have very big boots to fill so it would seem all the right ingredients are there, but it remains to be seen whether they will be mixed into a government that listens to what people want instead of just doing things, regardless.

The incinerator which was proposed for Shek Kwu Chau is a good example of bad government policy.

The debacle over this planned project goes on. Thankfully, it has been stopped in its tracks for the time being, largely because of pressure from the residents of Lantau, the general public and various concern groups – a job well done by all.

However, the burning question is how this cheap, outdated method of incineration got on the drawing board in the first place.

There are much cleaner and more efficient methods available that produce energy in the process (gasification) and there are also more suitable locations for such a waste facility.

If we do end up with an incinerator (very likely, given that we are a throwaway society), would the government consider land reclamation further south, into the South China Sea, so no one needs to be concerned about exhaust fumes from the plant? Shek Wu Chau is not the right place for an incinerator of any kind for reasons we are all aware of.

Andrew Maxwell, Sai Kung

Public short-changed by government’s decision to extend three bus franchises


Clear the Air says: there are more than 6,000 franchised registered buses in Hong Kong. The franchise holders pay no import or first registration tax and pay no tax on diesel fuel.

Existing franchise agreements already state that any replacement buses must be of the Best Available Current Technology (which means Euro V diesel, hybrid electric, hydrogen fuel cell or electric vehicle ) and that buses must be retired after a certain age so the replacement of only 700 buses  is minimalist and too much in favour of the franchise holders.

However the Government has a magic wand that remains locked in Donald Tsang’s home safe for fear of perhaps annoying Sun Hung Kai (owners of KMB) or  his brother Tsang Yam Pui who is a director of Citybus and New World First Bus – with the magic wand the Government could mandate ‘Clean Air Zones’ for Nathan Road, Causeway Bay and Central main arteries.

Only Euro 5 , hybrid electric and electric buses would be allowed to enter a ‘Clean Air Zone’.  The franchise owners would thereby have to comply and spit the dummy.

A sensible Government would have large bus termini outside of these areas connecting at no additional charge to electric or hybrid shuttles that ply the ‘Clean Air Zones’, instead of having nose to tail buses aka Mobile Painted Advertising Billboards, plying and congesting the main arteries 90% empty for 80% of the day.  Then of course there are the old commercial diesel trucks and the lack of any Emissions Control Area for shipping which contributes 31% of particulates and ¼ of the  NOx and SO2 in our air.

Sadly sense is lacking in the current administration and roadside pollution has increased markedly during their tenure – they seem not to care and are seemingly too busy jetting off to cleaner shores or hitching rides on a tobacco tycoon’s yacht or abusing the public purse with extravagance .

CY Leung is being handed a bag of  bones to resolve.

May 02, 2012
It comes as no surprise that the public is unimpressed by the government’s decision to extend the franchise for three bus companies. Under the deal, New World First Bus, Citybus and Long Win have been given the right to operate for another 10 years. In return they have pledged more service commitments and fare concessions on some routes.

The public can be excused for questioning whether this is the best deal the government could get. The concessions appear to be substantial at first glance. These include replacing 700 polluting vehicles by 2016. There will be more inter-change discounts and reduced fares for different sections.

These are certainly welcome changes. But they do not go far enough. For instance, the fare concessions will only benefit some 8,000 passengers, out of millions carried by the fleet every day. The move to take polluting buses off the road appears to be a cosmetic gesture, since many vehicles, according to activists, are due to retire by 2018 anyway. The deal falls short of public expectations.

The government could have pushed the companies to do more when negotiating the franchise renewal. It is disappointing that issues like buses running behind schedules, overlapped routes and the perception of the fare adjustments mechanism being unfair have not been resolved. Now that the franchise has been renewed, pushing for more would be difficult. Passengers will have to live with the service in the next 10 years. The opportunity to tackle the problems has been missed.

Renewing franchises of passenger service companies and utilities can only be justified for as long as the operator is committed to providing a good service. The termination of the franchise for China Motor Bus and Yau Ma Tei ferry in 1998 is a case in point. There is no evidence to suggest that the three bus companies do not deserve renewal. But franchises give companies the exclusive right to operate and make money. It is only fair that they strive to do more to satisfy public needs.

Give us more bins to boost recycling

Clear the Air says: the Government should immediately commission a trial plasma gasification plant adjoining a landfill. To fire up the new plasma plant installation we should use all the prevaricating dead wood feedstock that is already cluttering the highly paid ministerial hierarchy of HK Government.

Friends of the Earth says there are not enough of them and the lids are often so dirty that people don’t use them – meaning more rubbish goes into landfills
Cheung Chi-fai
May 02, 2012

Hong Kong’s recycling bins are often too filthy to use and are vastly outnumbered by conventional bins, a green group says.

Friends of the Earth says the poor provision of environmentally friendly bins means many people who want to recycle are instead forced to dump materials into bins that will go straight to landfill sites – at a time when the city is struggling to find a solution to its waste crisis.

The government earlier this month withdrew a request for HK$23 billion in funding for a huge incinerator and more landfill sites after lawmakers opposed the scheme. The city recycles about 52 per cent of its solid waste; way behind many other territories in Asia and the West, and its landfill sites will be full by 2018.

Friends of the Earth surveyed three busy streets, Nathan Road, Hennessy Road and Kwong Fuk Road in Tai Po last year, counting the conventional and recycling bins and observing how they were used.

For example, along the 3.6 kilometres of Nathan Road, a Kowloon street popular with tourists and shoppers, it found just nine sets of recycling bins, compared with 164 conventional rubbish bins.

In Hennessy Road, one of Hong Kong Island’s busiest thoroughfares, there were 70 rubbish bins, compared with nine for recycling. And in the New Territories, the one kilometre of Kwong Fuk Road boasted only one recycling bin, against 35 conventional bins.

The lids on recycling bins are also a deterrent to recycling, the group says, as they are sometimes too dirty to lift up. It also believes the recycling bins are cleaned less frequently than conventional bins.

And once a recycling bin is contaminated with non-recyclable rubbish, it effectively becomes a conventional bin that will end up in a landfill site, the group says.

“Once a recycling bin contains rubbish it is not supposed to take, people find it easy to stuff in even more irrelevant rubbish,” Michelle Au Wing-tze, a senior environmental affairs manager for the group, said.

Au said Hong Kong should learn from Seoul and Taiwan where some recycling bins are transparent, giving a clear message to the public.

An Environmental Protection Department spokesman said decisions on bins were made on the basis of local conditions. As recycling bins took up more space “there is a chance they might obstruct passers-by and drivers’ views. So they are not suitable in many places”, he said.

He admitted that the lids could deter people from using the bins, but said, on balance, the benefits of the bins outweighed the problems.

Description: Bins like these on a Mong Kok street are fairly scarce.