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May 8th, 2012:

Three rail lines may be on the cards, says bureau

Second stage of transport projects for post-2020 development will improve domestic congestion
Anita Lam
May 08, 2012

At least three more railway projects – including a Siu Sai Wan extension and a spur line parallel to the Island Line – could be proposed after the government decides this year on the rail projects for the next stage of post-2020 development.

The Transport and Housing Bureau said it did not mention these extensions when it singled out three links last month for the next round, as the need for them was largely reliant on which of the proposals the public endorsed.

However, transport analysts say the public was deprived of the full picture when the proposed rail links were not mentioned previously. They rejected claims that the rail lines are inter-dependent.

The bureau last month released a study commissioned by engineering firm Aecom a year ago on railway development after 2020.

It singled out for public discussion two domestic lines – the Northern Link from Kam Tin to Lok Ma Chau, and the Tsuen Wan-Tuen Mun Link – and a multibillion-dollar cross-border railway connecting Hong Kong and Shenzhen airports.

Responding to queries from the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583announcementsnews) , the bureau said that was only the first stage which “focuses on major regional railway corridors”.

In the second stage, it would study localised improvements and congestion relief.

In the second stage, for instance, commuters could travel directly from Siu Sai Wan to either Chai Wan or Heng Fa Chuen, while in East Kowloon, commuters could travel directly to Central and Admiralty without having to change at North Point.

“As the major regional corridors will affect the traffic distribution of the whole network and may potentially shift bottlenecks, it is logical to divide the study into two stages,” a bureau spokeswoman said.

But an MTR Corp executive, who declined to be identified, says it is hard to see how, for instance, the airport link – which has a spur line connecting Tuen Mun to the Tung Chung Line – could have an impact on whether the North Island Line should be built.

“That spur line mainly serves movements between New Territories west and north Lantau, while the North Island Line serves to ease the mounting burden of North Point as an interchange station and handles movements between East Kowloon and Island west,” the executive said.

The two proposed domestic lines would also have little effect on the extensions, the executive says.

It is also disappointing that no railway projects were proposed to facilitate the east-west movements, the executive says, noting the MTR’s suggestion from a long time ago to connect Sha Tin or Tai Wai with Lai King and Tsuen Wan – a route now dominated by minibuses.

Hung Wing-tat, a veteran transport analyst, says it is a waste of public funds to split the study of the railway blueprint into two phases.

“The government paid for the study and we expect the consultant to give us a thorough report on all possible lines, and not just part of it,” Hung said.

“I don’t think these lines are so inter-dependent on one another. I wonder if they wanted to rush to announce the results before the new administration takes over.”

Of the three proposed railway lines, officials believe the airport link might be the most profitable following the addition of two spur lines, which would attract travellers between Hung Shui Kiu and Qianhai two newly developed areas in Hong Kong and the mainland, respectively.


Architect tipped for environment job

Wong Kam-sing, a specialist in green buildings, is expected to increase public’s role in policymaking
Olga Wong and Gary Cheung
May 08, 2012

An experienced architect who specialises in low-carbon buildings is expected to head the Environment Bureau in the new government.

Wong Kam-sing, a core member of the Green Building Council and a key government adviser on rules to stop developers inflating the size of flats through “environmentally friendly improvements”, refused to comment on the job yesterday.

But Wong (pictured) is understood to have been invited by chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying to take up the post, and is expected to increase public involvement in policymaking.

Wong’s possible appointment was welcomed by environmentalists and green activists.

Edwin Lau Che-feng, from Friends of the Earth, has known Wong for about 15 years: “I sought advice from him on a renewable energy project launched in Tai O in the 1990s. He is happy to listen to people and has an international vision.”

Lau said Wong would be a capable secretary who could apply his green vision for architecture on a broader scale. He urged him to use the new government headquarters in Admiralty as an example of cutting energy consumption in buildings.

Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong said: “He’s really an environment-friendly person. But I’m afraid he would face many challenges and would need much more political determination to handle controversial projects like waste incinerators.”

Wong has been a member of the Council for Sustainable Development for several years. Its duties included reviewing controversial building rules that let developers inflate flat sizes by adding environmentally friendly building features.

The review led to a set of objective guidelines to ensure green features added are really environmentally friendly to both residents and the community. Wong worked closely with the development chief Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the likely new chief secretary, on the review.

Wong, who has spoken publicly of his pride at having an electricity bill of “zero” for his home, has been a leading advocate of low-carbon buildings and sustainability.

He teaches at Chinese University, and is director of sustainable design at Ronald Lu & Partners.

Meanwhile, New People’s Party chairwoman and former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee is understood to have been invited to join the Executive Council. Ip, whose party’s seven Election Committee members voted for Leung to become chief executive, would not comment.


Key environment job goes to leading green architect

HK Standard

Staff Reporter
Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Green architect Wong Kam-sing will become the next secretary for the environment, replacing Edward Yau Tang-wah.

A source said Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying has always wanted a professional to take over as environment chief and believes Wong is an ideal choice.

His first task will be to push forward waste management policy.

As convener of an environmental department support group, Wong has a key role in the government sustainable development project.

He is the director and head of the design team at Ronald Lu & Partners (Hong Kong), an architectural firm.

Wong holds different positions in other groups, including chairman of the Professional Green Building Council and vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects.

Chu Hon-keung, environmental affairs manager of Friends of the Earth, said Wong may have little experience working with the government, but a person’s conservation ideology is more important.

His prime duty in his new post will be to promote energy saving in buildings across Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, it is understood that New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee will join the Executive Council following a reorganization of the consultation body.

Ip is expected to join Exco as a non- official member.

The number of official members will be increased from 16 to 20.

It is also believed that the chairmen of public organizations and representatives from political parties will be invited to join Exco.

At present, only those from the commercial sector and political parties are invited.

Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat did not say if he plans to stay on in Exco when Leung takes office on July 1.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen and the head of Leung’s office, Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, both said there is no need for a full-scale public consultation on the government reorganization proposal.

Tam said on a Commercial Radio program that restructuring is different from making changes to government policies and so a public consultation is not required.

“There are likewise no changes to the government’s accountability system,” Tam added.

He said the law requires the chief executive election to be held 100 days before the current government term finishes, but a public consultation will take three months.

It is “not reasonable” to conduct one, he said.

Law said on the same program that Leung has already consulted civil servants and the public may take part in a Legco public hearing to be held soon.

Fluorescent fish shed light on the impact of contaminants


Russell McLendon
May 08, 2012

What’s black and white but green all over? A genetically engineered zebrafish that’s helping scientists figure out how endocrine-disrupting pollutants damage the body.

This zebrafish glows greenest in the parts of its body where the chemicals are most active. The pollutants in question are “oestrogenic compounds”, which chemically mimic the female hormone oestrogen. Previous studies have shown that these and other endocrine disruptors can wreak havoc on the reproductive system, whether they promote breast and testicular cancer in humans or cause male fish and frogs to switch genders.

Described in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the green zebrafish were created by scientists at the University of Exeter and University College London. The results reveal that more organs and body parts react to environmental oestrogens than previously thought.

“This is an exciting development in the international effort to understand the impact of oestrogenic chemicals on the environment and human health,” co-author Charles Tyler says. “This zebrafish gives us a more comprehensive view of the potential effects of these hormone-disrupting chemicals on the body.”

The glowing fish are transgenic, meaning they have DNA from another organism artificially added to their genome. Such fluorescent zebrafish are not new – the company GloFish has sold them as pets for years, and scientists already use them to study health issues such as cell disease and gene therapy. But the Exeter/UCL fish add a twist by glowing only in response to specific endocrine disruptors, which lets us see where the chemicals affect their bodies. The idea is that this will shed light on health effects in humans exposed to similar substances.

The researchers tested their transgenic fish’s sensitivity to several chemicals that mimic oestrogen, including ethinyloestradiol (used in birth control and hormone replacement therapy), nonylphenol (used in paints and industrial detergents) and bisphenol-A, or BPA (used in many types of plastic). This eventually yielded a fish that was sensitive enough to give fluorescent green signals in the affected body parts. The fish were exposed to chemicals at levels found in local rivers, allowing researchers to watch in real time as specific organs and sections of tissue glowed green.

These experiments unveiled both established and novel reactions to environmental oestrogens. Some affected the liver, for example, and BPA specifically showed signs of activity in the fish’s hearts. Other responses that weren’t previously known showed up in skeletal muscles, the eyes and even parts of the brain.

“By being able to localise precisely where different environmental oestrogens act in the body, we will be able to more effectively target health effects analyses for these chemicals of concern,” Tyler says. “While it is still early days, we are confident that our zebrafish model can help us better understand the way the human body responds to these pollutants.”


Description: The genetically altered juvenile zebrafish glow green when exposed to chemicals used in birth control pills, paints and plastics.

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The genetically altered juvenile zebrafish glow green when exposed to chemicals used in birth control pills, paints and plastics.

Government study on option of building below ground

Published : Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 
By :
The Jakarta Post

Category : EnergyWater
Region :
Tags :
desalinationelectricityfloodshydropowerinfrastructurelandfill,pollutionpower plants

Reservoirspower plants and other facilities such as landfills could be put together beneath the ground in order to save precious land, under an option to be studied by the government.

The move could bring other benefits, with heat and energy from one plant potentially being used to run another.

A reservoir can also generate hydroelectric power if water is pumped up to a height and allowed to cascade downwards.

The Ministry of National Development is to look at the costs and benefits of clustering the facilities – which also include desalination and incineration plants – at specific sites such as Tuas.

The research, which may be the most extensive on the subject to date, will help the government decide whether to go ahead and build, said a spokesman for the ministry. A tender was called for the study late last month, and a site briefing for interested parties will be held on Tuesday.

The consultants hired will work out the cost, construction time, environmental impact, and technical, operating and maintenance requirements. Their final report will be due at the end of next year.

Going underground would save precious land, according to a key recommendation contained in the Economic Strategies Committee’s report in 2010. It called for the development of an underground masterplan and a subterranean land rights and valuation framework.

A dedicated geological office was set up in 2010 by the Building and Construction Authority, but even before that, subterranean Singapore was thriving.

Most of its below-ground infrastructure, such as the Common Services Tunnel for utilities and the MRT rail network, is less than 20 meters down, but the Jurong Rock Cavern for oil storage is at a depth of 130m.

Other studies, such as one by the Society for Rock Mechanics & Engineering Geology, have already identified potential sites. For example, water-storage caverns could be sited at Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak, in the tough Bukit Timah Granite formation that makes up about one-third of Singapore’s surface area.

And the sedimentary rock of the Jurong Formation could house warehouses at Mount Faber, propane storage at Pandanand an underground science city, already being studied by industrial developer JTC Corporation, at a 20ha geological formation beneath Kent Ridge.

Asked about safety and pollution concerns, rock-mechanics expert Zhao Jian of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne pointed out: “Underground caverns are much safer against earthquakes than above-ground buildings, and pollution can be contained easily in caverns compared to above ground.”

As for flood protection, it is possible to design floodgates and diversion tunnels. Underground caverns are also generally more secure for military and energy installations such as Singapore’s underground ammunition storage facility, he added.

Some types of underground installations have already been adopted in other countries. For instance, a hydropower station in Wales uses water rushing downwards to generate electricity, while in Norway, caverns in hard bedrock are used for drinking water storage.

Underground infrastructure does not come cheap – the first phase of the Jurong Rock Cavern, Singapore’s first underground oil storage project, cost S$890 million (US$714.46 million) to build. But with land increasingly scarce, JTC is already exploring the possibility of a subterranean multi-utility hub for the One-North research and business park in BuonaVista.

Other experts, such as former chief defense scientist Lui Pao Chuen, have previously suggested recouping part of the cost by selling excavated rocks for construction works.