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November 3rd, 2008:

Reluctance For Air Study In Line With MTR’s Orwellian Vision

SCMP | Updated on Nov 03, 2008

It is distressing that the MTR is not showing the corporate social responsibility one would expect from an arm of our government which claims it is dedicated to sustainable development and whose chief executive placed resolving air pollution to the fore in his policy address.

I refer to the reluctance of the MTR to conduct an air ventilation study on its massive Tsuen Wan development. Of course we know why the MTR does not want this study. It will conclude that the wall of concrete to be erected on the Tsuen Wan waterfront will have a significantly negative impact on airflow and ventilation and an adverse impact on the health and well-being of residents with homes behind it.

Once again the usual excuses that we are weary of hearing are trotted out – comprehensive development area, master layout plans, approvals and planning permission granted in the dark ages and ventilation studies were not compulsory at the time. Well, in the year 2000 we still had blue skies; now we look out of our windows every day on to the grey pea soup that passes for air.

On October 23, ATV’s Focus Asia: Business Leaders featured Chow Chung-kong, chief executive of the MTR Corporation. I hope that I was not the only viewer who was disturbed by his Orwellian vision for Hong Kong. He boasted that living in gated high-rise communities above train stations allows people to go back and forth to their work place, dine and shop in internal malls and never leave the “mother ship” of the MTR.

This concept completely ignores the benefits to a community of interaction among different classes, leaving one’s comfort zone, exploring, feeling the sun on one’s face, getting a little dirty and the myriad experiences that go towards the formation of a society that is both experienced and integrated. The MTR vision on the other hand promotes exclusion, division of the community on income levels, lack of initiative and an unhealthy lifestyle.

It is time the MTR revaluated its focus in line with the aspirations of its stakeholders, the Hong Kong public. Government officials must stop hiding behind lame excuses and put public interest first. The air ventilation assessment must go ahead.
Martin Brinkley, Ma Wan