Ways to make Hong Kong more livable

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    Just had email from Designing Hong Kong, noting that Hong Kong ranks among world's most expensive cities, and yet not in top 50 most livable cities. Asked for ideas on how to make Hong Kong more livable; here's a quick list I sent:

    Real action re air quality

    Less concrete projects, especially unnecessary ones that abound (that Bloody Big Bridge to Zhuhai and Macau's casinos looks like a giant white elephant, to way surpass Stonecutters Bridge)

    Way, way more city greenery. Including parks. Also green much of concrete in and around estates; far more green roofs, more greenery on walls of buildings.

    – at least some engineers, engineering firms can surely work on such projects. They don't have to just concrete more and more in order to have some income and something to do!

    See if there are chances for for more measures like, say, micro wind turbines on many buildings.

    Appreciate Hong Kong's fantastic natural setting.

    End indigenous villagers' birthrights to houses, and various other outdated laws and rules concerning rural areas. Consider allowing higher buildings, to save space with buildings in old farm areas.

    Be brave. People are ready for such progress, even if many construction and property tycoons may throw hissy fits.

    Know, too, that research shows experience in nature can be good for people's physical and mental well-being.

    Nature and biodiversity are not frivolous luxuries – we need nature, but nature does not need us.


    What's needed is fundamental reform of the planning processes that are currently way too top-down and mechanistic, focusing on neatly organising 7 million little dots from the perspective of government departments 'responsible' for their inputs and outputs.

    People know what they want, at least when faced with some thoughtful options.  To generate plans that make Hong Kong a better place to live, let's have some genuine consultation and involvement by the public and the many non-government organisations (such as Designing Hong Kong, Society for the Protection of the Harbour …, and yes, Hong Kong Outdoors) that are active and already offering imaginative proposals.

    Among other things, such an approach would better match how people actually go about their lives (putting cycle tracks between and not just within the accommodation 'nodes' of Tseung Kwan O), draw on international examples (a strong coordinating development body for Victoria Harbour, such as in Sydney or Baltimore), allow more organic development (ie. not the farce of government determining exactly what a Cultural District should consist of), create greater accountability (URA slush fund, anyone?) and force government planning to focus on the strategic interests of Hong Kong people, rather than be constrained by its administrative structure and convenience.

    Ill-considered projects, implementation problems and potential conflicts would be identified much earlier.

    It would, of course, reduce the cosy relationship between developers and government in determining what is good for the rest of us.  Government departments would have to put in much more time and effort at early stages – not smokescreen PR and last-minute public presentations of stage-managed 'options'. 

    And it would surely lead to more openness and accountability by government.  Perhaps that's the real problem.

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