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Chp 24, Microclimate – Forty years champion for the environment

Microclimate

CA organized a microclimatic study of Tsim Sha Tsui Hill in August 1979 with Dr William Kyle of Hong Kong University’s Department of Geography and Geology. Besides being used to support the campaign for preservation of Tsim Sha Tsui Hill, the study culminated in a report “An assessment of the micro-climatic evidence for the conservation of the Tsim Sha Tsui Hill as a public park/open space”, published in SOS Environment in 1980.

Riding on the success of that study, CA and Dr Kyle collaborated on a larger-scale survey of microclimate in Hong Kong in 1980, this time with the support of the Education Department and the Centre of Environmental Studies of the Hong Kong Polytechnic. The project measures microclimatic features including temperature, wind speed and humidity throughout the territory. The survey took place from 15 September to 13 October 1980, covering 56 one-kilometer square grids. A total of 88 schools participated, with 739 report sheets returned covering 6,650 hourly readings. The results were then compared with Royal Observatory readings and demonstrated clearly the “urban heat island effect”, highlighting the need for urban open spaces.

The study was published in a report by Dr Kyle in 1981 entitled “Investigating microclimate – Results of a survey carried out by Hong Kong Secondary School Students”, and published by the Education Department. It was the first study to have drawn attention to the problems of urban heat island and walled effect which have now become major issues in the urban environment.

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April 30, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment

Chp 23, Tsim Sha Tsui Hill – Forty years champion for the environment

Tsim Sha Tsui Hill

The Marine Police Headquarters was erected in 1884 on a small hill facing Salisbury Road at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. In 1967, the site was zoned for residential and commercial use with a public transport station. Another zoning plan in July 1976 would have preserved its government and community use and moved the transport terminus to Star Ferry to connect with a planned cultural complex; however, after objection by the Transport Department, this was reversed in 1977 which saw the development cum transport terminus reinstated in the zoning plan.

Both CA and the Heritage Society objected to the zoning plan. Taking advantage of the World Environment Day (5 June) of 1979, the Chairmen of CA and the Heritage Society, SL Wan and David Russell, made a joint public statement calling for the building and the hill to be conserved as a public park “for environmental, aesthetic and cultural reasons”. CA cited six reasons, including

  1. much greater need for open recreational space, given the congestion in Tsim Sha Tsui;
  2. the hill as an integral natural feature providing pedestrian relief from the street level noise, pollution, heat and over-crowding;
  3. the adverse environmental, microclimatological and aesthetic impact of the proposed use;
  4. a major bus terminus being undesirable and unnecessary, given the present terminal and alternative sites for feeder buses to the MTR and KCR;
  5. the historical value of the then 95-old building, a landmark of the area, forming a distinctive cultural and architectural feature together with YMCA and Peninsula Hotel; and
  6. the possible use of the main building, after renovation, for public functions, with its gardens and lawns providing a unique setting.

This was rejected by the Secretary of the Town Planning Board, KS Kiernan, in a public letter of 8 June which stated that the retention of the Hill would be “preventing desirable commercial development and interfering with the overall economy of Hong Kong.” But CA was convinced that Hong Kong would be better served by preserving rather than developing the Hill. A study by CA in July 1979 found 21 different species of mature trees on the site. Another microclimate investigation on thermal comfort of the Tsim Sha Tsui Hill was organized by CA in August 1979 with Dr William Kyle of Hong Kong University. The study found that Tsim Sha Tsui Hill “provides a more comfortable thermal environment for human activity, particularly during the day, than does the environment at Peking Road”, and concluded that “there is strong evidence in favour of retaining the Hill…as an oasis of lower thermal stress in southern Tsim Sha Tsui”.

CA and the Heritage Society found many allies, including A de O Sales, Chairman of the Urban Council. Indeed, this campaign of CA’s was marked not just by scientific research but also by stakeholder engagement with civic and professional groups including the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, the Hong Kong Museum of History, the Hong Kong Archaeological Society, the Hong Kong History Society, the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, the Urban Council, as well as academics from the universities. The ecological, planning and heritage studies evolved into a formal 50-page submission to the Secretary for the Environment addressing the town planning, transport, building (heritage), microclimate and flora/fauna aspects of the site and making a compelling case for preservation. Apart from reiterating the planning considerations and arguing against the transport case, CA emphasized the site’s history including its previous use as army headquarters by the Japanese who also dug tunnels underneath. At the time CA was emphatic that the Hill was as important as the building and must be preserved together.

Evidently the campaign had been successful in curtailing the development plan. The site’s use remained inconclusive until 20 years later when the decision was made to turn it into a heritage development.

April 29, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment

Chp 22, Victoria Barracks – Forty years champion for the environment

Victoria Barracks

The Victoria Barracks was a cluster of historic military buildings occupying a prime site between Central and Wanchai. In June 1977 government announced a comprehensive redevelopment plan for the 17-hectare site, with the aim is to maximize its development potential. The plan envisaged commercial (11%) and residential (17%) development as the main feature, supplemented by public uses (20%) such as government offices and school buildings. Other than roads and infrastructure, the remaining (38%) will be retained as open space.

CA and the Heritage Society made a joint plea to preserve Victoria Barracks as a public park. Complaining that “urban Hong Kong is grossly overcrowded” and that the government “did not consider overall planning for Central and Wanchai”, CA objected to the residential or commercial use and called for the preservation of the many heritage buildings within the site.

CA seemed to score a partial victory when in September 1977, the planning committee for the redevelopment revised its proposal and submitted a new report to the Governor-in-Council recommending a modest 8% of the land for commercial use and 79% retained for open space, with no residential development. However, in July 1978 the government decided to allocate only 60% as open space and sell a considerably larger proportion for commercial and residential development.

The plan was confirmed in 1980, with one third for commercial development and 10% for residential use – these have become present-day Pacific Place and Regent on the Park. The rest became what is now Hong Kong Park. The Flagstaff House, the oldest historical building used formerly as the residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces, now houses the Museum of Tea Ware. The Cotton Tree Drive marriage registry used to be the Rawlinson House, whereas the former Wavell House is now an education centre and the Cassels Block the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre. However, another Birdwood Block identical to the Cassels Block was dismantled, and so was the Murray Barracks although it was later re-assembled at the Stanley waterfront.

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment

Chp 21, Tsim Sha Tsui Rail Terminus – Forty years champion for the environment

Tsim Sha Tsui Rail Terminus

The terminus of the Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront was once the famed destination of the longest train ride of the British empire – a train ticket could be purchased at London Victoria Station for Hong Kong, to pass through the European Continent, the Trans-Siberia, through China and into the then British Colony of Hong Kong.

Then the Hong Kong government decided to move the KCRC Terminus to Hung Hom and to redevelop the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. After the Tsim Sha Tsui Station ceased operation on 20 November 1975, CA began a campaign together with the Hong Kong Heritage Society, an association formed in March 1977 by David Russell of Hong Kong University, to have the Terminus building and the clock tower preserved.

In early 1977, a review was conducted by Transmark, a subsidiary of British Rail, on the connection between the KCR and the planned mass transit railway. One of the options being considered then was to link use the old Terminus to link the MTR with the KCR – a possibility that could see the old structure preserved. From August 1977, CA and the oHHeritage Society stepped up the preservation campaign. The December 1977 issue of CA’s SOS Environment reported that “public support in preserving the old KCR terminus and clock tower is gaining momentum. It may also be revitalized if a KCR extension line be built from Hunghom to Tsimshatsui.”

But that was not to be. Despite the support they gathered, CA and Heritage Society failed to convince A de O Sales, Chairman of the Urban Council, who was determined to develop a new cultural complex at the site of the old Terminus. On 5 June 1978 – the day Hong Kong joined the World Environment Day for the first time – the Secretary for Environment Derek Jones announced that the Queen had turned down the petition to preserve the old station, although the clock tower would be preserved and integrated into the design of the cultural facilities.

Thus was built on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront the commercial cluster comprising the New World Centre and two waterfront hotels and the cultural complex of the Museum of History, Space Museum and the infamous windowless structure known as Cultural Centre.

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment

Chp 20, Lamma Island Power Plant – Forty years champion for the environment

Lamma Island Power Plant

Electricity on Hong Kong Island used to be provided by a power plant in Ap Lei Chau, operated by Hong Kong Electric Company. Citing inadequate capacity in Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong Electric proposed to build an additional power plant in Lamma Island at Po Lo Tsui, with a capacity of 1700 megawatts. With reclamation and jetties, the site would occupy 58.9 ha with the power plant costing $2-3 billion and 5 years to build. The project was gazetted in May 1978.

CA objected to the plan and conducted a study in July 1978 to assess the project’s environmental impacts during construction and operation, such as noise, waste and as air pollution. Irreversible environmental changes caused by the smoke stakes and long term effects on fisheries and beach pollution was also highlighted. CA’s report also included an examination of alternatives, including the no-project alternative – the first time that the idea of merging the two power companies were raised.

Despite CA’s previous success in preventing an oil refinery on Lamma Island, this time the “lure of power” proved too strong for the Hong Kong government which approved the construction plan in September 1978, after consultation with EPCOM whose views, it was reported, was divided right down in the middle. Despite the setback, CA continued to call on stringent environmental controls to be put in place to reduce impacts to a minimum.

CA was to be proven right in later years for challenging the Lamma Island power plant, when the two power companies were shown to have excessive generating capacity. As for Ap Lei Chau, the power station has long been replaced by the residential estate known as South Horizon.

April 26, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment