Green park – not

August 3rd, 2012 atam Posted in Building, Culture, Greenwash | No Comments »

Oh big wok (大鑊) indeed: Michael Lynch, the chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, who’s dubbed the district “WoK”, wants to spend HK$4 billion of taxpayers’ money on a “green park” – to cover up a car park.

If you’re looking for an example of the kind of environmental hypocrisy that afflicts Hong Kong, you can’t find a better one than this. The car park will be kept out of sight so the cultural district will have the appearance of a “green” project.

It is to be built underground, on top of the West Kowloon Terminus, which will bring mainland tourists travelling on the high-speed rail directly to the district. Non-car-owning locals though will have to trek over after taking the train to the MTR Austin Station. Or cycle there; bicycle lanes have been promised, but how these will be integrated with the transport network in the rest of Kowloon, who knows.

Why is the car park necessary? People going to performances and exhibitions at the Cultural Centre, Kwai Tsing Theatre and the Academy for Performing Arts have typically gone via public transport, with just a handful taking taxis. Even at the City Hall, which has a government car park standing right next to it, performances and exhibitions are predominantly attended by those who get there by bus, train or ferry.

The elitism is explicit in the expense to accommodate a car park: those who can afford to own a car are particularly encouraged to visit the future cultural venues, even though the pollution and energy use associated with this mode of transport make a mockery of its green claims. At a time when Hong Kong is choking under a heavy smog, does it make sense to continue encouraging vehicle use? Imagine also the cost of running such a car park, in terms of lighting and ventilation.

Even assuming the amount can be covered from the return on the government-approved sum that the authority has invested, wouldn’t it be better to spend that money on something else? Hong Kong’s population is projected to age in the coming years; suppose we invest that HK$4 billion in heathcare?

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