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Power of Ignorance

In: Social Issues

Submitted By yumi18hk
Words 1652
Pages 7
-The Power of Ignorance-
An argument on whether we should build the third runway

Aviation industry, for the sake of urban development, undoubtedly holds the key of prosperity. Hong Kong International Airport is an irreplaceable facility contributing a potential net worth of more than HK$80 billion dollars a year with its working capacity to serve 50.9 million passengers with 4.1 million tons of cargo per day according to the Airport authority financial report (2012, p.4), has gained a well-known reputation over the globe. The expansion of the Airport is recently proposed as a must because of the ever-increasing popularity and frequent flows of passengers. However, such a large-scale construction is never a simple calculation with simply subtracting construction costs from the projected revenues. We should take environmental and social costs into account. There is indeed another ideal solution, which costs us less in sacrificing various aspects- the cooperation with Macau government. To open up another runway or cooperate with our long-lasting partner is the critical issue that I am going to discuss respective pros and cons attached.

With strong emphasis on the correlation between the expansion of the Airport and Hong Kong economic development by the supporters, it appears that constructing the third runway has no ground to object. The lecture held by Mr. Howard Eng Kiu-chor, the Executive Director of the Airport Operation further convinced Hong Kong citizens to vote for the project by putting up forecasted data. An economic man would support this project in any sense with the foreseeable figures of tremendous income. But, what if we are not economic men but merely a resident concerned? After an in-depth consideration with research, I have to say no to the third runway system as reclamation of the new runway carries a potential power of ignorance to the environment.

Claims held by the supporters stick to the economic estimation on the returns and to the maintenance of the service quality of our aviation industry. The third runway serves as a solution for meeting the rapid-growing demand, so that it will be a vital part in offering high-quality services. According to the summary of the master plan given in the lecture, if the two-runway system is kept and we spend an extra HK$42.5 billion for this investment, Hong Kong can manage a practical maximum capacity of 420,000 flight movements annually. The Airport is treasured as a landmark of Hong Kong development and the GDPs shown in years have close relation with the numbers of flight, thus the growth at 6% each year acts as a dominant pillar to local prosperity.

However, that proposed suggestion has shortcomings with the project itself. First, it can only be a medium-term solution as the estimated demand and the relevant services will exceed the serving capacity between 2019 and 2022. Do other things being sacrificed with the project implementation worthy? Second, there is an illogical assumption hypothesising inabundant landing spaces for planes hinders the progress of our development. The fallacy here makes rooms for debate, public consultation and other solutions to the problem.

Another drawback that associates with the proposal is the artificial harm to the environment. Production of construction wastes is one of the inevitable consequences which intensify the burden of our landfills. There seems to be a contradiction with the provoking environmental policies. The proposed strategy of the new runway appears to be an over consumption of the natural resource, regardless how many jobs opportunity it can bring, how many surplus it can generate, or even how the brand new runway can be so-called environmentally-friendly. As long as the project starts, we need to have more reclaimed places. What if the development reaches the limit in 2080 or the years far beyond? By that time, will we unquestionably build a fourth one? I recall Mencius, the great philosopher following Confucius, “Farm in the right season, never over-consume the agricultural production. Trawl in the right pond, never over-catch the fish. Log in the right time, never over-use the wood.” indicates people the indispensable bond of natural environment and their living. Though translating into another language carries defect, the message conveyed reminds the supporters the adverse consequences and even devastation after over-consumption will be the result. We are in debt with the Mother Nature and now we are borrowing more from it with an uncertain chance of repayment. Traditional wisdom mentioned in the Chinese classic could be a reference for the current society to re-evaluate the net value of the project.

Development should be planned for sustainable uses and therefore, the proposed project does not match in what development is and how we should develop our city. The definition of development itself takes us to maintain the three components to keep pace with each other, neither focus on sky-rocketing economy, nor focus on banning every policy which hinders environment conservation. The plan should be a sustainable, but does building a new runway define sustainability? Perhaps not, it is just a plan coping with a higher degree of need by 2030 or beyond comparing to option one. The standpoint of the government shows the narrowness of relevant policy-makers on development and hence shows the intension of the data-providers to create illusion on the public. Is constructing the runway more important than the livings of local residents? Subsidizing the needy and facilitating the medical equipment is the main concern. Better catering on the poor is advised in developing an all-rounded city.

A possible suggestion to this controversial issue is cooperating with Macau. The cost of the project could be reduced given that no runway will be built. With the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge constructed (HZMB report), the two cities are highly accessible to each other with a 20-minute journey, which demonstrates a minimal effect inflicted on passengers. Their option on where to land is limited but, as long as the journey between Hong Kong and Macau is shortened, the comers can either take off in Macau, indirectly fostering the connection between two SARs in China, or choose other world-class airports locating in the Pearl River Delta. Considering the sharp decrease in construction cost if the project of the third runway is taken out, hands with the two SARs are joint and the Hong Kong government should have saved at least $100 billion.(Master plan 2030) Furthermore, the cooperation between the two places could help to ensure high number of users of the built bridge by a surprisingly high inflow of customers. The bargaining power of the Hong Kong government is among the highest with her global linkage in the industry in the Delta region.

The second benefit of this alternative is the time cost saved from making a cooperative agreement based on the has-been-developed intimacy between Macau and Hong Kong. Based on the PRD airport co-operation forum, Macau tends to be the one agree the cooperation in a shorter time. Regarding the continuous loss suffered by the daily operation of the Macau's airport, there is a higher chance for our local government to carry out the project with favorable revenue gained. The limited local market demand would further act as an accelerator for the project to be agreed by Macau, which is trying hard to expand and develop its aviation industry in a global sense. The negotiation tines of the project can therefore being shortened. For the time spending on the facility to be implemented to cope with the rising passenger flow, cooperation with Macau is preferred than the original proposed strategy. Due to the scale of the construction, it consumes over a decade to complete, in which would indispensably produces a time lag of 10 years with inadequate runways to maintain qualified service when saturation comes before the expectation.

Some voices may have doubts in why we should agree on a plan which diverts our revenues to Macau, however we should consider the total cost of a project and the effects on the entire society. Quantifing the cost paid by means of sacrificing environment, possible social dissatisfaction and benefits generated from better utilizing Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, we might find the positive value previous calculated to become negative under current computation. The solution may suggest us to look for other opportunities rather than building the third runway in Hong Kong, like what happened when the British government considered to construct a supplementary runway in the London Heathrow Airport in the past.

To conclude, there are in fact more than one measure to make Hong Kong gain in maximum with the privilage its airport has obtained. We should look for sustaintable development which eventually creates Hong Kong positive value, so that to cooperate with Macau would be a recommended solution to address the satuation problem of the arota of our aviation industry.

Word Counts: 1452 words

“Airport Authority Interim Financial report for the six moths ended 30 September 2012”
Statistics, figures in paragraph 1

“Our Airport Our Future: Hong Kong International Airport Master Plan 2030 Summary”
Statistics, figures in paragraph 4, 5
The introduction of Mr. Eng Kiu-chor in paragraph 2

Translation unofficially presented in paragraph 6
HZMB detail report with the economic and environmental aspect in paragraph 8
Master plan 2030 with construction cost of the third runway in paragraph 8
The PRD airport co-operation forum

*Other information, statistics and citing is based on the quick note in the two lectures:
1. Lecture on the building of the third runway
(Held in the College of International Education on 10/11/2011)…...

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