Environmental sustainability is critical for the future prosperity of Hong Kong, believes Kim Salkeld, and as former Deputy Secretary for the Environment he was involved in the participation by the Hong Kong government in sustainability issues and retaining the integrity of the natural environment.
As a historian, Kim is astonished at how human activity affects the natural environment – specifically the remarkable changes in the amount of greenery once kerosene replaced wood as a cooking fuel. “Hong Kong was a barren rock at the time that the British occupied it. Virtually all trees were cut down for fuel. When I came here, I found the place much greener than what my parents had described from their visits in the 1930s.”
In 1989 Kim was a district officer responsible for outlying islands, and very active in environmental issues right up to the time when he was appointed Deputy Secretary for the Environment in 1997.
At his initiative, all government departments in Hong Kong have to produce an annual report on the impact of their work and actions taken to minimise harm.
“There is ever increasing need for more education of the public so that they take more personal and community action, partly by putting pressure on the government, in our ‘strange’ city where impartial civil servants must make political judgments without any authority of public votes behind them.”
While he believes Hong Kong people are becoming more aware of their impact on the environment, he also thinks the major influence of environmental degradation in Hong Kong is the irresponsible manufacturing processes in the Pearl River Delta. Owners of these factories, many of them based in Hong Kong, could do much to change this.
He has given numerous public talks in his role as Deputy Secretary, including to high school students.