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Environmental Sustainability
Mar 2013

The Roles of Engineers in the Society

Once again we had the privilege of interviewing Ir Dr Hon LO Wai-kwok, BBS, MH, JP, former President of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers and the recently elected Legislative Councillor representing the Engineering Functional Constituency. We learnt what changes are on the cards for the engineering profession, how young engineers can make a difference in the society and how he intends to use his newfound responsibility to shape the future of the engineering sector in Hong Kong.

Ir Dr LO’s academic accomplishment began in 1976 with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Mechanical Engineering and later led to a Doctorate involving research on manufacturing management. It didn’t stop there and he has continued to dedicate himself tolife long learning alongside his successful professional career.

Commitment to public service

Using his engineering knowledge and management skills, Ir Dr LO has made significant contributions to the local community. For examples, he is the Chairman of the IVE Engineering Discipline Advisory Board of Vocational Training Council (VTC) advising the strategic development of the Engineering Discipline, Deputy Chairman of the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency and Member of the Building Committee and the Tender Committee of the Housing Authority. He was a Council Member at the former City Polytechnic of Hong Kong and then the City University. He also sat on the Town Planning Board, the Council for Sustainable Development, as well as the Advisory Committee on the Environment. Moreover, he had served Shatin as a district councillor for many years.

Following his substantial public service to the engineering and wider community over the years, in 2012 Ir Dr LO decided to take a further step by joining the Legislative Council (LegCo) to provide a voice for the engineering sector. Ir Dr LO explained that many voters encouraged him to run the election and he took this wholeheartedly as his responsibility. He said, “I always wanted to help Hong Kong maintain its competitive edge and sustainability at a global level. Deciding to join the public sector as a LegCo councillor–representing the engineering functional constituency–is a natural extension of my aspirations.”

Sustainability–top of the agenda

To help shape the future of Hong Kong, Ir Dr LO puts the issue of sustainability at the top of the agenda. He explained, “There have been many technological breakthroughs in the last century such as in the fields of microelectronics and fiber optics. However, while our technology level is improving, to support the manufacture of the latest technological products, natural resources have been over-exploited. Thus, it is important for us to seek new sustainable energy sources and to develop technologies that minimise the environmental damage. Hong Kong needs to recycle significant amounts of chemical and electronic waste. To this end, the Government has already pledged HKD 400millions for the building of an electronic products recycling plant. Research into renewable sources of energy is also a major task to combat climate change.”

Sustainable infrastructure development is another key issue for Hong Kong. To minimise the environmental impact and carbon footprint, engineers have also focused efforts on enhancing infrastructures such as building eco-friendly mass-transit systems, including the Shatin to Central Link. The Hong Kong Government has shown its commitment to minimising environment impact and all such development projects are required
to undergo rigorous Environmental Impact Assessments to ensure that factors impacting the environment will be properly considered and mitigated.

Hong Kong on world stage

In terms of the development of modern engineering, Hong Kong’s advances really began in the 1970s with the significant economic growth and associated upsurge in demand for housing, infrastructures, electronic devices, …, etc. According to Ir Dr LO, it is critical that Hong Kong keeps moving forward to maintain this competitive edge. He commented, “As an international city, Hong Kong has a unique advantage in attracting engineering talents from around the world. We have a free marketplace where East meets West in terms of culture, technology and management. Hong Kong engineers have also contributed to important projects outside Hong Kong, for instance, in building the stadium for the Beijing Olympics and their expertise is highly recognised.”

Ir Dr LO further advised budding engineers in Hong Kong to brush up on their language skills and be adaptable to wide-ranging cultures in order to communicate effectively around the world.

He concluded, “Engineers give great contributions to our society ranging from everyday necessities like vehicles and lifts to massive infrastructure projects. They might well be named the secret heroes of modern life.”

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