After the devastating earthquake in Sichuan on 12 May, a group of dedicated engineers and built environment professionals in Hong Kong has come to the forefront and grouped themselves together to form a new humanitarian services organization called Engineers Without Borders (EWB-HK). At its official launch today, the EWB-HK’s reconstruction assessment team reported on the results of its recent visits to Sichuan and announced the pilot projects it has devised for the next stage.
Ir Albert Lai Kwong Tak, the newly elected chairman of the EWB-HK, said, “The idea of the EWB-HK was born two days after the Earthquake. Within just about a month’s time, we have registered a total of more than 1,200 supporters. Over 140 professionals among them have formally put their name down on our Register of Humanitarian Engineers and Professionals. The response was more encouraging than we had expected, as not only engineers but also architects, planners and surveyors have joined the EWB-HK, testifying to the deep-rooted humanitarian spirit amongst the professionals in Hong Kong . We hope EWB-HK can become an independent platform for Hong Kong professionals to contribute their skills and knowledge to the reconstruction work in Sichuan as well as in other neighbouring countries suffering from natural calamities, poverty and other developmental challenges. It is only through such humanitarian services that Hong Kong can live up to its name as an affluent city with a big heart for the international community.”
On 1 June, the EWB-HK sent a four-member team* to the Sichuan and Gansu Provinces , resulting in an initial assessment report on the ten-day trip. “Our team met up with the Sichuan 5.12 Civic Relief Action Group and various official and local organizations. We visited many badly stricken towns including Zipingpu of Dujiangyan City, Hongyan and Tongji of Pengzhou City, Cigou Village of Leigu Town in Beichuan County , Guangyuan City , Qingchuan County and Wenxian County of Gansu Province. Over this short period, government and non-government organizations in China have done a lot on the provision of temporary camps, food, medicine and children’s aid. The real challenge yet to come is reconstruction planning, which will be crucial for the next stage. The Central Government of China has voiced the need for a post-earthquake reconstruction plan as soon as possible, in order to stabilize the situation in the affected areas. But this demand posted a dilemma in view of the practical difficulties experienced on site,” according to team leader Mr Stanley Ng, a planner and engineer.
After the initial assessment, EWB-HK has identified two resource-stricken towns to implement its pilot projects. Architect Ms Carol Leung, coordinator for these projects, explained the ways to operate. “We have chosen Xianglang Village of Bikou Town in Gansu Province and Zipingpu Town of Dujiangyan City in Sichuan Province for a comprehensive approach of our volunteer services. We hope to consolidate various types of expertise and resources available and work together with our local partners to more thoroughly accomplish our tasks in the planning, reconstruction and development work for those affected by earthquake. Our support can be in the form of research analyses, planning, public health, earthquake-resistant housing, the rebuilding of school premises, as well as technology transfer for sustainable development. We would attach special importance to local participation in all matters relating to the reconstruction work. ‘Rebuilding with the people’ is one of EWB-HK’s guiding principles.”
On networking, the EWB-HK is also offering their professional support to several non-government organizations involved in relief work in Sichuan . Oxfam Hong Kong has pledged to organize training courses for members of the EWB-HK, equipping them with the necessary soft skills to carry out humanitarian work. Professor C F Lee (Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and Vice-President of the University of Hong Kong) and Professor Ralph Lerner (Dean of Faculty of Architecture of the University of Hong Kong and former Dean of Faculty of Architecture of Princeton University), have kindly consented to serve as Honorary Advisors of the EWB-HK.
To implement reconstruction in Sichuan , EWB-HK is appealing to the public for donations. The initial target is HK$5 million. Those interested in making a donation can find more details from the website at www.emb.hk. Donation cheques made payable to Engineers Without Borders can be sent to 10-A, Times Media Centre, 133 Wanchai Road , Wanchai, Hong Kong .
* EWB-HK’s first assessment team to Sichuan:
Mr Stanley Ng (urban planner and GIS specialist)
Ir Simon So (structural engineer)
Dr H C Lam (structural engineer)
Ir Leung Ching Ping (public health and disaster relief engineer)
Ms Carol Leung (architect) --- 9192 8012
Mr Stanley Ng (urban planner) --- 9237 9718
Ir Albert Lai (engineer) --- 9125 6505