We need to protect great outdoors of Lantau, not build a new 'metropolis'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2012, 12:00am


I refer to the report (''Metropolis' urged for Lantau', May 7).

After pitting meagre resources against powerful vested interests to protect one of Hong Kong's few areas of countryside against an ill-conceived incinerator, Lantau's residents now learn that this vital 'green lung' for the city, according to Anna Hong of Shun Tak, is merely 'one of the few pieces of land we have left for development'. And the new euphemism for more concrete is 'metropolis'. But the world's great metropolises weren't built as a knee-jerk reaction to what the folks next door were doing: they emerged in response to community needs, supported by soft and hard infrastructure.

If Lantau, with its outstanding and accessible scenery, is to be sacrificed to 'progress', then development must be based not on profiteering by big business but on first-class decision-making and international best practice. Do Hong Kong's leaders have this ability? Recent history suggests it is doubtful.

Cyberport was to foster internationally competitive innovation in the IT sector, but little has been heard of that. The West Kowloon arts hub has been mired in bureaucracy. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge will carry only motor traffic, not a cleaner railway, needing thousands of vehicles to cross into Hong Kong daily to break even. Air pollution worsens but the government won't adopt World Health Organisation measurement standards. Other problems in our already extensive conurbations include a lack of doctors in public hospitals because of a brain drain to the private sector. For an 'authority' to administer development, the Urban Renewal Authority, which only recently recognised that communities and older buildings need to be conserved rather than torn apart, does not inspire confidence. None of this indicates the vision and balance required to construct a metropolis.

Hong Kong's birth rate is low. Metropolis suggests one to two million people, some 15 per cent of the current population. Where will they come from? If from elsewhere in Hong Kong, what of the areas vacated? If large-scale immigration is envisaged, is the community ready to absorb so many newcomers, and the consequent social changes, in a short time?

And what will be lost? For ordinary Hongkongers, Lantau's trails and beaches offer affordable, essential breaks and family time before they plunge back into the work on which Hong Kong's economy depends. Once Lantau's great outdoors is gone, it is gone forever: gone for Hong Kong's next generation - if they stay here at all.

Amanda Whitmore Snow, Lantau