Airport reclamation trial illegal: greens

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 May, 2012, 12:00am


A green group has criticised the government for skipping a legally required step when approving a trial reclamation project by the Airport Authority for the proposed third runway, depriving the public of the chance to raise objections.

WWF Hong Kong says a bad precedent has been created which could allow the government to reclaim the seabed wherever it likes.

The trial began in January and has already been completed. It was carried out over an area of 30 square metres north of the airport and involved 'deep cement mixing', which the authority says is more environmentally acceptable and more suitable for sites with contaminated mud.

To minimise disturbance to the pits, the seabed is strengthened by slowly injecting and mixing cement into the soft contaminated mud to form stabilised cement or mud columns. Reclamation is then formed by depositing layers of sand over this stabilised material. This can also minimise the impact on the marine ecosystem, the authority says.

The Foreshore and Seabed (Reclamations) Ordinance requires the publication of reclamation proposals on any foreshore, with a plan being published for public inspection, while the government is also required to gazette the proposal, giving the public at least two months to raise objections.

But in this case, the plan was not gazetted.

Samantha Lee Mei-wah, a senior conservation officer at WWF Hong Kong, said: 'If a plan is not gazetted, the public are deprived of the right to know and raise their objections.

'If the government's intention is not to let the public know, can we still rely on the government to check developments for the public?'

The green group cited a wind-monitoring station project off Lamma Island in 2010 that involved site investigation and installation of eight marine piles in the southern waters. That project was gazetted.

Earlier this year the department gazetted works to build a landing facility at To Tau Tsui Beacon, Tolo Channel, Tai Po.

Lee said: 'The Airport Authority's trial study should be treated the same, given the similar nature of the works involved.'

In a written reply in March to WWF's inquiry, the Lands Department said the authority's proposal 'had been circulated to relevant government departments and no adverse comments were received'.

The department thus 'had issued a short-term tenancy to [the authority] to cover the works', it said. By March, the trial works had been completed and the tenancy had expired.

A Development Bureau spokeswoman said yesterday: 'The Airport Authority had submitted a detailed proposal for the trial works for the government's consideration. The Lands Department sought legal advice from the Secretary for Justice and it was concluded that gazettal of the works was not required.'

The Airport Authority gave an almost identical reply.