'Suspend projects for green research'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 December, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 December, 1998, 12:00am

Friends of the Earth wants the Government to postpone decisions on development projects in sensitive ecological areas until a key study on the wetlands is completed.

The study has just started and is due to finish in 27 months, but the green group's director, Mei Ng Fong Siu-mei, said that pressure was growing from developers who wanted a quick decision on whether projects could go ahead.

'The pressure to rezone buffer zones for development is building very fast.

'The only way to make sensible decisions is to wait until the wetlands consultancy is completed and recommendations are taken on board,' Ms Ng said.

She welcomed the study, but said that it was long overdue because wetland areas had already been destroyed without any agreements to recreate these areas as a condition of infrastructure projects getting permission to go ahead.

These include 63 hectares of agricultural land in the $64 billion West Rail project and the replanting of mangroves at Tai Ho to compensate for those lost during building of the airport infrastructure.

An Agriculture and Fisheries Department spokesman could not say whether development decisions would be halted until the study was completed.

But government consultant Binnie Black & Veatch will consider the overall impact of current and proposed public works and known private developments on wetlands and their resources.

Guidelines, criteria and arrangements for ecological mitigation measures would be developed to limit the effect on sensitive environmental areas.

The study will identify specific areas where wetlands could be restored, enhanced or created to compensate for either damage or loss of the original wetlands.

The study is being carried out partly in response to a row two years ago involving Henderson Real Estate Agency which finally won approval for a $2 billion project and golf course adjoining the Mai Po nature reserve.

Henderson won approval for its plans for a 2,500 apartment and leisure complex at Nam Sang Wai from the Privy Council which overturned a Court of Appeal ruling. This followed a four-year battle between the developer and conservationists who objected to the plans amid fears that it would open the door to further development at Mai Po, a protected site of special ecological interest.