Chinese White Dolphin

Future generations will not forgive us for a Soko gas plant

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2006, 12:00am

Your report 'CLP opts for HK$9b gas plant on Soko' (September 1) reveals the cynical process by which the Soko Islands have now 'emerged' as the frontrunner for the new liquefied natural gas terminal - and reinforces the suspicion that CLP Holdings and the government are colluding to ensure an outcome which is far from ideal.

Since becoming aware that its gas supplies from Hainan would be depleted far sooner than expected, CLP has been adamant that only an LNG terminal located in Hong Kong can fulfil its requirements. It has consistently refused to seriously consider solutions involving sites outside Hong Kong, giving reasons (such as security of supply) that are wholly unconvincing.

Hongkong Electric's gas-fired power station on Lamma is fed by an underwater pipeline from an LNG terminal in Shenzhen, in which the power company has a 3 per cent holding. Why is a similar solution not being considered for CLP? Why is the Sinopec LNG terminal on an offshore island between Hong Kong and Macau being so casually dismissed as an option? Why is it not possible to continue to use the existing terminal and pipeline from Hainan?

Pearl River Delta integration, espoused by so many, means that we should begin to look at issues like this on a regional basis.

Why is the government being so coy about the final outcome? It seems to have conveniently forgotten that it once proposed making the waters around Soko a marine park. In a press release in May 2002, a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said: 'As the waters around southwest Lantau and the Soko Islands are important fishery spawning and nursery grounds, the plan would contribute to the conservation of fishery resources and building up of fish stocks. The proposal is also in line with the planning strategy ... to conserve the high-quality natural environment on Lantau Island and the Soko Islands.'

In addition, the area is the only location where the Chinese White Dolphin and the Finless Porpoise coexist.

What happened to the proposal for a marine park, and why has the AFCD not spoken up about the threat to these 'important fishery spawning and nursery grounds'? Is it not the department's role to protect fisheries and champion conservation?

WWF supports the drive to provide cleaner energy but we do not support the destruction of one valuable natural environment to benefit another when alternatives are available.

Apart from their conservation and fisheries value, the Soko Islands are greatly loved for their natural beauty. As urban and industrial sprawl spreads in the Pearl River Delta, the value of the natural beauty of our islands will be increasingly appreciated. Future generations will not forgive us for destroying them.

MARKUS SHAW, chairman, WWF Hong Kong