Chinese White Dolphin

Sokos plan is but one more assault on dolphins' habitat

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2007, 12:00am

While WWF has urged the public to fight for the Chinese white dolphin by signing its petition against a liquefied natural gas terminal on the Sokos, neither it nor anyone else is suggesting that the project, by itself, will kill off the dolphins ('Greens exaggerating impact on dolphins, says expert', January 22). As even CLP Power's hired hand, marine biologist Thomas Jefferson admits, it is the cumulative impact of development in the area that concerns us. It is patronising for Dr Jefferson to say 'we do not understand the mitigation measures' CLP Power has proposed. We do. We also understand the long-term effects of rampant development and loss of fishing grounds and habitat.

Every time an environmental impact assessment is done in Hong Kong, it is done in a bubble. No one ever seems to look at the cumulative effect on the dolphins' habitat of, say, an airport, a theme park, a gas terminal, a bridge to Macau, more container terminals (the list goes on and on). Just as with human habitat, the government seems beholden to big business, without a thought for those who have to live with the consequences of their decisions.

Of course clean air would benefit both people and dolphins, as Dr Jefferson says in 'A gas terminal poses no threat to dolphins' (January 23), but it is wrong for CLP Power to use this as a justification to ride roughshod over an area that was proposed as a marine park. There is no need for an LNG terminal to be built in Hong Kong when the mainland is willing to supply us. This would be a better option for everyone (from electricity consumers to dolphins) but the companies who stand to profit.

JANET WALKER, Hong Kong Dolphinwatch

ExxonMobil, a majority partner with CLP Power in proposing a liquefied natural gas terminal on the Sokos, is in the news for all the wrong reasons. The Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit-making environmental advocacy group in the US, has accused the company of funnelling about US$16 million to 43 advocacy groups and 16 individuals in an effort to 'manufacture uncertainty' about global warming and, ultimately, stall government action to cut carbon-dioxide emissions.

In a report and Insight piece in your newspaper this week, US marine biologist Thomas Jefferson criticises environmental groups for overplaying the terminal's threat to our dolphin population ('Greens exaggerating impact on dolphins, says expert', January 22, and 'A gas terminal poses no threat to dolphins', January 23). The news article reports that Dr Jefferson has been hired by CLP Power. Quite so. It may be that Dr Jefferson sees no conflict of interest here.

In his Insight page article 'Why we need a gas storage facility' (January 11), CLP Power commercial director Richard Lancaster wrote that the 'voices of vested interests [had] flared' in opposition to the terminal. The difference, Mr Lancaster, between those of us expressing principled opposition to your business plan and those who advocate your position may be found on your payroll. In our lexicon, vested interests must include those employed by ExxonMobil and CLP Power - a point which the understandably biased 3,500-page environmental impact assessment report prepared by your consultants powerfully reinforces.

CLIVE NOFFKE, Green Lantau Association

I note that you carried an opinion piece yesterday by US marine biologist Thomas Jefferson arguing that CLP Power's Sokos proposal will not damage the habitat of the Chinese white dolphin ('A gas terminal poses no threat to dolphins', January 23). I also note that a story the day before identified him as a paid consultant for CLP Power on the project ('Greens exaggerating impact on dolphins', January 22). He was not identified as such in the opinion piece.

The public is entitled to full transparency with regard to the biases of those whose opinions the South China Morning Post chooses to publish. Dr Jefferson's affiliation with CLP Power renders his perspective useless for those who are actually trying to understand this issue.

STEVE FORE, Kowloon Tong