Chinese white dolphin

Green matters take A back seat

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 February, 2007, 12:00am

Land use and planning - not conservation - seem to be key issues of debate about whether South Soko should be the site for CLP Power's liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal.

Deserted since the closure of the Vietnamese boat people detention centre in 1996, the island became a haven for leisure fishing and bird watching.

In 2002 the Country Park and Marine Parks Board endorsed the designation of the island and its waters as a marine park with Chinese white dolphins and finless porpoises among the marine life concerned.

However, the board's designation had yet to be implemented, with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department saying it was reviewing the idea because there were conflicting land-use issues.

The World Wide Fund for Nature, however, was sceptical about the reasons for holding up the implementation. It argued South Soko Island should not have been chosen as a site for the LNG terminal in the first place as it would violate guidelines laid down by the Southwest Lantau Planning Strategy promulgated in 2001. The strategy said waters in South Lantau should be kept for leisure and recreational purposes.

In 2004, the government released the Lantau concept plan for consultation, but it omitted South Soko island.

It was in the same year that CLP Power's LNG terminal plan was disclosed: it preferred to put the facility in either Black Point or South Soko.

However, a Post investigation found South Soko had already been eyed as a preferred site in a LNG terminal feasibility study conducted by CLP Power as early as in 1991.

The study was carried out under the guidance of a steering committee chaired by the Environmental Protection Department, indicating the government had known of the site's potential use in early 90s.

'It shows how inconsistent government planning policy is,' said Alan Leung Sze-lun, conservation officer of the World Wide Fund.

To gain green groups' support, the CLP Power has proposed to partially fund the establishment of the marine park if the terminal can be built.