Carrie Lam deserves praise for waterfront improvement efforts
All those who care about Victoria Harbour and a better use of the waterfront should be grateful to Development Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor for putting harbourfront enhancement firmly on the government's agenda.
She is making a difference and the only reason she should be allowed to quit her job would be if she was appointed to a role that gave her even more responsibility for Hong Kong's development.
Her promises expressed via the 2009 and 2010 policy addresses are not new though.
What she is doing is to bring the promises ('A More Beautiful Harbour') made in the 1999 policy address back to life.
It is now 10 years since we were promised 'promenades and walkways so that our citizens and visitors can stay away from the hubbub of the city, stroll along the promenades and enjoy the beautiful scenery and refreshing sea breeze'.
We were promised open space on both sides of the Harbour 'from Lei Yue Mun in the east to Kennedy Town in the west'. The promises included open plazas, landscaped areas, marinas, shops, restaurants, as well as arts, recreational and entertainment opportunities.
Traffic corridors would be built underground to alleviate noise and air pollution as well as to improve the visual aspect. And to ensure that we achieved 'a new look for our harbour in the new millennium', there were to be open competitions for local and international professionals.
Clearly, not all these promises can be delivered, as developments, infrastructure and utilities over the last decade have eaten into the last vacant waterfront areas.
It has also taken unfortunate legal battles to stop the government from further reclamation.
Despite the enactment of the Harbour Protection Ordinance the government gazetted 394 hectares of reclamation.
Alert readers of the 1999 policy address would have predicted the intention to ignore the ordinance: 'Victoria Harbour is an integral part of Hong Kong that we all treasure. It deserves all our efforts to protect it and make it more beautiful. For this reason, we have decided to scale back the reclamation planned for the harbour.'
There are, therefore, three fundamental tasks for Mrs Lam to complete in creating a magnificent Victoria Harbour for all future generations:
To scrap the unused reclamation gazette notices issued under the Foreshore and Seabed (Reclamations) Ordinance;
To put in place development control mechanisms which ensure that traffic along the harbourfront is forever contained and a sustainable reserve capacity of our road network is maintained; and
To put in place a continuous improvement process of the plans for all waterfronts, including taking seriously the proposals from residents and developers to stop the sale of the last remaining waterfront sites in the older districts.
Paul Zimmerman, founding member, Designing Hong Kong Limited