Cheung Kong

Green strategy not all black and white

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 October, 2011, 12:00am


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Whether or not green groups should help developers whose projects might hurt the environment is a contentious issue. Those opposed argue that conservation and development are two fundamentally different courses. Partnerships will only legitimise the actions of the project owners and serve their interest. Those in favour, however, believe that by taking part in a project, NGOs are better positioned to influence how it is carried out. Co-operation, rather than confrontation, is a more effective way to secure the desired outcome.

The partnership between the conservation group WWF and a subsidiary of Cheung Kong in a housing project on an ecologically sensitive wetland in Yuen Long shows that co-operation can achieve good results. The property giant has delayed its application to build 19 blocks of flats to give more time to provide information and to study a firefly species recently found nearby.

Critics may insist on dismissing the co-operation as nothing more than a public relations gimmick that does little to protect the natural habitat. But if WWF had bowed to pressure from fellow green groups and pulled out, the project could have been submitted to the Town Planning Board for approval last Friday and now be further on its way towards completion.

Conservation and development are not necessarily in conflict. Striking the right balance is the key. Developers have a legitimate right to maximise their profits from the land they have bought. When they allow activists to play a role in the project, that's a positive step and green groups should be encouraged to join in. They are in the best position to know where the line should be drawn.

There is no reason why environmentalists should not participate if given a chance. The more they are allowed to be involved, the more likely the right balance will be struck.