Activists gird for battle to block man-made beach in Tai Po
Alliance says it will fight to bitter end after Exco rejects petition asking for permit to be revoked
Cheung Chi-fai and Joyce Ng
Activists against the development of a man-made beach on the Tai Po coast say they are ready to fight to the bitter end after exhausting all administrative means to stop the project.
The Save Lung Mei Alliance plans a mock resistance exercise this Sunday, setting up tents at the Lung Mei beach site in preparation for an expected confrontation to prevent the development, which is due to begin soon.
"It is not just a gesture. It is a real resistance," alliance member Angus Ho Hon-wai said yesterday, adding that it was too early to predict the scale of the struggle.
The alliance has yet to decide whether to seek a court injunction to stop the work.
Meanwhile, it might seek a judicial review against an earlier decision by the Director of Environmental Protection, who found no reason to revoke the permit.
The decision was made in response to a petition filed last year by the alliance that said the environmental impact assessment report was incomplete and misleading.
The alliance said the review would hinge on whether legal aid was available.
The protest plans were announced yesterday after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and executive councillors on Tuesday rejected another alliance petition asking for the permit to be revoked as the project's impact might be much more than anticipated. Exco said in a written reply yesterday that there were no grounds to do so.
Work on the artificial beach is scheduled to start this month after the proponent, the Civil Engineering and Development Department, yesterday awarded the work contract to Welcome Construction Company. The wining bid was HK$74 million. The award had been delayed twice due to the petition.
Another alliance member, Peter Li Siu-man , said they were furious and accused environment officials of lacking professional ethics in handling the project, which is now the subject of an investigation by the Ombudsman.
The five-year dispute centred on the ecological value of Lung Mei, where the government is building a 200-metre beach.
The alliance said more than 200 marine species had been recorded at the site, including the recently found "vulnerable" spotted seahorse.
Further aggravating the dispute was a field survey carried out several months ago by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department that found two spotted seahorses within the work area. A previous impact study recorded three seahorses outside the work area, but within the 500-metre study area.
Environment and conservation officials insist the project's impact will not be unacceptable.
"The requirements have been written down in the environmental permit and the contractor has to hire a qualified fish expert for that," an official said.
The official said they would scrutinise the contractor's proposals to minimise damage.
Not everyone opposes the project: some Tai Po politicians staged a car rally yesterday to celebrate the approval.