Experts advise green light for NT new towns projects

Experts say New Territories plan can go ahead as long as conditions - such as ensuring the survival of fish and birds in the area - are met

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 4:38am

The administration's green advisers have recommended conditional acceptance of a proposal to develop two new towns in the northeastern New Territories.

The HK$120 billion plan, announced in July, is intended to house 170,000 people in Fanling North and Kwu Tung North.

Members of a subcommittee under the Advisory Council on the Environment said the project must ensure the survival of fish and birds in the area, among other conditions for their support.

The council will conclude on Monday if it should approve an environmental impact assessment on the project done by government-appointed consultants.

Critics complained yesterday to the Ombudsman, challenging a one-month public consultation on the assessment that ended early last month.

"Many of the villagers affected do not know English, but the full report is available only in English," said Yip Po-lam, of the Catholic Diocese's justice and peace commission.

Yip said that violated the Bills of Rights and Official Language Ordinance.

"The council should stop scrutinising the report until after an extended three-month consultation following the release of a Chinese report," she said.

The subcommittee gave the thumbs down to another proposal, to develop higher education facilities and a research base at the Lok Ma Chau loop bordering Shenzhen. The advisers said they wanted more information to justify a new road that green groups said would traverse an ecologically sensitive corridor.

They requested that the proponent of the dual-town project, the Civil Engineering and Development Department, satisfy four conditions before starting work.

It should submit detailed plans on the monitoring and relocation of an uncommon fish species, the rose bitterling, and on the treatment of arsenic-contaminated soil that was believed to be naturally occurring. It should also provide a plan to set up a new home for displaced egrets and a plan on compensatory tree planting.

Opponents of the project said the report failed to assess the social impact even though thousands of people would be displaced by the construction.

WWF Hong Kong conservation manager Alan Leung Sze-lun said the requests for detailed plans on the fish, birds, soil and trees should have been made available for public comment.