DEVELOPMENT

Reclamation plan at Lantau's Siu Ho Wan may be scaled down, government says

It's to preserve dolphin habitat, official claims; but expert says that's not the real reason

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 August, 2014, 4:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 August, 2014, 4:00am

A proposal to reclaim up to 150 hectares of land at Siu Ho Wan in north Lantau may be scaled down as Chinese white dolphins are now swimming closer to the shore, the government says.

But a dolphin expert who helped the government with its research cast doubt on the claims, saying dolphins were seen at Sham Shui Kok, a deeper area of water in Siu Ho Wan, as far back as 2008. He suggested another reason for the change.

"The truth is the reclamation is now in conflict with the Brothers Island Marine Park being set up to compensate for the loss of dolphin habitat caused by the building of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge," said Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Dolphin Conservation Society.

The government in 2007 proposed reclaiming 100 to 150 hectares at Siu Ho Wan, including Sham Shui Kok, for a logistics park. The use of the site was put into question in 2012 as the government sought sites for homes.

Yesterday, Development Bureau permanent secretary Wai Chi-sing said the plan may be adjusted - either by reducing its scale or adjusting the reclamation boundary - as a survey had found the rare dolphins appearing in waters closer to shore.

The survey, due for completion by the end of the year, will form part of a government report into the accumulative impact of several nearby projects involving reclamation, including the bridge, reclamation at Sunny Bay and a proposed artificial island east of Lantau.

Hung, who collected the raw data for the survey, said fewer dolphins had frequented the Sham Shui Kok area since construction of the bridge began.

But the government wanted to reconsider reclaiming the area because it was under pressure to include the key dolphin habitat in the proposed Brothers Island Marine Park, he said.

Development Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, who heads the Lantau Development Advisory Committee, yesterday reassured the public that Lantau would remain the city's "backyard garden" for the people. Some committee members had hinted at developing the island's country parks.

"The new developments will provide job opportunities for people living on the island … but the island will still be a place for families on holiday," he said.