Green group calls on Hong Kong government to cut back on Lantau reclamation project

Green Sense says housing need should be regulated instead of sacrificing nature

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 April, 2017, 10:10pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 April, 2017, 11:22pm

A green group has urged the government to reduce the area of a proposed reclamation off the northern coast of Lantau Island by about 30 per cent to better protect the environment, especially a marine park which is only one kilometre away.

A funding request for the HK$20.5 billion proposal to reclaim 150 hectares of land to offer 40,800 new homes will be debated in the Legislative Council later this month.

But according to environmental group Green Sense spokesman Roy Tam Hoi-pong, the reclamation boundary, as part of the Tung Chung new town extension, is only one kilometre away from the Brothers Marine Park, which is an important habitat for the Chinese white dolphin.

He said on Monday that the site is also less than 100 metres away from Tai Ho – an area classified by the government to be of special scientific interest.

“The biggest impact of the reclamation is that there will be about 200 to 400 ships entering the nearby waters every day for the construction process, and these ships will unavoidably enter the marine park,” Tam said.

He suggested that the government reduce the reclamation area by about 30 per cent, including scrapping a proposed 10-hectare marina with 95 berths.

While Tam acknowledged that this would mean fewer flats built, he argued that local officials should take back the authority to issue one-way permits – passes for those on the mainland with families in Hong Kong to settle in the city – from the central government. This would regulate the housing need.

“You cannot sacrifice the environment endlessly,” he said. He called on lawmakers to reject the funding request if needed.

Samantha Lee, a manager from conservation body WWF, said other ongoing reclamation works near Tung Chung, including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and the airport’s third runway project, had exposed many problems, such as collapsed seawalls and the usage of artificial sand, which led to greater pollution.

“The government needs to review the current projects,” Lee said.

She added that the marina would bring more seaborne traffic, especially speed boats, which would affect animals nearby.

An Environmental Protection Department spokesman said it had assessed the project’s impact on the surrounding environment, including the marine park, and had set out proper measures to mitigate the impact.

A Development Bureau spokesman said the scale of the project would have “very limited” negative effects on the environment. He added that the government would restrict ship movement, amid other measures, to reduce the impact.

The bureau previously said it would put up tenders for the project by midyear, and if lawmakers approved the budget before a Legco recess in July, reclamation could start by the end of this year.

The request will be debated at a meeting of a development panel later this month and then by a public works subcommittee next month. If it is approved, it will then go to Legco’s finance committee for final scrutiny.