We refer to the recent allegations concerning the proposed Fung Lok Wai development.
No action does not mean conservation. The ecological importance of Fung Lok Wai stems from traditional fish farming practices. During winter, fish farmers drained their ponds for harvesting - 'trash' fish that were left in the drained ponds formed an important food source for water birds on their yearly migratory journey between Arctic Russia and Australia.
However, these traditional aquacultural practices have mostly disappeared due to competition from China and fish ponds are increasingly being abandoned. Abandoned fish ponds atrophy, reducing the numbers of fish within them, resulting in a reduction in food supply to migratory water birds.
Resources in terms of money and manpower are needed to maintain fish ponds' function as a source of food supply to migratory water birds. As the government considers it inappropriate to use taxpayers' money to underwrite conservation projects, a conservation policy was promulgated by the government in 2004 to provide economic incentives to encourage the private sector to take the initiative. The Fung Lok Wai development is a sustainable solution for conserving the existing fish ponds and keeping the traditional aquacultural management practices alive:
95 per cent of the site is reserved for the wetland nature reserve;
In return, 5 per cent of the site, located outside the Ramsar Site, will be for residential development; and
Examples of such successful development models can be found overseas.
The accusation of 'destroy first, develop later' is entirely unfounded. Over the past decade, fish farmers have been continuously retained in Fung Lok Wai to cultivate the ponds using traditional aquacultural practices in order to maintain their ecological value.
Furthermore, the benefits of removal of bunds to enlarge the ponds are supported by scientific study. Larger and shallower ponds together with sloping edges make for a more bird-friendly environment than the current steep sided small ponds, which are more suited for purely fish farming purposes. A key finding of the government's Fish Pond Study concluded that enlarged ponds are more attractive to birds and result in higher bird usage.
The Fung Lok Wai project is the result of extensive studies stretching over 20 years. It seeks an optimal solution for conserving the disappearing traditional aquacultural practice that is crucial to migratory birds. Its implementation will ensure that traditional fish farming practices and significant populations of migratory birds can survive.
Wendy Tong Barnes, chief corporate affairs officer, Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited