Local green groups have united to denounce WWF Hong Kong for working with a subsidiary of the property giant Cheung Kong which wants to develop a plot of land near Mai Po.
Green Sense, the Conservancy Association, the Entomological Society, Greeners' Action and the Society of Hong Kong Nature Explorers yesterday called on the local arm of the global conservation group to end its partnership with the subsidiary, Mutual Luck Investment.
The development plan calls for the building of about 2,000 flats at the ecologically sensitive Fung Lok Wai site in Yuen Long, off Deep Bay. The proposed 19 residential blocks would take up about five per cent of the site while the rest of the land would be preserved. WWF Hong Kong has signed a memorandum with the developer to manage the reserve.
Yesterday, Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong said the groups had held discussions with WWF but made no progress.
'To end property dominance in this case, we hope WWF will turn around before it's too late,' he said in a statement.
The green alliance said no buildings should be erected on the Fung Lok Wai site. It also warned that the row had caused some substantial donors to turn away from WWF.
Another reason for their opposition is that a species of firefly, discovered only last year in Hong Kong Wetland Park, lives just 300 metres from the proposed development site, according to the Conservancy Association and the Entomological Society.
The Maipo bent-winged firefly was identified by international experts as a species new to science, and the groups say many have been sighted in the mangroves and streams east of the wetland park.
WWF Hong Kong yesterday issued a statement saying its interest in the Fung Lok Wai project was purely one of conservation and a natural extension of its wetland management work. WWF helps manage Mai Po Nature Reserve for the government.
'We entered into this partnership because we are convinced it is a viable solution to conserve and manage the critical Deep Bay wetlands,' it said. 'If no action is taken, environmental degradation will almost certainly worsen. We believe the project will result in a net conservation benefit for the area, and we became involved as an active participant to increase the likelihood of a successful conservation outcome.'
The green groups demanded the developer halt the Fung Lok Wai project and review an environmental impact assessment that was completed in 2008.
Half of the 80-hectare site, for the most part abandoned fish ponds, was listed in 1995 as a wetland of international importance.