Almost 100 hectares of farmland will be lost if a government proposal to develop the northern New Territories goes on, say green groups, which yesterday issued a joint statement calling for the plan's withdrawal.
The statement by the 29 environmental groups, issued ahead of a consultation deadline at the end of the month, said the threatened land accounted for 13 per cent of Hong Kong's active farming area and they did not want to lose any of it
Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced the proposal in his 2007-08 policy address.
It involves 787 hectares in Kwu Tung North, Fanling North and Ping Che, which would be turned into public and private estates for more than 150,000 people as part of the government's efforts to alleviate the housing shortage.
The opposing organisations, including the Conservancy Association, Greenpeace, Greeners Action and some farming groups, produced figures showing that farmland made up 22.2 per cent of the 166-hectare development area in Fanling North and 32.1 per cent of the 171-hectare Ping Che plan, at least 98 hectares altogether.
Instead of destroying the land, they said the government should address the city's growing demand for safe local produce, and cited the increasing popularity of organic produce.
The Planning Department and the Civil Engineering and Development Department said the development involved about 22 hectares of active agricultural land and would inevitably affect some farmers, but it would try to come to some arrangement with those affected. One possibility was allowing farmers to cultivate part of the government's proposed Long Valley Nature Park.
Organic farmer Wong Yu-wing said it was already difficult for famers to find land for expansion and if the government destroyed the farmland, the industry would die. He said New Territories North and Yuen Long were the two biggest remaining areas for agriculture. "If it's destroyed [in New Territories North] I am not sure when the farmland in Yuen Long will disappear as well."
He said the government was contradicting itself, as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had visited him and showed support for organic farming during his election campaign, but now a plan was being launched to destroy it.
Leung said in its manifesto that his government would "review the integrated social values of the agricultural industry in Hong Kong" and "formulate policies to promote and support new-age multifunctional agricultural activities on land suitable for agriculture".
The groups said they not been properly consulted about the proposal and had learned only last week of a session to be held in Fanling on Saturday.
They said the plan should be withdrawn and sent back to the drawing board.