The idea that building in country parks on Lantau could actually improve the island’s environment is both “worrying” and “dangerous”, activists and green groups said on Monday.
This came after former executive councillor Franklin Lam Fan-keung risked public outcry on Sunday by floating the idea that allowing development in Lantau’s two country parks would upgrade the environment “millions of times” over.
Lam also questioned whether the country parks should remain entirely off limits to developers given that “the island’s marine environment was of greater value than its land”.
But the Save Our Country Parks Alliance on Monday said this was yet another sign the government was not being serious in its pledge to protect country parks and enclaves.
“We are worried about Lam’s words and the government’s view on future development across Hong Kong,” said Green Power’s head of scientific research and conservation Dr Cheng Luk-ki.
“They are making people choose between housing and conservation. It’s like seeing your mother and wife fall into the water and asking someone to choose who to save first.”
Lam, a government appointee to the Lantau Development Advisory Committee, said building homes for 300,000 people and creating jobs on Lantau would reduce residents’ carbon footprint by cutting their commute.
The alliance also criticised Exco member Bernard Chan over his remarks that development should be applicable only to “non-core” parts of the country park. The group described the suggestion as “dangerous” saying it would set the wrong precedents in future discourse.
“No one has ever heard of these new interpretations before. A country park is a country park,” said Friends of the Earth senior environmental officer Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung. “It’s worrying that the government [and Exco] is already discussing internally on how to pave the way to more destruction.”
Paul Zimmerman of urban planning non-profit Designing Hong Kong, said many parts of Lantau, including the Tung Chung valley, were neither designated as a country park enclave, nor were protected under permissible development plans.
Meanwhile, the alliance will launch an advertising campaign on Tuesday to push the public to vote against small-house development in country park enclaves, which they say will cause harm to the environment.
They are also calling on the public to submit objections to the draft zoning plans of Hoi Ha, Pak Lap and So Lo Pun before the deadline on Friday. About 92 per cent of the public has already expressed objections to small-house development in the three enclaves.
Zimmerman said: “If the government is going to let enclaves be destroyed in Sai Kung and Plover Cove, how can we trust them in Lantau?”