While the court decision to protect the harbour is praised by environmentalists, works to enhance the promenade could be jeopardised Works to enhance the Victoria Harbour promenade and future reclamation for housing may not be able to go ahead following yesterday's High Court ruling seeking to protect the harbour's natural heritage, government sources warned. Government officials expressed fears that principles behind the judgment on the Draft Wan Chai North Outline Zoning Plan will make future works to enhance the promenade very difficult. 'Improving and making the promenade more accessible to the public is part of our planning objective and sometimes it is essential to do some reclamation work to make the harbour nicer,' a government source said. 'With the judgment, it will be very difficult for us to do our job in the future.' About $30 billion of future projects could be at stake. They include the Southeast Kowloon Reclamation Project and Western Reclamation Project, where 70 hectares will be reclaimed to house 70,000 people, as well as Phase IV of the Central Reclamation Project. The government had originally planned to make Southeast Kowloon, which includes the sites of the former Kai Tak airport and 124 hectares of reclaimed land along the shore in Kowloon Bay, the home of 320,000 people. The planned population of the planned town was reduced to 240,000 in July 1999. The plan was approved by the Town Planning Board and has received no challenges so far. The government recently decided to put three major reclamation projects on hold, leaving the Southeast Kowloon work the only major reclamation work still going ahead. 'Now, with the ruling, I doubt how we can carry out a plan of such scale. This will be a serious problem for us,' the source said. 'On the issue of the Western District, putting it on hold did not mean never being able to commence work. We always wanted flexibility.' The government fears emerged as supporters of the judgment celebrated and called for the creation of an independent authority to protect Victoria Harbour. Winston Chu, chairman of the Society for the Protection of the Harbour, vowed to intensify the group's efforts after its successful bid for a new legal interpretation of the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance. 'We are asking the government to form a harbour authority,' he said, adding it could be modelled on a body in Sydney. 'It will look after the harbour and all the land around the harbour. It has to make sure that the harbour is enjoyed by the public, that there are no more high-rises along the harbour and that it looks after the general enjoyment of the harbour, including water quality.' Mr Chu also said yesterday's decision set the benchmark for the Town Planning Board's approval of all future reclamation projects. 'Whenever the government wants to fill the harbour, it has to take into account today's judgment,' he said. Mr Chu said the society had the backing of legislators and the public, adding more than 170,000 people had signed a petition opposing the reclamation project during its public submission phase. Other green groups in Hong Kong welcomed yesterday's court decision, saying the ruling would protect Victoria Harbour from being turned into a river. The Friends of the Earth's environmental affairs manager, Henry Ho Kin-chung, said there was no urgency for the government to build any infrastructure beyond the need of the public. 'We don't need any more reclamation both from an economic and environmental point of view. The government really has to justify the building of any infrastructure on our harbour,' he said. Another key green group activist, Man Chi-sum, chief executive officer of Green Power, said the court decision set an important precedent and would have far-reaching effects. 'I think it sent out a clear message to the government that we have to keep Victoria Harbour for future generations.'