Environmental groups are urging the government to turn South Soko Island, off Lantau, into a protected marine park after it rejected a plan to build a gas pipeline there. Despite welcoming the government's decision to terminate construction of CLP Power's gas pipeline on the island, conservationists want protection for the more than 200 endangered Chinese white dolphins and finless tortoises in the surrounding waters. The government's decision to abandon the project came after it renewed a gas supply contract with mainland suppliers for a further 20 years. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said the new contract would save public costs. Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said recently: 'We get a new supply pipeline on our doorstep at marginal cost. Isn't it a great difference between that and a [supply] contract from abroad? There will be a natural incentive for the parties to pursue that.' Environmentalists led by green group WWF and the Conservancy Association are calling for the government to designate the Soko Islands and Southwest Lantau waters as protected marine parks. This would prevent future commercial construction on the island. 'While the threat to dolphins from the proposed LNG terminal is now relieved, WWF is urging the government to designate the Soko Islands Marine Park and the Southwest Lantau Marine Park immediately to ensure long-term protection for the marine mammals and fish in those waters,' the group said in a statement. However, some energy experts think the South Soko Island LNG terminal should have been allowed to go ahead, arguing that it would stop Hong Kong suffering in the event of supply disruptions from the mainland. The terminal would also have allowed Hong Kong to directly import gas. 'We could have complete control on how much to buy and how much to pay,' said Larry Chow, director of Hong Kong Baptist University's Energy Studies Centre, in a local city forum. Bill Barron, an environmental economist at the University of Science and Technology, said the environmental toll of a pipeline would eventually correct itself. 'I don't think the environmental impact was as strong as the opposition made it out to be. The dolphins would have returned to the island in the long run.'