Legco rightly rejected bid for reclamation at Green Island

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 August, 2015, 5:43pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 August, 2015, 5:43pm

I refer to the letter by Mak Kong-ling ("Revive idea of reclamation at Green Island", July 27).

The proposal was unanimously defeated in the Legislative Council when it was proposed 20 years ago as a scheme to house 165,000 people by reclaiming 200 hectares (21 million sq ft) of the harbour.

This is more than 10 times the size of the current Central reclamation. The damage to the harbour would have been unimaginable.

Instead of a beautiful western approach into Victoria Harbour, the two charming Green Islands would have been replaced by a huge, sprawling public housing estate that would have been intolerably ugly.

The scheme was one of the government's 15 reclamation proposals to reclaim 1,297 hectares (five square miles) which would have destroyed the harbour and converted it into a narrow channel 800 to 1,000 metres wide.

The result would have been catastrophic: Hong Kong would simply have had no harbour left and would have lost its most important natural asset and its namesake as a "Fragrant Harbour".

Each of the government's 15 reclamation proposals was justified by noble reasons and alluring promises. Luckily the community was able to visualise what the reclamations would do to the harbour.

With the support of all the then five political parties and the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong people (with only 1.9 per cent favouring reclamation), the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance was passed into law in 1997.

The ordinance severely restricted reclamation and elevated the harbour to the legal status of a "special public asset" and a "natural heritage of Hong Kong people". What was left of the harbour was saved, and Green Island was spared. Sadly by then, the harbour had been reduced to only less than half of its original size and width.

The ordinance has received the strong support of the courts, including the landmark decision of the Court of Final Appeal. The decision pronounced the harbour to be the "central part of Hong Kong's identity, which should be transmitted from generation to generation".

All the major cities in the world have been able to grow outwards without destroying their inner environments. Hence London has never developed Hyde Park, or New York, Central Park. Similarly, Hong Kong must now grow outwards into the New Territories, which has 100 times the land that can be reclaimed from the harbour.

Hardy Lok Kung-chin, chairman, Society for Protection of the Harbour