Hong Kong’s Lantau artificial island project must give priority to ecological impact
- Even if species of conservation interest are not endangered, they play an important role in supporting local biodiversity
I write with concern about the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” proposed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in her latest policy address. This project involves reclaiming 1,700 hectares of land near Kau Yi Chau and Hei Ling Chau off Lantau Island, for islands expected to be completed and habitable by 2032. Not only is this is not helpful for families currently living in subdivided flats, but may also affect the habitats of many organisms around those islands. The construction of these artificial islands should be designated projects under Part III of the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (Cap 499).
In the environmental impact report related to disinfection facilities at Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works (EIA-134/2007), some species of corals were found in the sea around Kau Yi Chau. Although those species are not endangered, in general, coral communities are important for marine organisms, such as fish, shrimps, crabs and shellfish. Kau Yi Chau is neither a marine park nor a marine reserve, and the corals found in Kau Yi Chau are not protected by the Marine Park Ordinance (Cap 476) and Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap 586). Nevertheless, should the corals be destroyed for providing land for housing?
In the report relating to the wind turbine project at Hei Ling Chau (EIA-124/2006), more than 100 species of plants, birds, butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians and reptiles were found. Dozens of species were of conservation interest. Again, although they were not endangered species and not of high ecological value, they supported local biodiversity.
Organisms of low ecological value in general may have high ecological value at the project site. The Environmental Protection Department classified Long Valley in Sheung Shui as an area of high ecological value with a high diversity of birds. So, it was concluded that the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line be built underground, instead of as an elevated viaduct. The case shows the importance of public consultation for our environment.
Land reclamation means marine organisms will permanently lose habitat area. The Lantau project seems motivated by companies that would profit from land reclamation.
Environmentalists and scientists must do surveys of the organisms in the proposed reclamation area and assess the ecological impact arising from the reclamation. I hope their advice will be heeded.
Felix Mak, Kowloon Bay