Rural areas threatened by minor works scheme

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  • #7059
    DocMartin
    Member

    I received this email:

    Quote:
    Recently in the news Mr. Donald Tsang was reported to
    propose doubling the funding for rural minor works to
    $30 million from $15 million. We have great concern
    and apprehension over this proposal. We hope that
    representatives of political parties, green groups,
    district parties and members of the public can jointly
    convey our concern and apprehension to the Government.
    The reasons behind our concern are as follows:

    1. Rural minor works are not required to undertake
    environmental impact assessment. In the past, quite a
    number of rural works were carried out in some
    sensitive and vulnerable locations in the rural areas.
    No prior consultations with local environmental
    concern groups were ever conducted, often leading to
    consequential irremediable damage to the ecology.
    Since the implementation of the rural works scheme,
    various rural areas have been subjected to plenty of
    environmental destruction as a result. Evidences are:
    concrete paving was laid over Mui Wo¡¦s natural
    streams where there was a rich ecology; the reclaimed
    land in Yim Tin Pok wetland has been used as a
    provisional soccer pitch for years yet is only used
    several times in a year; villagers applied for
    construction of van track in the name of such works in
    Ma Nam Wat, a place with eco-value on Pak Sha Wan
    Peninsula, Sai Kung; and years ago the concrete road
    works from Sha Lo Wan to Tung Chung caused rare fish
    to disappear. The list is not exhaustive.

    2. In the financial aspect, there are numerous
    examples of social resources being wasted as a result
    of inadequate regulation. District Offices often
    merely have regard to the views of some local
    organizations without carrying out wide consultation
    about the works involved in relevant districts. As a
    result, the works only benefit a few while a lot of
    taxpayers¡¦ money is wasted. The Audit Commission once
    criticised that the Peng Chau project was seriously
    over budget (see Annex) but it turned out that no
    officials or local persons were ever held liable. At
    present not only is there no review of the minor works
    scheme, on the contrary more resources will be put in.
    This is practically subjecting the rural environment
    to endless destruction and waste.

    We suggest that in the course of speeding up district
    works, the Government ought to first take into account
    their necessity and urgency as well as whether there
    is a satisfactory monitoring system. A responsible
    government should not be seen giving no thought to
    effectiveness and consequences but merely with a view
    to speedy implementation. We appeal to all political
    parties, organizations and members of the public to
    fulfil the responsibility of monitoring the Government
    by pointing out to the Government the shortcomings of
    this policy and requesting a review to be conducted.

    Ho Pui Han
    Executive Committee Member
    Association of Tai O Environment and Development

    Just sent the following to Planning n Lands Dept and three political parties:

    Dear Sir:

    I write to express concern regarding rural minor works, which may sometimes be poorly planned and ill-advised, damaging the environment whilst not bringing real benefits for residents.

    As the budget for such works is set to double, I hope the government will strive to ensure that minor rural works enhance rather than harm the environment, and bring actual benefits for people (not just contractors and cronies!!)

    Yours faithfully,
    Dr Martin Williams

    Director
    Hong Kong Outdoors

    #8058
    SImon D
    Member

    Like most rural projects, I think some distinction is required.
    3 distinctions actually.
    1. Works on private land.
    2. Works in country parks.
    3. Concrete footpaths in country parks.

    1. The first is the one that most often reduces me to tears. Literally.
    Many is the time I have walked a favourite path and found only a construction site dump. The most recent is at my home of Tung Tze. A place I consider to be potentially HK’s best wetland outside of Mai Po (and environs). During my 5 yrs there I witnessed a 30/40% reduction in wetland, with damage reaching up to 50%. One 3 storey house (in progress) has effectively (through an access road, relocated twice) dammed a large area and created an unsightly blight. I often walk through with damp eyes, knowing that unless the government is prepared to buy ecologically valuable land, there is nothing we can do. Government works here come under the heading of ‘why bother’ if any preservation they do is undermined by the landowners themselves.

    2. Works in country parks however is most likely to result in fury. There is a small group within AFCD and the Country Parks Authority who are world class in their skill and thinking. Far, far too small a group. Here is an area which we (as the public) must get a grip of. We cannot continue to allow the kinds of practices that are undertaken by locally organised contractors within our reserves. As a construction engineer myself I know the reasons but not the reasoning.
    Strangely it is WSD that does a better job of preservation than the AFCD. Put that down to short-term ‘people first’ mentality.

    3. The third distinction is more difficult. As it comes under public access, safety and use. I am not an elitist and consider certain projects valuable not only for public safety but also as an encouragement to people to appreciate nature. There must be a good policy and implementation however. I hear the dissent against concreting and appreciate it. But I have my reservations (sacrilage?). I see more damage done in unconcreted areas to the environment. The practice of leaving a mess behind after the works are completed is however unacceptable.

    #8059
    DocMartin
    Member

    Just received this email, in reply to mine posted above:

    Quote:
    Thank you for your views on rural minor works which I have forwarded to our works departments for attention.

    Rural minor works projects are of course for the benefit of the public.
    They are planned and implemented to minimize impact to the environment. We agree with your views.

    I have taken the liberty to share your views with the Home Affairs
    Department which plays an important role in rural minor works.

    Regards,
    Jacky Chiong
    for Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works

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