Lantau Joint Statement

At the beginning of March 2005, 19 groups including Hong Kong Outdoors showed what the South China Morning Post described as (from memory) "a rare show of unity", to produce a Joint Statement on Sustainable Development for Lantau.

The statement was dated 3 March. That was also the same date given for a Hong Kong government rejection of the joint statement that was promptly published on the government website. Not surprisingly, this rejection was vague, failing to address points made in the statement.

It's now mid-June; we're told plans for at least the Zhuhai-Macau-Hong Kong Bridge (which was in the Concept Plan) are well advanced, yet so far as I'm aware there has been no further dialogue between government and groups concerned about Lantau developments. Some group representatives are set to attend a Legco panel meeting on the Concept Plan for Lantau; this was to be In May, then in June, but lately shifted back to July - this as the bridge works is reportedly set to begin early next year (never mind the EIA work in Hong Kong is incomplete, no substantial arguments have been mustered for building the bridge).

With the dialogue in limbo, yet plans evidently proceeding apace - and never mind what the public might think - I'm presenting the joint statement here.

Joint Statement on Sustainable Development for Lantau

3 March 2005

Since the government announced the Lantau Concept Plan last November, as representatives of various civil society groups we have entered into dialogue with government officials on various occasions with a view to understanding the rationale behind the plan. Subsequent to close examination of the plan and the information made available by the government, we have jointly concluded that the Lantau Concept Plan contains serious flaws because of the following:

1. Lack of justification for proposed developments

Before any facility should be considered on Lantau, the government should provide firstly, a ?needs analysis? to justify why the proposed facility is essential to Hong Kong and how it can equitably benefit the community, and secondly, a ?site selection study? to justify why it is preferable to locate the relevant facility on Lantau and not elsewhere. The limited information provided by relevant government departments showed that neither thorough analysis nor stakeholder consultation for each of the proposed facilities have been conducted.

As these proposed facilities cannot yet be justified by scientific data and community support, it is premature to even consider a draft concept plan for Lantau. For instance, some logistics industry operators are doubtful of the economic viability of a new logistic park given the planned expansion of related facilities at Chek Lap Kok, as well as the lower labour, lower land costs and proximity to vendors in the Mainland.

2. Failure to consider cumulative impacts

The proposed facilities in the Concept Plan, when put together, have a cumulative impact on the environment of Lantau far more significant than each of the individual facilities may have on their own. Not only has this cumulative impact not been explained in the Concept Plan, but also many other related developments, including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, the proposed reclamation of 245 hectares for Container Terminal No. 10 off the shore of Tai O, the proposed LNG Terminal at Soko Islands (which formed part of the 2001 South West New Territories Development Strategy Review), are not even included in the Concept Plan.

The public is therefore being deprived of the opportunity to consider the pros and cons of the Concept Plan in a holistic manner. For instance, the proposed reclamations required for the logistic park and the Container Terminal No. 10 combined will be over 355 hectares, equivalent to 9 times the size of West Kowloon Cultural District.

3. Deviation from community value and sustainable development principles

In recent years the Hong Kong community has demonstrated clearly, through incidents ranging from the harbour reclamation debate to the latest rejection of the Wanchai Mega Tower application, that we do not want ?growth at all costs?, but that only ?quality growth? which respects the environment, enhances our quality of life, and brings about equitable benefits to the entire community will be welcome.

Despite the proclaimed objective of sustainable development, the Concept Plan failed to demonstrate how it can achieve such objectives. On the contrary, many local residents are unsure of how the Plan can bring about sustainable benefits. For instance, Tung Chung residents are worried that the already poor air quality there will be much worsened as the Plan fails to address any of their concerns. With a lower population projection and an unresolved air quality problem, it is also unclear why it is necessary or desirable for the population in Tung Chung to expand by three times to 220,000.

4. Lack of in-depth and informed public participation

Although some government officials, notably from the Planning Department, have been diligent in exchanging views with various community groups, the lack of thorough information and the failure by the various responsible departments to conduct coordinated consultation (e.g. Economic, Development & Labour Bureau, Port Development Council, Tourism Commission) prevented the public from informed debate of the various issues. For instance, the full report on "Study on Hong Kong Port - Master Plan 2020" is not generally available for public scrutiny.

This casts in doubt the quality of public input over the last three months. Furthermore, the format of forums and information sessions also failed to allow the public to undertake in-depth "envisioning" of Lantau's future, which should have been a key objective at this early stage of consultation.

Given the above deficiencies in the Plan, we collectively urge the government to take the following steps regarding the Lantau Concept Plan and the related developments proposed for Lantau:

Step 1: Withdraw the Lantau Concept Plan;

Step 2: For each of the proposed facilities, conduct full "needs analysis" and "site selection analysis" and make the results available to the public in full; Conduct public engagement exercise for each of the facilities (including the HK-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, CT 10 and LNG Terminal) and assess public acceptance on a case-by-case basis;

Step 3: Draw up a Revised Lantau Concept Plan by incorporating the long-established conservation needs and those publicly accepted facilities deemed to be consistent with the vision for Lantau; Conduct a public engagement exercise on the Revised Lantau Concept Plan, setting out cumulative effects through the help of a strategic impact assessment and focusing on the "envisioning" of Lantau in accordance with principles of sustainable development and the community aspiration to Keep Lantau Beautiful.

When considering sustainable development for the entire territory of Hong Kong, we feel strongly that Lantau, due to its unique natural setting, ecological assets and cultural heritage, should be endowed with a "Conservation-First Status". In other words, conservation should be regarded as the default planning presumption for Lantau. Development concepts which are not conservation-oriented should only be considered if they do not compromise the conservation presumption for Lantau as a whole, and each concept must be fully justified on its own. The recommendations contained in the Lantau Conservation Plan, a document issued by six environmental groups in 1998, should be incorporated in any revised Lantau concept plan.

To demonstrate the government's commitment to sustainable development, we urge the Chief Executive to take immediate steps to honour the government's commitment and put into effect the Lantau North (Extension) Country Park gazetted and approved by the Country Parks Board in July 2001. From the public's perspective, this country park extension was intended to be a mitigation of the port and airport development in North Lantau, which should have been put in place even without the new concept plan.

Civil society groups supporting the Joint Statement:

[19 groups in all; not all names are here]

Association of Tai O Environment and Development
Clear the Air
The Conservancy Agency, US (Hong Kong Branch)
The Conservancy Association
Friends of the Earth (HK)
Green Across the Pacific, Inc
Green Lantau Association
Green Power
Green Sense
Green Students Council
Hong Kong Outdoors
Living Islands Movement
Save our Shorelines

Joint_Statement_Lantau_(Chinese).doc

The government rejection of the joint statement (dated the same day, remember) appeared at: Gov't clarifies Lantau development issue

Below is a rejection of the rejection I drafted; See no evil, hear no evil (on Friends of the Earth website) is a related commentary by John Bowden of Save Our Shorelines, Edwin Lau of Friends of the Earth and Christian Masset of Clear the Air.
{mospagebreak title=Green Groups Reject Govt Rejection of Lantau Statement}

Green Groups Reject Rushed, Insubstantial Rejection of Lantau Statement

Massive projects planned, yet "consultation" exercise flimsy

Civil groups in a loose alliance dedicated to helping keep Lantau beautiful are deeply concerned by the Government's rejection of a Joint Statement on Sustainable Development for Lantau. Far more discussion is needed, particularly as plans for Lantau together represent the single largest infrastructure development in Hong Kong's history: reclamation for just one project, a logistics park, could be five times the area of the West Kowloon Cultural District.

The joint statement - signed by 19 mostly environmental organisations including the Conservancy Association, Friends of the Earth, the Green Lantau Association, Green Power and the World Wide Fund for Nature - was issued on 1 March. Two days later, the government issued a purported clarification, rejecting the statement.

"It is extremely disappointing that whilst government is now supposedly working to forge consensus, the rejection was issued rapidly, with no serious rebuttal of concerns regarding plans for Lantau," said [[Martin Williams, HK Outdoors]]. "Rather than indicating the government is willing to listen to the Hong Kong public, and enter into a dialogue, the rejection makes a series of unsupported allegations."

The Lantau Development Task Force, headed by Henry Tang, invited public input on the Concept Plan for Lantau. Yet the consultation process lasted just three months; and the summary rejection of the joint statement suggests the government's intention may be to accept opinions in favour of the original proposal, and to reject those which raise alternatives to and question the Concept Plan.

The rejection, appearing on the government's Environment News webpages, asserts that, " The government has adopted a balanced and sustainable planning approach integrating both development and conservation needs." This flatly contradicts detailed concerns raised by groups with expertise in environmental issues, who submitted that no such balance had been achieved.

The rejection also asserts that, "The community has enthusiastically responded to the proposals". This seems curious, given the joint statement, coupled with responses from various groups and many individuals that were strongly critical of the Concept Plan - suggesting a significant proportion of responses "enthusiastically" opposed the plan.

Key criticisms made in the joint statement - and largely or wholly ignored in the government's rejection - were:
• Lack of justification for proposed developments
• Failure to consider cumulative impacts
• Deviation from community value and sustainable development principles
• Lack of in-depth and informed public participation

Further, the joint statement urged the government to take the following steps:
• Withdraw the Concept Plan
• For each of the proposed projects, conduct a full needs analysis
• Draw up a Revised Lantau Concept Plan, and conduct a public engagement exercise, ensuring developments will meet the community's aspirations to keep Lantau beautiful

The rejection ignores these recommendations; likewise the belief expressed in the joint statement that Lantau should be endowed with a "Conservation-First Status".

All civil groups who signed the joint statement fully endorse true sustainable development, and public consultation. They believe, however, that there are many possible scenarios for Lantau development - one example being a proposed "ark~eden", which would focus on Lantau's unique biodiversity and cultural heritage.

All signatories look forward to entering into a constructive dialogue with the government, as well as concerned groups and individuals, to build on this unique opportunity to make Lantau an example of government/community cooperation, achieving a genuine balance of environmental sustainability and economic growth for Lantau, and for Hong Kong as a whole.

 

 

DocMartin

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