Why does “sustainable development” now seem a readily bandied about, abused term – deployed for developments that have little regard for our environment, or for people today, or for future generations?
Here’s a letter I sent the South China Morning Post, during the (ahem) election for Chief Executive [December 2005].
It was good to hear that Donald Tsang plans to nurture an environment essential for our future sustainable growth and development. But I wonder if the envisaged sustainable growth and development is the kind that will safeguard our natural environment for future generations; or does it mean continual concreting, and never-ending projects and profits for developers?
Perhaps answers will be revealed through the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge project. This is within the Concept Plan for Lantau, which espouses “sustainable development”. Yet, especially once it was decided to make the bridge road only, it instantly became an unsustainable project.
Bridge construction will have adverse impacts. Even if part of the bridge runs through a tunnel, there will be fumes from road vehicles, especially trucks fuelled by diesel.
*Then, has any assessment done on whether developments arising from the operational bridge will be sustainable?
*Will the Zhuhai area become concrete and factories? If so, how will this slam the already poor environment in much of the Pearl River delta, including Hong Kong?
I’ve recently read of Shenzhen officials saying Shenzhen?s development is not sustainable. But it appears the bridge and associated projects have few or no safeguards to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Further, I’ve seen commentaries on inadvisable or plain silly ?prestige projects? in China. Zhuhai already has its share of white elephants, like its “international” airport and formula one racetrack. In Hong Kong, we too have daft schemes: Cyberport appears a classic folly.
We shouldn’t have more such perhaps foolish projects foisted upon us without strong, widespread debate. Yet, the bridge is evidently being rushed. Construction is reportedly set to begin within months, yet so far as I know the environmental impact assessment is not complete in Hong Kong; nor have we had widespread debate; nor a consideration of overall impacts.
The bridge also seems to highlight the contradictions of Dr Sarah Liao’s position as head of Transport and Works – and the Environment. It appears her green hat has vanished: otherwise, why no forthright arguments in favour of a rail-only bridge, or for no bridge landing in Hong Kong at all?
Why, indeed, does “sustainable development” now seem a readily bandied about, abused term – deployed for developments that have little regard for our environment, or for people today, or for future generations.
Thanks to translation arranged by Christian Masset of Clear the Air, so the letter could be sent to Chinese language press, here is a Chinese version: Martin-W-scmp letter-re-bridge-Chinese.doc.