Letter in S China Morning Post on 13 Nov:
Various newspapers (see links below) have published the powerful argument that due process needs to be respected for Lung Mei or many development projects would stall. The development of the artificial beach at Lung Mei, Tolo Harbour, has gone through statutory town planning, reclamation, and environmental impact procedures. The local district council was consulted often, ExCo decided to support and LegCo approved the funding of HK$200 million.
It appears that not everyone is aware that the Secretary for the Environment and the Director of Environmental Protection have received substantive information recently from members of the ‘Save Lung Mei’ alliance including Designing Hong Kong identifying endangered species and alternatives sites which have not been reviewed during the process. This information cannot be disposed by simply saying that it is government policy that the beach should be built. The members have requested for a review of the Environmental Permit for the beach under section 14 of the EIA Ordinance. The Secretary and the Director must now decide whether material information about the project's impacts was concealed, and whether there is cause to suspend, vary or cancel the permit.
We appreciate concern over due process and mounting frustrations over the stop-starts of projects and policies. We need to find out how it is possible that despite a rigorous due process we are to develop an artificial beach on top of ecologically valuable mud flats along the Ting Kok coast. There are alternative locations along the nearby sandy coastline of To Tau Wan and Wu Kai Sha where bathing beaches could be gazetted for enjoyment by residents of the East New Territories. And to attract the visitors the land owners in Lung Mei are after, board walks and an eco centre can be built to enable the enjoyment of the local ecology.
How come that Hong Kong’s institutions involved in the process failed as gatekeepers? For example, the Advisory Council of the Environment (ACE) which accepted the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in 2008? The artificial beach proposal was controversial. Unusually for ACE, it went to the vote and was deadlocked until the Chairman cast his tie-breaking vote in favour despite the grave misgivings. The precautionary principal should have prevailed. Has ACE been emasculated with the appointment of persons with little connection or interest in nature conservation? Is our EIA process a development tool, rather than a sustainable planning and conservation tool? Does the process guarantee insufficient common sense for the community and decision makers to rely on it?
Designing Hong Kong – CEO
I've done a piece appearing in Sunday Morning Post, on Lung Mei "battle" as the ordinary becomes extraordinary – part of casual trashing of our world