Hong Kong biodiversity may benefit from strategy

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    Excellent article in China Daily includes:

    Conflicts between development projects and environmentalists seem to be escalating in Hong Kong. The government is working on plans to resolve tensions and protect biodiversity. Doug Meigs reports.

    The Nam Sang Wai project is just one of a growing number of environmental flashpoints between developers and green groups.

    Since last fall, a controversy over an endangered lightning bug has stalled Cheung Kong Holding's bid to build 19 residential blocks in Fong Lok Wai on the fringe of the Ramsar Site. A columbarium project slated for Sha Lo Tong in Tai Po drew fire from environmentalists last summer, because the site for the columbarium is a critical habit for rare butterflies and dragonflies.

    More recent outcries have erupted because of government plans to create an artificial beach at Lung Mei in Tolo Harbor. Green groups claim the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) failed to give sufficient consideration to Lung Mei's teeming aquatic life, starfish, seahorses and other rare creatures.

    Other causes clbres from the local animal kingdom have spanned pink dolphins, finless porpoises, black-faced spoonbills, even the once-thought-to-be-extinct Romer's tree frog. Hong Kong's lack of any territory-wide plan for managing biodiversity is partly to be blamed for persistent conflicts, says Wilson Lau, a researcher at Civic Exchange, a local nonpartisan policy think tank.

    Lau describes the current balance between development and conservation as "reactive" instead of "proactive". Change might be on the way. The global Convention on Biological Diversity extended to Hong Kong in May of 2011. As a result, the territory must begin implementing a Biodiversity Action Plan (BSAP) by 2015.

    "A more comprehensive and holistic plan would hopefully help to reduce conflicts and create better understanding," Lau says, speaking at a Dec 20 press conference to debut Civic Exchange's publication of "Developing a Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Hong Kong," a pamphlet meant to offer guidance and background to government officials.

    Lisa Hopkinson wrote the document… "Hong Kong is far behind, even though we have an existing conservation policy," she says

    Obstacles to implementing a successful action plan are obvious to Prof David Dudgeon, chair of ecology & biodiversity at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

    He says that a considerable amount of biodiversity research already exists, but the data is mostly outdated, inconsistent or not publicly available.

    "Science is not the main constraint on implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hong Kong; it is the attitude of developers, local people of all stripes, and groups such as the Heung Yee Kuk who feel that biodiversity does not matter in any important way," Dudgeon says.

    "Until government is prepared to put some weight behind biodiversity conservation efforts – including measures such as land resumption, development moratoria, and simply taking the issue as seriously as they take economic development – then none of science-related concerns affecting the CBD will matter much."

    Biodiversity plans to please

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