Grannie Green Revivial

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Chp 78, Tai Ho – Forty years champion for the environment

Tai Ho

Tai Ho consists of a wetland rich in freshwater species, with a stream leading out to a clan of mangroves and a valley housing the historic village of Pak Mong. Under the government’s proposed development plans for North Lantau in 1999, the stream and wetland would be permanently destroyed by the reclamation planned for Tai Ho along the stream and the waterfront. The development pressure would be aggravated if another proposal for a new trunk road between Mui Wo and Tai Ho materialized. Against these proposals, CA advocated preservation of the wetland ecology and the historic village of Pak Mong, and proposed that the area be zoned Sites of Special Scientific Interests (SSSI) to facilitate its protection. Indigenous villagers, on the other hand, threatened to resume farming and destroy the wetland. The conflict came to a head when a mangrove area with SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) designation on Tai Ho stream was destroyed maliciously. CA protested to Secretary for Planning Environment and Lands Gordon Siu in a letter on 25 June 1999 and requested that the government establish legal means of protecting SSSI sites against destruction.

In response to the strong views of CA and other green groups, the Territory Development Department announced the Recommended Outline Development Plan on Tung Chung and Tai Ho in January 2000. Under the new plan, a large part of the adajacent North Lantau areas were proposed to be designated Conservation Area and country park. The original reclamations for Tung Chung and Tai Ho streams were withdrawn, through some reclamation proposal was retained at the exit of the Tai Ho stream. In a letter of 24 January 2000, CA welcomed the revised plan but proposed that the remaining reclamation be moved eastward to allow the smooth opening of the Tai Ho Stream.

In 2001, the proposed North-South link through Tai Ho was scrapped thus sparing the Valley of another outpouring of concrete. Subsequently Tai Ho was designated one of the twelve sites of the new conservation policy in 2003.

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment

Chp 77, North South Lantau Link – Forty years champion for the environment

North-South Lantau Link

In 1999, the government proposed to widen Tung Chung Road to improve safety on the narrow and winding passageway through North and South Lantau. CA deliberated this at the Current Affairs Committee throughout 1999 to 2001, questioning the need for the project and querying that the widening might be a step towards intensifying development in South Lantau. Furthermore, a widening of the road beyond 3 meters would encroach upon the country park.

In December 2000, Transport Bureau called a meeting of green groups to discuss north-south traffic on Lantau, expressing its preference for widening of Tung Chung road but at the same time sounding out the possibility of a bigger-scale tunnel link between Mui Wo and Siu Ho Wan. CA, represented by Hung Wing Tat, objected to both. Nevertheless, the call for broadening the north-south link in Lantau intensified, with a new proposal to construct a road link from Tai Ho to Mui Wo. This would both threaten the ecology of the Tai Ho valley as well as encroach upon the South Lantau Country Park. CA was a vehement opponent of the idea.

After two years of negotiations, in 2001 CA successfully lobbied for the new north-south link to be scrapped while agreeing to a limited widening of Tung Chung Road mainly on safety grounds.

June 23, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment

Chp 76, Sub-regional Planning: Lantau – Forty years champion for the environment

Sub-regional Planning: Lantau

The consultation document for South West New Territories Development Strategy Review, released in 1992, was really about developing Lantau Island. CA sent in its comments in November 1992 basically stating that it supported the least development scenario under which development would be limited to the Tung Chung and Tai Ho areas in North Lantau, forming a support community for the planned new airport, while the rest would be protected from urban sprawl. CA objected to new road apart from upgrading of Tung Chung Road. Other development ideas were rejected, whether reclamation for Tai O, Cheung Chau or developing Peng Chau.

But Lantau continued to come under development pressure. As the opening of the new airport beckoned, CA joined five other green groups to publish A Conservation Strategy for Lantau and submitted it to the HKSAR Chief Executive on 31 July 1998. Drafted by the Green Lantau Association, the document detailed Lantau’s conservation value such as its fresh water and river habitats, the Romer’s frog, rare orchids, birds and pink dolphin, with 16 recommendations covering preservation of Tai Ho, protection of Tung Chung river, reduction of reclamation, and expansion of Country Park and Marine Park.

The product of earlier consultations was the August 1999 document by the Planning Department on “South West Territorial Development Strategy Review – Recommended Options”. Under the new options, Lantau would be divided into four sub-regions including a recreation-oriented North East, new towns in North Lantau including possible development in Tai Ho, a religious and cultural theme for North West Lantau, and a South Lantau for conservation and sustainable development. The development plans, if realized, envisaged a population of some 493,000 on the island by 2011, in addition to various development projects such as Disney theme park, golf course, hotels, convention facilities and resort areas.

With Green Lantau Association, CA held a forum on 11 December 1999 on conservation and development of Lantau. The main message was to object to the development-led approach in planning the future of Lantau. Represented by Hung Wing Tat, CA called for a conservation-first approach and a drastic reduction in the scale of development for Lantau, with emphasis on preserving the natural and rural character. According to CA, further development should be limited to North Lantau which already housed the new airport. There should be no new hotels or resorts whether in Mui Wo, Ngong Ping, Soko Islands or the adjacent outlying islands of Peng Chau and Cheung Chau. Public transport should be the mode in any further expansion. Accordingly, CA did not object to the cable car for Ngong Ping. CA however opposed the plan for a container terminal immediately off North Lantau.

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment

Chp 75, Edinburgh Place – Forty years champion for the environment

Edinburgh Place

The planned Central Wanchai Bypass was, among other things, intended to resolve the traffic congestion in Central, but the controversies over harbour reclamation in the Central waterfront has brought uncertainties to the construction of the Bypass. In 1999, to relieve congestion on Connaught Road, the Transport Department proposed to construct a temporary road from Connaught Place outside Jardine House through to Lung Wui Road in Tamar, covering Edinburgh Place in front of City Hall. The net effect was to turn Edinburgh Place into part of the road, causing Star Ferry and Queen’s Pier to be cut off from City Hall.

CA launched a signature campaign on 25 July 1999 to object to the proposal. Pointing out the 10,000 people walk through or enjoyed the corridor and open spaces around Edinburgh Place every hour, CA considered the preservation of the historic public open space far more important than the convenience of some motorists which could be managed through other means of traffic management. Despite that, Government gazetted the temporary road on 3 December 1999. CA submitted a formal objection to the Secretary for Transport on 4 January 2000, stating that Queen’s Pier and Edinburgh Place were “landmarks in the history of Hong Kong. Former colonial governors and members of the Royal Family who came to Hong Kong were all landed there. It is of vital importance to preserve such a unique place and its monuments not just for tourists’ interest but also for their irreplaceable historical value.” CA also expressed concern over pollution as well as tree felling necessitated by the road.

On 20 June 2000 CA was invited to a joint meeting of a few government departments who explained the necessity of the temporary link from the government’s point of view, but CA stood firm on its opposition. On 23 June CA made another submission reiterating its opposition and reaffirming its concern on the environmental, cultural and safety impacts of the proposed link. CA’s argument was supported with data from a traffic survey conducted by CA director and transport expert Hung Wing Tat, which casted doubt on the seriousness of the congestion problem. In the submission CA also contested the notion of the eventuality of Edinburgh Place being lost due to the then planned reclamation – a matter on which CA was later proved right – and put forward the concept of the City Hall, Edinburgh Place and Queen’s Pier together as a totality to be preserved in the planning of the “new Central”.

On 9 October 2000 the Highways Department replied with an elaborate 18-point letter rejecting CA’s submission, stating, among other things, that the temporary link was “absolutely essential” to alleviate traffic congestion in Central, although they agreed that Edinburgh Place was an important historical site. CA was invited to reconsider its views, but replied on 23 October with a long letter reaffirming our opposition and addressing the 18 issues point-by-point.

The assumption was then that the plan and CA’s opposition would all be submitted to the Executive Council for a final decision. Before that took place, however, CA learnt in May 2001 that the plans for the temporary link were withdrawn. That was a victory scored through perseverance.

In June 2003, CA understood that Transport Department was planning to revive the project, and continued to object to the link. Later on, Edinburgh Place’s preservation was assured by a re-planning of the Central Outline Zoning Plan, though Star Ferry and Queen’s Pier were sadly dismantled to give way for reclamation.

June 21, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment

Chp 74, Mature trees on Kennedy Road – Forty years champion for the environment

Mature trees on Kennedy Road

The Kennedy Road Improvements and Queen’s Lines Link is a flyover system developed by the Highways Department to connect Kennedy Road with Justice Drive and Supreme Court Road, to provide a new corridor linking the city and the peak area through the mid-levels. The project would include a 15.8m wide 4-lane flyover, with 400m of dual-2-lane carriage way on Kennedy Road, necessitating the felling of some 400 trees in the woodland between Pacific Place and Wanchai. Among its other impacts was the irreparable damage to the habitat of protected bat species in the woodland.

Kennedy Road residents rallied behind the CA at a press conference held on 15 May 1998 against the scheme. Tying the trees with green ribbons, CA collected 2,800 signatures. But the Highways Department went ahead and gazetted the plan in June 1998. CA submitted its formal objection on 24 June, supplemented with another letter on 7 July which went together with the signatures collected.

A meeting was held with government officials on 24 September 1998 but CA remained unconvinced that a new corridor was needed to supplement the Cotton Tree Drive/Garden Road corridor. Apart from the ecological impact and the felling of mature trees, CA also objected to the air and noise pollution and the additional traffic disturbance to Kennedy Road.

On 26 October Highways Department invited CA to withdraw, after promising to minimize the environmental impact and to replant the felled trees. CA flatly refused through its reply of 16 November. Another letter from Highways on 24 December came with “further explanation”, but CA got back on 11 January 1999 again maintaining its position of not withdrawing. Later in 1999, Highways Department agreed to shelve the project thus sparing the trees from the axe.

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment