Grannie Green Revivial

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Chp 85, Long Valley – Forty years champion for the environment

Long Valley

In the history of conservation in Hong Kong, the Long Valley episode is legendary. It was almost like a bird standing in the way of a train and de-railing it.

CA had played a leading role in the Long Valley saga, with Ng Cho Nam as the champion. It is worth reproducing the chronology from CA’s homepage:

The Conservancy Association ‘s Long Valley Campaign
Date Events
30-01-2000 Organized a site visit to appreciate the beauty and ecological value of Long Valley
16-05- 2000 Organized a press conference with the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society and World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong to present alternative alignments for Lok Ma Chau spurline
03-06-2000 Ng Cho Nam expressed his concern for the Long Valley in the radio programme “Letter to Hong Kong”
20-06-2000 Met Transport Bureau with Hon Emily Lau and Hon Lee Cheuk Yan and other green groups
23-06-2000 CA led a coalition and sent an open letter to the Chief Executive to lodge objection to the Spur Line.
23-06-2000 A joint press conference was organized.
29-06-2000 CA article on KCRC’s arbitrariness published in Economic Journal
30-06-2000 Facilitated the set-up of the Joint University Save Long Valley Group which presented a position paper, initiated a website for releasing news of the Long Valley and an online signature campaign
08-07-2000 Facilitated a march by the Joint University Save Long Valley Group
10-07-2000 Submitted comments on the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Environmental Impact Assessment report to the Director of Environmental Protection objecting to the issue of environmental permit
14-07-2000 Sent comments to the EIA report to KY Yeung, then Chairman of KCRC
20-07-2000 Supported LegCo member Hon Law Chi Kwong’s signature campaign and received 18 LegCo members’ objections to the Spur Line
21-07-2000 Responded to Advisory Council on the Environment’s conclusion to the EIA report
05-10-2000 Wrote to Nicholas Ng, then Secretary for Transport, to request him to retract his remarks made on 4 October 2000 which were reported to have alluded to the environmental impacts of the Spur Line and the issuing of the environmental permit by the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
08-10-2000 Organized the Green Ribbon Campaign at Hung Hom KCRC station with hundreds citizens tying green ribbons
08-10-2000 With support from over 10 organizations, sent a joint open letter to the SAR government titled “Say No to Capital Punishment to Long Valley”
16-10-2000 Press release responding to DEP’s refusal to accept the EIA report
19-01-2001 Wrote to Chief Executive with Catholic “Messengers of Green Consciousness”, Green China Foundation, Green Power and Hong Kong Bird Watching Society to seek appropriate action against appeal of KCRC to DEP’s decision
30-07-2001 Organized a green groups joint press conference right after the Long Valley Appeal hand-down
30-07-2001 Issued its own response welcoming the EIA Appeal Board’s verdict and urging the government to work out a conservation policy

The question was simple: should railway company KCRC build a Spur Line from Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau across Long Valley, a site of ecological interest. The project had been approved by the government and would go full steam ahead once KCRC obtained an environmental permit from Rob Law, the Director of Environmental Protection. The green groups’ case was that its EIA report was not satisfactory and the permit should not be issued.

As described in CA’s submission to DEP on the EIA in July 2000, Long Valley should be regarded as an “absolute constraint” for any development. With 97 species of butterflies, 9 amphibians and reptiles and 213 birds, the ecological value of Long Valley should be self-evident. Even the EIA report itself described it as the “largest remaining area of such habitat in Hong Kong” with “high landscape quality and high sensitivity to change due to the openness of the landscape.” And if an EIA were to go ahead anyway, at least it should have been done properly; yet CA found many causes of complaint:

  • absence of year-long survey;
  • lack of information on amphibians, reptiles and mammals;
  • lack of justification of preferred alignment compared to alternative routes;
  • inadequate mitigation and compensation measures even in the Report’s own terms;
  • lack of scientific evidence to support whether the proposed mitigation and compensation measures would work;
  • no provision of fallback measures;
  • failure to meet the criteria of “no net loss in area or function” under the planning guidelines for development in the Wetland Conservation Areas of the Ramsar site (net loss of 9.5 ha of fishponds);
  • failure to provide adequate assessment of the cumulative impacts from various current and planned projects along the Spur Line (e.g. Shenzhen river training, San Tin drainage channel);
  • failure to consider the impact on tenant farmers in Long Valley;
  • impossibility of mitigating visual and landscape impact; and
  • failure to address the damages to the high cultural heritage value of Long Valley.

Clearly, Long Valley was not just a protest movement but a highly knowledge-based campaign. In the end the green groups won on reason and rationality, but not without spending effort to mobilize the public, and in CA’s case that meant the green ribbon campaign on 8 October 2000.

On 16 October 2000 DEP rejected the EIA report, but the green group’s victory was only partial. KCRC decided to appeal and put forward volumes of additional material in preparation for the hearing, scheduled to start from April 2001.

On 30 July 2001, the EIA Appeal Board dismissed the appeal, and history was made. That day was also the rare occasion when champagne corks popped as green groups gathered.

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July 2, 2015 - Posted by | Dr WK Chan book

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