Saying Goodbye to Our Country Parks
The Chief Executive has referred the map of the Clear Water Bay Country Park to the Country and Marine Parks Authority to excise an area of 5 hectares for the extension of the South East New Territories landfill.
The Board of the authority could have said no or recommended a new area to be added under section 4 of the Country Park Ordinance (Cap. 208). It did neither.
Instead, the Board spent its time reviewing the need for the landfill extension and failed to ask for a compensation to protect the country park.
In November, it published the map of the reduced park for public comments.
Last Friday, 6 March 2009, during a hearing of objectors to this new map, matters got worse: The Government representative read out a statement explicitly refuting the existence of a 'no net loss policy'.
This contradicts the policy in the Second Review of the White Paper on “Pollution in Hong Kong - A Time to Act” published in 1993:
"Our conservation policy has evolved over many years. In simple terms, it seeks to conserve and enhance our natural environment by protecting existing conservation areas and heritage features by identifying new areas for such conservation, and by compensating for areas which merit conservation but which are inevitably lost to essential development projects.”
To protect a conservation area there must be a presumption against the violation of its boundaries. For an area to be excised it must be established through due public process and cogent materials that the action is 'inevitable' and that the development project is 'essential' and without any reasonable alternative. When boundaries are to be violated, sufficient and adequate compensation must be offered.
The fact that we still get free plastic bags, that product packaging is without recycling information, that there is no recycling obligation, that charges for waste disposal are minimal or non-existent, that there are other landfills and that there is no incinerator, makes the claim that the landfill extension is inevitable hard to accept.
Importantly, without safeguarding the amount and quality of land designated for each Country Park, the Country and Marine Parks Board creates a dangerous precedent whereby the absolute nature of our parks, and a corner stone of our conservation policy, is lost forever.
Luck has bestowed the Country Parks on the people of Hong Kong, a gift to be treasured.
In response to the many objections the Board should use its powers under section 11 (6) (b) of the ordinance and recommend an expansion of the Clear Water Bay Country Park elsewhere to compensate for the 5 hectares to be excised for the landfill.
To help luck along, we have asked the Panel on Environmental Affairs of the Legislative Council to direct the Board on their responsibilities and the Government on their land policies.
(Those who don't want to say goodbye to our country parks, the objectors to the smaller Clear Water Bay Country Park, are WWF, Conservancy Association, Green Sense, Green Power, Kadoorie Farm, Designing Hong Kong, HK Bird Watching Society, MTR, Sai Kung District Council members, and many others.)