There is Sufficient Land but a Lack of Planning. Don't Sacrifice the Environment for the Sake of Development
(Hong Kong, 19 September 2018) Friends of the Earth (HK) [FoE (HK)] attended a special meeting of the Legislative Council's Panel on Development today to express our views on planning for land supply in Hong Kong. FoE (HK) urged the Government to balance development and environmental protection so that Hong Kong can follow a path of truly sustainable development.
Dr. Jeffrey Hung, Acting Senior Programme Manager, Friends of the Earth (HK) said that "Hong Kong needs sustainable development, not sustainable growth. The Government frequently emphasizes that Hong Kong must create the capacity to achieve sustainable development. However, development within the country parks as well as marine reclamation cause irreversible environmental and ecological damage and most certainly cannot be regarded as sustainable development."
FoE (HK) urges the Government to adopt the following three recommendations:
1. Environmental Conservation Must Not be Sacrificed
According to the Country Parks Ordinance, about 40% of land in Hong Kong is designated as Country Park. It should be stressed that country parks are not solely designated for improving the physical and mental wellbeing of Hong Kong people, but also for the provision of habitats for precious species. Although Hong Kong is very small in area, its unique topography and subtropical climate nourish a rich biological diversity. Biological diversity is very important and is a direct reflection of the health of the ecosystem. The United Nations Convention on biological diversity long ago pointed out that destruction of natural habitats is the greatest threat to biological diversity. The government's recommendations for developing country park 'peripheral areas' and for large scale reclamation are particularly regrettable. In the Country Parks Ordinance, no distinction is made between 'core' and 'periphery'. The peripheral areas are part of the ecology of the country parks. They can serve as a buffer between urban development and the countryside. Additionally, reclamation not only destroys marine habitats, affects fish stocks and threatens endangered species, but also ultimately inflicts irreversible damage on the marine ecology.
2. Increase Land Supply through the Resumption of Brownfields
Hong Kong has approximately 1,300 ha of brownfield sites, sufficient to meet the short term target of 1,200 ha set by the Government. Many of these sites have been converted from agricultural land into open-air car parks, garages, and container storages, with a relatively low contribution to the economy. From time to time, recycling yards located within these brownfields are found to be illegally handling toxic electronic waste. Such polluting industries are a source of serious environmental contamination. The Government should recover the brownfields for housing purposes using the Lands Resumption Ordinance. At the same time, the Government should look for suitable space, such as in multi-story buildings, to relocate high value brownfield industries. By prioritising the resumption of under-utilised brownfields, and the rehabilitation and revitalization of ageing buildings, the projected land requirement for housing development can be met.
3. Pursue Sustainable Development, Not Sustainable Growth
Hong Kong has to pursue sustainable development, not sustainable growth. The government constantly emphasizes creating capacity for sustainable growth. However, development within country parks and marine reclamation would cause irreversible damage to the environment and ecosystems, which is definitely not sustainable growth. Is land shortage a problem in Hong Kong? There is sufficient land for housing in spite of the fact that more than 20% of Hong Kong is developed land and 40% is country park. FoE (HK) urges the Government to have long-term planning for sustainable development. We celebrate the Country Parks Ordinance, which protects our country parks. If the ordinance is revised, our precious country parks will be gradually eroded.