16th April, 2013
Man-made Island Plan Approved, Ping Chau Residents Worry
Legislative Council’s Panel of Development approved a USD260 million funding application for a strategic study project for the construction of “East Lantau Metropolis” on 7th April. The application is passed to Legco’s Public Works Subcommittee for review. This is the first time the Development Bureau released information about the plan to build a man-made island near Kau Yi Chau. The plan includes reclaiming 600-800 hectare of land for both commercial and residential use. The government’s plan also includes building one to two more islands (a maximum of four man-made islands in the area totaling 2,400 hectare). Ping Chau resident Benny, a member of Ping Chau Reclamation Concern Group, said in an interview with Passion Time’s online show that the HKSAR Government started to look into the ways for reclamation in between Hong Kong Island and Lantau Island since 2012. Ping Chau sits right between the two islands, and the Concern Group was set up by volunteers who want to gather information to raise public awareness. Benny also said that the Concern Group takes a neutral position in the proposed reclamation, its goal is to gather information for the people in Ping Chau to discuss the pros and cons. According to Benny, the HKSAR Government’s released only partial information about the plan in two years of consultations, which is also misleading. He also said that the Government’s partial disclosure is core reason for conflict between the authorities and the Concern Group.
During the first consultation, Benny said, the majority of the public was against the plan (over 50% objects reclamation), but at the second consultation, the government lied that many people did not object reclamation in the first consultation. During these two consultations, the plan about reclaiming land near Kau Yi Chau was not disclosed. Benny said that should reclamation take place, Kau Yi Chau is the most suitable location geographically, but the government has yet to release any detail information. Benny questioned that given the government refuses to provide detail information of the plan, it is impossible for the public to offer meaningful opinions.
Lam Sai-hung, Head of Civil Engineering Office, Civil Engineering and Development Department, was interviewed by RTHK’s radio programme on 8th April, but refused to answer if Kau Yi Chau is the selected location for reclamation in the plan. The programme host said that reclamation and development plan of Kau Yi Chau was detailed in the final report submitted to the CEDD by the appointed consultancy.
Benny stressed that the authorities repeatedly refused to confirm the selected location and size of the man-made islands in the public, so the public cannot understand how such plan could affect them. He believes that the government should increase the degree of transparency in providing information about their plans, and disclose all details of these plans to the public, for example the exact location they have selected for reclamation.
Financial Committee at Legco will be deliberating on the funding approval in May 2014. Benny said that the Concern Group has yet to finalise any actions but will continue to gather information about the plan for the public to discuss. He said that Ping Chau residents worry about two things: (1) if the reclamation project is a large scale one, their lives will be completely and permanently changed; (2) the government has been remaining ambiguous about the details of the reclamation plan, Ping Chau residents are constantly nervous about the final outcome that they cannot forecast.