Tagged: Carrie Lam
Pui O wetlands ‘close to unviable’ as govt fails to act
Lantau activists have slammed government officials over their failure to stop the continued destruction of the Pui O wetlands.
Ham Tin resident Martin Lerigo, who has led a campaign to save the vanishing wetlands for five years, has warned that they are “close to unviable.”
In a letter to the Sustainable Lantau Office (SLO), he said “vandalism continues unabated with seemingly little interest” from government officials.
Since officials last visited four months ago “there has been considerable further damage to the Pui O wetlands including multiple areas of fencing off, including across streams and mangroves,” he wrote.
“The wetlands are now close to being unviable as a home to the unique water buffaloes of Hong Kong, much loved by local people and visitors alike.”
The SLO was formed in 2017 as part of the government’s push to develop Lantau. Despite its name, it is a unit of the CEDD, staffed mostly by civil engineers.
It is responsible for carrying out the government’s conservation policies as well as development, but has few staff with environmental expertise.
Another resident, Tom Yam of Mui Wo, says the SLO’s conservation efforts have been “an abject failure, with more pristine wetland damaged and no damaged land recovered.”
The agency has set “no specific results or deliverables,” and has “no management plan that holds individuals and organisation accountable,” he said.
“It makes a mockery of your claim to ‘conserve the south and develop the north’ in Lantau. We only see development in the north and degradation in the south.”
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has vowed on multiple occasions to protect the Pui O wetlands, the city’s last major remaining buffalo habitat, but has yet to enact any new policies.
She has promised but not delivered a HK$1 billion Lantau Conservation Fund.
Lerigo asked if the office had taken any action to halt CLP’s connection of electricity supply to illegal structures. “This is a key driver of the environmental vandalism.”
He pointed out that a removal notice had been issued on an illegally-developed site seen by SLO officials on their most recent visit , yet “fencing is still there and has been expanded.”
Lerigo also asked:
- If the SLO had taken any action to increase the level of conservation expertise. “Only four out of the SLO’s 111 staff have any professional expertise in conservation matters.”
- If any progress had been made in setting up the Lantau Conservation Fund
- The status of its proposal to use resumption or a managed scheme as a solution
Lam won’t condemn wetland dumping or amend law to stop it
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has refused to condemn wetland dumping and has ruled out any changes to the law to preserve Lantau and other threatened areas.
Lam admitted in Legco yesterday that there were “loopholes in the law” but said that some “behaviour that looks like it is harming the ecology may not in fact be illegal.”
Lam’s comments, her first on the issue since protestors dumped waste on her doorstep on Sunday, were in response to a question from legislator Eddie Chu, who brandished a toilet seat found in a Pui O landfill.
Chu asked the CE if she would condemn those who “have exploited legal loopholes” to damage Coastal Protection Area land on South Lantau.
He also asked if she would amend the law to ensure its preservation.
Lam declined to answer, but acknowledged there was “room for improvement in monitoring and enforcement.”
She called for stronger public education “to protect our beautiful coastline and other rural areas.”
Lam’s responses fail to distinguish between fly-tipping, which is illegal, and landfilling, which has become government-authorised waste dumping in rural areas.
They also fly in the face of her own policy, which is to conserve South Lantau generally and Pui O wetland specifically.
In her October policy address Lam said Lantau would be conserved by the new Sustainable Lantau Office, based on the Sustainable Lantau Blueprint issued last June.
“Measures for conservation of Pui O wetland are being explored,” it states.
Yet when it comes to ensuring these “treasured” ecosystems can be preserved, Lam not only is unable to offer any “measures” – she cannot find fault with the steady destruction taking place.
It is clear the CE has no intention of taking on powerful rural interests to stop wetlands from disappearing under a mountain of construction waste.
Protestors dump Lantau waste at Govt House, warn of further action
Demonstrators dumped construction waste outside Carrie Lam’s residence today to protest landfilling and wetland destruction, with Legco member Eddie Chu warning of further protests “if the government ignores us.”
The rally of about 30 people marched from Central ferry pier, bringing with them two trolleys filled with waste from South Lantau landfill sites.
They poured the trash onto the ground at the Government House gate to remind Lam that conserving South Lantau and protecting the wetlands are her own policies.
A police sergeant accepted a petition on behalf of Lam.
A police contingent almost as large as the protest itself watched over the event.
Eddie Chu told the demonstrators:
“We will come back if the government does not take the right actions to deal with this dumping issue.
“This is only the first action. There will be actions following if the government ignores us.
“We will not allow this to happen in South Lantau. We are not going to allow it to happen anywhere in rural Hong Kong.”
Paul Zimmerman, head of Designing Hong Kong and a candidate for the architectural constitutency at the forthcoming by-election, said the government needed to introduce new legislation to protect rural Hong Kong.
“If you want development in Hong Kong you have to give confidence to people that conservation truly is conservation,” he said.
He said landfilling of the kind carried out in rural Hong Kong was “destruction on purpose, to create development value,” to ensure land was already destroyed so it could be rezoned.
But the symbolic waste dumping may come at a cost to the protestors. Organiser Eddie Tse, head of the Save Lantau Allianced said police had warned him he could be fined for dumping the waste.