CHINA DAILY 中國日報
Enviro groups oppose Tai Po beach plan
Updated: 2012-10-19 06:51
By Ming Yeung (HK Edition)
Green groups urged the government on Thursday to halt a planned artificial beach along the shore in Tai Po, arguing that the area has high ecological value although it is not well suited for swimming.
Hong Kong Wildlife Forum, the Conservancy Association and Green Sense charged the government will breach two international treaties, namely the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the Convention on Biological Diversity, to which Hong Kong is a signatory, if it insists on going ahead with the controversial project.
Spokesman for the forum, Derek Li, said the organization had found four Hippocampus kuda, commonly known as "kuda seahorse", at Lung Mei Beach, where the government is planning to develop a HK$200-million bathing beach for Tai Po residents. Since their discovery in 2009, kuda seahorses have been seen in the same area many times.
"In recent years, the number of seahorses worldwide has sharply decreased due to habitat damage, poor water quality and over-hunting. Hong Kong is lucky to have some and our government has an obligation to protect them," Li said.
Li pointed out that Lung Mei Beach is a natural mudflat, that is the natural habitat for more than 200 species. Once it is covered by artificial sand, the damage will become "irreversible".
"Lung Mei Beach is the breeding ground of kuda seahorses," he added, saying the species are "loyal" to the habitat and reluctant to change. "The ecological value of kuda seahorses is the same as whale sharks.
Li complained the Feasibility Study for Beach Improvement Works in Lung Mei, completed in 2001, ignored the importance of conservancy and demanded the government to halt the project and replace it with a "seashore swimming pool" which can fulfill the residents' request for swimming facilities, without having to damage the beach.
Moreover, despite the area's poor water quality, Senior Campaign Manager of the Conservancy Association Peter Li argued that Lung Mei Beach is not an ideal beach for swimming. The Study stated that only 30 percent of the area is above a depth of 1.5 meter, a level suitable for swimming.
Roy Tam Hoi-pong, president of Green Sense, said he doubted the acceptability of the project in the vicinity since people may not be aware of the value of the beach. Therefore, he urged the government to consult residents again and scrap the plan of covering the beach with artificial sand.
Southern District Councilor Paul Zimmerman mocked the whole thing, calling it "a silly project". "If it is high tide, all the sand is wet; if it is low tide, there is no place to swim."
Zimmerman contended the government intends to build an artificial beach in Tai Po while trying to kill a natural beach on the opposite side in Ma On Shan.
Lawmakers Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung and Chan Yuen-han vowed to follow up on the issue, aiming to balance ecology and the public's interest before it is too late. The Panel on Environmental Affairs at the Legislative Council is scheduled to discuss the matter on Nov 26.
Responding to media's inquiry about the beach, the Secretary for Environment Wong Kam-sing said people are concerned about the balance of ecology, society and people's needs.
"We maintain an open attitude on communicating with concerned organizations and I believe there will be some announcement later on," Wong said.
(HK Edition 10/19/2012 page1)
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