Last week, South Lamma - the place with of two of Hong Kong's sites of special scientific interest, zoned for conservation and coastal protection, and home to Romer's tree frogs and green turtles, both protected species - was saved from becoming a marina, hotel and residential complex by the Town Planning Board's decision to reject the application for rezoning by the developer.
In January 2010, South Lamma made front page news because of large, odd concreting work that suddenly appeared under the natural boulders on the hillside. (See top picture).
Now two projects - one by the Home Affairs Department (HAD) and the other by a local developer are helping to destroy the landscape value of South Lamma. (The other photos show HAD's Great Concrete Wall of Tung O and the private building works).
HAD has replaced the traditional green railings along the hiking path with a concrete wall more than 116 metres in length. The wall measures over a metre on the path side and almost 3 metres on the beach side. It has transformed Tung O visually, seriously detracting from the majestic natural views of the rock face or the beach. Unusually, the water trough on the path - a welcome stop off on hot days, particularly for our four legged friends - has been removed and a small concrete wall erected.
We understand that there has been some difficulty with the path, particularly in typhoon season, but surely Asia's World City can do better? Now our children cannot even see the sea for the concrete at what should be one of Hong Kong's visually most impressive bays. Surely there could be a better choice of materials and design?
At the other end of the beach, visitors will find an enormous pile of construction material, signs put up by the Lands Department and a large digger working away (at least it was today.) This is the area that hundreds of volunteers helped to clean during the Hong Kong Coastal Clean Up Challenge this year.
在沙灘的另一邊，遊客可以見到大量建築物料，地政總署已設立警告牌，大型的剷泥車正在施工。這處是今年海灘清潔比賽（Hong Kong Coastal Clean Up Challenge）有過百義工幫忙清潔沙灘的地方。
Both HAD and the owner of the property are known supporters of the Baroque project. Is this yet another case of "destroy first, develop later" seen so often across Hong Kong's rural New Territories?
We are sure members of the government will bristle at the accusation. But can the Secretary for Home Affairs please explain the reason for the insensitive design and unnecessary concrete pouring involved in so many of his department's projects on Lamma?
Surely there should be better protection for Hong Kong's ecologically sensitive areas. The enforcement of the Statutory Outline Zoning Plan, would be a good start. It would also help if HAD would fulfill the promises of its environmental report by
"carrying out local environmental improvement projects with due regard to the impact on the environment."
We would like to see immediate and effective action to restore the natural landscape of Tung O bay. We urge government to take the necessary measures to protect South Lamma. We hope that how this might be achieved will become a topic for debate at Legco, as well as in local news media.
How we can affect change remains to be seen. We shall be sending a copy of this newsletter to the heads of departments for Planning, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation, Environmental Protection and Home Affairs. We will also send it to the Development Bureau and Tourism Commission, as the destruction of South Lamma means a lost opportunity for eco-tourism in Hong Kong. And we will copy the Legco Panel on Environmental Affairs and our contacts in the press.
We sincerely hope that these efforts will not, as has happened so often in the past, result in one government department passing the buck to another until the day when the Baroque (or whatever it might call itself in future) sees that people have given up and South Lamma once again becomes the target of a rezoning application for the benefit of property speculation.
We would like to encourage other groups and individuals to add their voices to our campaign to protect South Lamma. However, as there is no one office or individual responsible, it is difficult to advise where to send a letter. Please use your contacts and networks to help us identify someone who can champion this cause.