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Hong Kong: Netizen's DIY Environmental Impact Assessment to Save Lung Mei

The Lung Mei (龍尾)Coastline is a natural muddy stretch at the eastern boundary of Ting Kok(汀角) Site of Special Scientific Interest (which is the fourth largest mangrove stand in Hong Kong). There are prolific biodiversity and ecological niches.

Early last year, the Civil Engineering and Development Department put forward a proposal to turn the Coastline into an artificial beach, even though the water quality is not suitable for swimming and it costs taxpayers HKD130 millions.

In order to get a green light for the project, the government put forward an environmental impact assessment report end of last year, saying that there are only 30 kind of natural habitats at Lung Mei and argued that the ecological value there is low.

However, netizens from the Hong Kong Wild Life forum found the report unbelievable and decided to do their own research at the muddy beach. Within one year, they found more than 200 natural habitats at Lung Mei mud beach and several are endangered species. Below is a music video “sad song for Lung Mei's habitats” that records their research outcome and preservation campaign:

Their findings pressured the government to do an amendment to the original environmental impact assessment and this time the consultant company found another 130 natural habitats. However, their conclusion remains the same, that the beach is of little ecological significance.

Two days ago, on 12 of November, the Advisory Council on the Environment had to vote on the environmental impact assessment report, according to citizen reporter, hoidick's report at inmediahk.net:

環諮會十八個委員,十一人出席了會議,第一輪投票五對五,副主席要求作第二輪投票,剛剛離席的一人回到會議室,最後以六對五有條件地通過。

There are 18 committee members 11 of them had attended the meeting. In the first round of vote, the result was 5 to 5, the vice chair asked for a second round. One of the committee member returned to the seat and the report was passed with 6 supporting votes and 5 opposing votes.

Hoidick also gave more background and the local political dynamics on the development project:

建沙灘是大埔地區組織、鄉事團體和區議會的主意,希望推動大尾督附近的消閒旅遊,又得到曾蔭權巡區時答允,自然生態從二零零一年至零七年也不是主題;對陣的則只有在網上組織起來的生態愛好者,再加上少數環保團體,介入的位置只有環諮會和城規會兩次公眾諮詢。兩種民間的對立,各有不同的想法和想像,一方看見生意一方看見海星,各自又牽動起不同的組織網絡。單以這個個案為例,協商其實不是沒有可能,因為根據環保署的水質調查,龍尾水域全年接近五分一日子的水質差得不宜游泳,與其斥巨資趕盡殺絕生物搞一個水質欠佳的「泳灘」,不如興建一些讓人能欣賞和認識潮間生態的設施,如濕地公園。但,強勢一方並沒有意思坐下來談,「大埔各界社團」星期一在開會地點拉起「可恥 環保人仕假借保育為名 打壓政府修復大埔龍尾泳灘為實」橫額。

The idea of building the beach is put forward by Tai Po local organizations, rural organizations and district council. They want to develop the leisure facilities around the district. And when the Chief Executive Donald Tsang visited the district, they got an initial support. From 2001-2007, ecological concern was not in the agenda. Now the opposition voices only come from the Internet based individual environmentalists and a small number of environmental organizations. They could only raise their opinion in the Advisory Council on the Environment and the City Planning Commission. The two citizen forces have two different imagination of the coastline, one side sees business opportunities, the other side sees the star fish, both have their own network of supporters. In this case, actually there is space for negotiation. According to the water quality report, Lung Mei is not suitable for swimming for 1/5 of the time in a year. Instead of spending money and killing all the nearby sea habitats for a poor quality “beach”, the government can build some facilities for ecological tour, such as a small wetland park. However, the upper hand interest party don't want to talk. On Monday, “Taipo coalition of organizations” put up a banner, “Shame on environmentalist for pressing the government to recover the Lung Mei Beach”, right outside the meeting venue.

The preservation campaign has to draw support from a wider public. Making use of their research outcome, the Hong Kong Wild Life forum published a ebook on the Lung Mei ecology (pdf)

In the facebook, there are several groups against the construction. The largest group, “We oppose turning of Lung Mei Coastline (Tai Mei Tuk, Tai Po) into an artificial beach” (反對在大埔龍尾發展人工泳灘) has more than 600 members. Here are some of the comments on the wall:

Ryan Cheng Po Sang:

咩人工泳灘,黃金海岸已經係一個失敗嘅例子,因為海水自然沖刷嘅關係而要「補沙」。沙灘係自然形成嘅,夾硬整嘅有咩用?仲要破壞當地生態!又話環保又話綠化,原來政府先係破壞者!自然泥灘有幾多珍貴生物,就因為要起商店、起馬路、搵藉口俾發展商起樓起酒店而死晒!

The Golden Coastline is a failed example of artificial coastline. Because of the natural sea current, now the beach has to “refill” the sand. Beach should be naturally formed, and now we are putting the ecology at stake. The government has so many propaganda about being green and environmental, but it is in fact a terminator! The natural muddy beach has so many precious habitats, now that you kill them for shops and roads, and for the interest of developers to construct buildings and hotels.

Joshua Fok commented on the design of the beach: Will you swim beside sewerage outfalls?

we can identify 2 culverts at each ends of the proposed artificial beach, namely drainage culverts from Lo Tsz Tin and Lung Mei respectively. The EIA report proposes building eastern and western drainage systems to divert the pollution away from the proposed beach. Moreover, there are 3 outfalls from Lung Mei opening to the eastern stretch of the coastline near Tai Mei Tuk. The report suggests buliding dams on both side of the beach.

the BEST case scenario of 60% sewerage connection rate in wet (swimming) season, the WQO at eastern end of the proposed beach is 180-360 E.Coli no/ 100ml EVEN WITH THE DAM. There is heavily polluted sewerage from the western outfall from the Lung Mei Village. E Coli is present in human feces, which comes from contaminated septic tanks and soakaway systems of the Lung Mei Village.

Therefore there is a small but not neglectable risks of having so-called minor illnesses (skin and gastroenteritis) 1-1.5% chance for every swimmer at the eastern end of the proposed beach. In addition, there could be E. Coli septicemia for children playing and swimming in the eastern end of the beach.

If the CEDD (Civil Engineering and Development Department )insists on this development of a “bathing” beach besides these sewerage contaminated culvert and outfalls, I would suggest the public who gets sick after the “bathing” files claim to the CEDD.

Carla Chan, a Taipo resident points out that she hadn't noticed any public consultation on residents’ opinion:

我是大埔居民, 我就不認為需要泳灘, 而寧要一個天然的海灘。何況, 我也不曾見過區內有正式的調查問居民是否有此需要。

故此, 我特別想呼籲大埔街坊幫忙。若你們也不認為你們想要這個龍尾人造灘, 請發聲– 請按這裡指示向環評署發表意見, 並也請向大埔區議會發表意見。

I am a Taipo resident, I don't think we need a beach, i prefer a nature beach. Moreover, I have never heard that there is a formal survey on the need.

Therefore I want to urge Taipo residents who do not agree on artificial beach to voice out and express their opinion to the Advisory Council on the Environment as well as to the district council.

Jones HC wrote:

I used to have field trip in this place when I was studying A level Biology… I love the place and there are many valuable creature there…!

Now that the environmental impact assessment report has been passed, the netizen environmentalists will probably take a turn from DIY scientific research approach to a public campaign. Stay tuned.

3 comments

  • Carla Chan

    The context to my comment (“I am a Tai Po resident, I don’t think we need a beach”) is that the advocates for the beach argued that “Tai Po residents have asked for a beach for long”, which only takes some counter-examples to debunk and a formal survey to thoroughly devalidate.

    The destruction of a natural beach is already infuriating, but still not as much as the intentional misrepresentation of people’s consent.

  • HKSAR Gov’t is a shame to all creatures!

    Please read carefully what the veteran citizens who found more species from Lung Mei! The HK$100M won’t worth enougth to compensate the gov’t destruction on the environment!!!

  • […] Hong Kong government is insisting on an artificial beach construction project that will destroy more than 200 coastline habitats. One of the species affected is the endangered Hippocampus kuda, at Lung Mei mud […]

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