Despite strong opposition from environmental groups and concerned citizens, the 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 beach.
Many believed that the artificial beach project, which will cost HKD 280 million of taxpayers’ money, is going ahead to serve the interest of local developers. It has been revealed [zh] that along the new coastline, local developers have bought up large pieces of land for the construction of spa hotels, holiday apartments and other tourist attractions.
200+ coastal habitants to be buried
In order to stop the government from making the final construction tender arrangement, a coalition formed by local green groups has organized several demonstrations to press the government to adopt an alternative, such as building a swimming pool nearby instead of ruining the natural coastline.
Their protest statement on October 12, 2012, listed a number of strong arguments [zh]:
The 200 meter natural coastline with more than 200 habitats is of high ecological value. The government environmental assessment report claimed that there are only three kind of sea specieS that need to be conserved. But [netizens from the Hong Kong Wildlife Forum] have found more than 18 precious sea creatures. The construction will not only destroy the coastline and its habitants, but will also affect nearby wetland's ecology.
The so-called public consultation was only restricted to the Taipo District Council. There is no evidence to make the claim that residents from the Northeast New Territories demanded the artificial beach. The government can improve the two existing sand beaches in Wu Kai Sha and Du Tou Bay, which is located in the same district and accessible via the city metro.
Lung Mei Coastline Education Center, a citizen group devoted to the conservation of the mud beach, believed [zh] that the artificial project may have violated the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The Hippocampus kuda has been listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as an endangered specie, under the same category as the whale shark.
In addition, the Center pointed out [zh] that the water quality near Lung Mei beach will not be suitable for sea bathing:
The sea near by Lung Mei was once a dumping site for construction waste. The area is about 2 square kilometers and is just 500 meters away from the mud beach. Although there are no more dumping activities, the construction waste from the development of new town in Shatin and Taipo since the 1950s may consist of harmful construction material such as Asbestos and other toxic materials, such as heavy metals. The health of swimmers will be at risk.
What is true beauty?
Pak, a junior diver and a citizen reporter at inmediahk.net, criticized [zh] the decision makers’ value system:
南中國潛水俱樂部的潛水教練 Rob Christie曾經在CNN訪問時提過：「香港沒有世界級的潛水環境，但卻充滿了挑戰性與海底美景。」
Rob Christie of the South China Diving Club once told a reporter from CNN that “Hong Kong doesn't have world-class diving, but it is challenging and there is a lot of wonderful scenery”.
The fact that star fishes and Hippocampus kuda have been discovered in Lung Mei has proven the wonderful nature of our sea – a seemingly polluted area with amazing scenery if you try to discover it. However, the powerful elite who just want to get rich and the decision makers who just want to please the rich, they cannot see the real treasures. They want to bury the natural resources with artificial constructions and make profit out of property development.
As has been pointed out by green groups, development and conservation is not necessarily in conflict. If the government preserves Lung Mei and the nearby Dong Kwok wetland, the value it generates for education, environment and tourism cannot be estimated as more and more sea lives are endangered and thus the conserved area will become more and more precious.
Why do we perceive “beauty” in the form of an artificial beach? Why do we imagine touristic activities such as having red wine in a glass room nearby a sand beach? Why can't we get close to the nature and feel the miracle of a world full of living creatures?
Last Sunday on November 4, around 1,000 protesters gathered outside the government headquarter demanding a reassessment of the environmental value of Lung Mei mud beach. Local green groups said that they would apply for a judicial review if the government insists on the construction project.
The official number of people who joined the gathering last Sunday was only 370, but there are actually near 3000 people there! The government is not listening to us!!