Environmental impact report on Hong Kong border project misidentified birds, but no plans to redo assessment

Hong Kong development authorities misidentified birds in its environmental impact assessment report for a proposed innovation and technology (I&T) hub near the city’s border with mainland China.

The Environmental Protection Department confirmed on Friday the mistakes made by the Civil Engineering and Development Department in the report for the San Tin Technopole, a day after the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society stated the error on social media.

“We have requested the [civil engineering department] to submit a report within a week to explain in detail the cause of the incident and follow-up work,” the Environmental Protection Department said.

The Town Planning Board has discussed the land use draft plan of the project, which proposed changing the zoning of 247 hectares of land from the Wetland Conservation Area and Wetland Buffer Area for new uses. Photo: Dickson Lee

Preliminary investigation showed that the consultant hired by the civil engineering department tagged two bird species, the Marsh Sandpiper and Little Stint, with incorrect photos due to “editing issues” in an attachment.

The San Tin Technopole will take up 610 hectares (1,507 acres), with about half earmarked for innovation and technology use. The rest of the area will be a new town centre, yielding up to 54,000 flats.

Environmental authorities said the civil engineering department would file the amended document, but it did not respond to the green group’s demand of redoing the entire report, citing the assessment’s technical memorandum.

“In case the report requires certain amendments but such amendments will not affect the validity of the assessment and the overall results and conclusions of the report, there is no need to resubmit it,” the Environmental Protection Department said.

It added that the public could raise opinions regarding the report by March 2, which the director of environmental protection would consider before making a final decision.

Hong Kong scales back proposed wetland park to make way for a technology hub

Given the mistakes made, the society said on Thursday it feared the report might miss some important species and underestimate the impact of the development on ecology.

The Town Planning Board on Friday also discussed the land use draft plan of the San Tin project, which would be made available for public consultation soon.

The draft proposed changing the zoning of 247 hectares of land from the Wetland Conservation Area and Wetland Buffer Area for new uses including I&T purposes.

The proposal drew criticism from seven green groups as the environmental impact assessment had yet to receive a green light. They stressed the area’s proximity to the Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site, designated as a wetland of international importance.

Hong Kong hi-tech hub will destroy 89 hectares of wetland, affect 56,000 trees

The environmental groups also said the 247-hectare area was outlined under the principle of “no-net-loss in wetland”, raising concerns about losing more of the ecological valuable area in the future if the project set a precedent.

Development authorities earlier said that more than 60 per cent of the area was no longer wetlands, citing examples of developed sections, while the remaining portion was taken up with fish ponds slated to be filled in to make room for development.

The government also said it would develop a 338-hectare wetland conservation park at Sam Po Shue to compensate for the loss of wetlands.

The San Tin project is one of the projects under the Northern Metropolis, a plan to turn 30,000 hectares of land in the New Territories near the city’s border with the mainland into a housing and economic hub.


Business Asia
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