Development plans threaten major Hong Kong wetland


A crucial wetland for migratory birds in Hong Kong is under threat from development, with environmental groups slamming the proposals.

Hong Kong's Advisory Council on the Environment approved a controversial environmental impact assessment for a high-tech development known as the San Tin Technopole in mid-April, despite warnings from 10 environmental groups that it would cause the worst damage to the city's coastal wetland and fishpond habitat – Mai Po – in 30 years.

"San Tin Technopole ... will cause the most extensive damage to wetlands in 30 years, and affect nearly 247 ha of wetland conservation area and buffer zone land," the groups said in a joint statement on 17 April.

Hong Kong's coastal wetlands support importnat numbers of threatened species such as Black-faced Spoonbill (YCCHEN TW).


Government criticism

The statement went on to hit out at the government for massively extending the planned area covered by the project at the last minute, but not including the extended plans in the existing assessment.

Officials had "omitted species and habitats" from their survey, and made dozens of "serious technical assessment and data errors," it said.

Hong Kong's coastal wetland forms part of the East-Asian Australasian Flyway, a route taken by tens of millions of migratory waterbirds including a large number of threatened species, such as Black-faced Spoonbill, which is listed as Endangered. 

Mai Po Marshes and Inner Deep Bay, which lies around 4 km to the west of the proposed San Tin Technopole, was designated a protected site under the Ramsar Convention in 1995.


East-Asian Australasian Flyway

Environmental groups say the development will also affect resident populations of birds, including Chinese Pond Heron

The Hong Kong Birdwatching Society said in a statement on its website that the project wasn't even in line with mainland China's environmental policy.

"The ... wetland is a precious and unique coastal wetland resource in the Greater Bay Area, which should be protected to align with national policies," the group said, citing the Chinese government's 14th Five-Year Plan, which describes "clear waters and lush mountains" as "invaluable assets" to be preserved alongside human development