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Hong Kong ‘Artificial Beach’ Will Destroy 200+ Coastal Habitats

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

Hippocampus or the Sim Fish. One of the endangered species discovered at Lung Mei mud beach. Photo used with permission from inmediahk.net.

Hippocampus kuda, one of the endangered species discovered at Lung Mei mud beach. Photo used with permission from inmediahk.net.

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]:

200米天然海岸線,有200多種海岸生物,生態價值絕非低!被發現的具保育價值的物種,並非如顧問報告補充資料所說的只得3種,而是多達18種!工程除了摧毀龍尾海岸生物,搬遷生物過程亦可能為附近接收生物的地方構成大災難。

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.

當局的所謂諮詢,全是只諮詢大埔區議會!但卻指新界北的居民也很需要此人工沙灘,理據何在?何不優化馬鞍山烏溪沙的渡頭灣海灘,讓全港唯一港鐵直達的沙灘,立即成為刊憲泳灘?

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.

Members for the Taipo District council raised their hand in support of the artificial beach project. Photo used with permission from inmediahk.net.

Members for the Taipo District council raised their hand in support of the artificial beach project. Photo used with permission from inmediahk.net.

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:

龍尾對出船灣海,原來有一半地方(約二平方公里)之前是泥石傾卸區。距離龍尾灘只有約500米。雖然已經停用,但當中累積了可能由50年代起,急速城市化發展及沙田、大埔新市鎮發展帶來的固體及液體廢料及廢棄泥石,當中是否包括棄置瘀泥、已受管制的舊建築物料如石棉,或其他釋放有毒物質如重金屬度等,都己是無從稽查,這些潛在的有害物質對人類健康構成的極大風險。

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。」

龍尾灘發現的海星、管海馬等珍貴海洋生物,正好說明這位教練口中所描繪的香港海域神奇之處﹣﹣一個看來是污染的地方,卻潛藏令人驚嘆的美境。然而,渴望當曝發戶的權貴、獻媚的決策者,卻看不到這些寶藏,要把原生的資源掩蓋,大搞膚淺人工工程,繼續炒地皮和炒樓的發展模式。
正如一眾環保團體指出,保育與發展並不矛盾,若把汀角東紅樹森到龍尾發展為保育區,它所帶動的教育、旅遊與環境價值,是難以估計、而且不斷增值的,因為這些生態資源只會越來越稀有,越來越讓人珍而重之。
為什麼我們要把「美」想像為人造的假沙灘?把旅遊消費想像為沙灘旁玻璃屋喝紅酒?而不是與自然接觸,感受奇妙的生物世界?

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.

Hundreds of protesters demanded the government to drop the artificial beach construction project in Lung Mei. Photo taken by Mary Chan, used with permission.

Hundreds of protesters demanded the government to drop the artificial beach construction project in Lung Mei. Photo taken by Mary Chan, used with permission.

Green groups displayed photos of the coastline habitants on the November 4 protest. Photo by Mary Chan, used with permission.

Green groups displayed photos of the coastline habitants on the November 4 protest. Photo by Mary Chan, used with permission.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicolekitkit Nicole Kit

    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!!

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