With the government completing a consultation exercise on the development of the Lok Ma Chau Loop, environmental organizations have again expressed their opposition to the plan, citing threats to the biodiversity in the area.
Environmentalists insisted that the plan, which would entail a lot of construction activity and new structures being put up, will bring about irreversible damage to the biodiversity and living environment near the Lok Ma Chau area.
They argued that the government must reduce the developmental density and increase the buffer areas, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The Lok Ma Chau Loop plan has been discussed over nine years and authorities held two public consultations.
The latest consultation on the proposed development ended in mid-August after a proposal was laid out in June.
The Town Planning Board (TPB) is said to have received serious feedback from eight entities, of which only one supported the government’s plan.
Under a plan agreed earlier this year by the Hong Kong and Shenzhen governments, the Lok Ma Chau Loop will be used in part for development of an innovation and technology park.
That would mean constructing new roads, sewage systems and various buildings in the area, prompting an outcry from environmentalists who feared an ecological disaster.
According to the plans, around 53.49 hectares will be used for education, culture, innovative industries, research and development, an ecological zone, and a sewage treatment plant.
The TPB believes that once the place is fully developed there will be around 50,000 to 53,000 students and workers in the area.
After the second consultation ended on August 9, only the San Tin Rural Committee had supported the idea, even suggesting that they open up new traffic networks to support the development.
The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society Office (HKBWS) and the Conservancy Association, meanwhile, were among seven entities that submitted statements voicing their opposition to the development.
Most of them stressed that the loop is part of the Mai Po Marshes and that the development would cause irreversible harm to the environment.
The HKBWS pointed out that the loop is at least 800 by 1,500 meters wide. If the development were to continue, the width of the loop will decrease by almost 60 percent, affecting flight routes of birds, it said.
The Planning Department has dismissed the concerns, saying that the Environmental Protection Department had issued a report in which it said that “only 17 percent” of the birds will be affected and have to fly to buffer zones.
Some critics wondered whether it is really necessary to put up a new innovation and technology park given that the existing facilities in the city, like the Science Park and Cyberport, are not fully utilized.
The Planning Board, meanwhile, has yet to respond to accusations that it is not respecting the public’s opinion regarding the sudden change of focus.
Under the original plan, the idea was to use the area to put up some higher education facilities, while also providing space for innovative technology and creative industries.
However, after Hong Kong and Shenzhen entered into an agreement to jointly develop the Lok Ma Chau Loop, the focus shifted to mainly using the area to put up the Hong Kong/Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park on an 87-hectare plot.
Apart from the changed focus, authorities have come under fire over the planned design of the Lok Ma Chau Loop.
Critics said the development density would be too high, at 1.37 times, compared to the 0.4 times of the neighboring areas.
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