LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL PANEL
ON ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS
CONSERVATION STRATEGY FOR LANTAUPURPOSE
This paper briefs members on the Government's Conservation Strategy for Lantau.
2. Lantau is the largest island in the territory, and has long been recognized for its conservation and recreational value. About 54 per cent, i.e. 7,840 hectares, of the island has been designated as Country Parks since 1978, and five sites have been listed as Site of Special Scientific Interest in the island. Another 2,344 hectares have been identified as a potential expansion area for the country parks.
3. The development of the new airport together with its access road in northern Lantau has linked up the area with the Greater Metro Area and has opened up new potential for the community to use the area. In drawing up the overall planning framework for Lantau it is government's goal to maintain a balance between meeting the population's needs for housing, employment and recreation and conserving the natural environment of the area. These are not mutually exclusive goals. If properly planned and managed, conservation work can be supported by eco-tourism, educational programmes and other activities that provide employment or recreational outlets for the community.
OVERALL PLANNING FRAMEWORK
4. As a result of the decision to relocate the airport to Chek Lap Kok in 1989 and the booming port-related industries in the 80's, Planning Department commenced a fundamental review of the Planning Statement for Lantau in the South West New Territories Development Strategy Review (DSR) in 1990. In 1993 an Interim Recommended Strategy (IRS) for Lantau was produced. The major emphasis is to contain major urban growth in North Lantau to optimize the planned transport and infrastructure and planned port-related development to the North-eastern parts of Lantau. The natural attributes of the remaining parts of the island would be maintained essentially for conservation and recreation purposes to preserve the unique landscape and habitats, as well as promote environmentally compatible recreational and tourism related development.
5. The IRS has set out a conservation and recreational role for South Lantau, in that:
- the Lantau North and South Country Parks should continue to be preserved;
- South Lantau should be reserved for recreational and conservation uses except for small pockets of relatively more intensive residential development in Discovery Bay and Mui Wo;
- North-east Lantau to be dedicated to port and port back-up facilities; and
- Tung Chung and Tai Ho to be developed into the ninth New Town (or "Strategic Growth Area").
6. Planning Department will further examine the strategic roles of Lantau in the context of the DRS taking into account changing needs and demands since 1993, and public aspirations towards Lantau. The long term planning options would need to be carefully studied in the next round of the Territorial Development Strategy Review. However, the goal to maintain a right balance between public needs and conservation remains unchanged.
CURRENT CONSERVATION PROGRAMMES IN LANTAU
Country Parks and Special Areas
7. There are two existing country parks in Lantau, namely the Lantau North and Lantau South Country Parks. The country parks comprise scenic Lantau and Sunset Peaks, lush woodlands, Shek Pik reservoir and a variety of attractive coastlines in Lantau. Within the country parks, some areas of high conservation value such as the woodlands at the lower slopes of Lantau and Sunset Peaks, were designated as Special Areas in January 1980. The Special Areas are managed mainly for nature conservation, therefore facilities will be restricted to information boards and signs, and public access or recreational facilities are not provided to protect these areas from activities that may cause damages to the natural flora and fauna. Locations of the country parks and other protected areas are shown at Annex
8. The country parks are managed under the Country Parks Ordinance for conservation, recreation and education purposes by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD). These objectives are implemented as follows:
- provision and maintenance of recreational facilities - including footpaths, information boards, shelters, campsites, toilets and picnicking facilities.
- fire protection and fire fighting - including maintenance of fire breaks, detection of fire outbreaks and actual fire fighting.
- litter collection - all litter within the country park area such as campsites, footpaths, picnic and barbecue sites are collected by AFD staff to maintain the cleanliness of the country park area.
- patrolling and law enforcement - Park Wardens patrol the park areas and take appropriate law enforcement actions under the Country Parks Ordinance.
- development control - all the new developments are controlled in country parks in order to ensure that the park area will not be adversely affected by new developments.
- afforestation - each year about 60,000 tree seedlings are planted to enhance the environment and for the purpose of soil and water conservation. These trees are also maintained and managed by AFD.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
9. The listing of SSSI serves as an administrative reminder to alert government departments of the scientific importance of the sites and to avoid incompatible developments inside or near these sites. For SSSIs within country parks or special areas, they are patrolled by AFD wardens, and enforcement action will be taken under the Country Parks Ordinance whenever appropriate. The animals and plants in SSSIs are also subject to the protection of the Forests and Countryside Ordinance and the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance which have a territory-wide application. There are five SSSIs in Lantau, a brief description of each is given as follows:
- San Tau Beach - the site consists of mangrove and sea grass, which supports an interesting assemblage of marine invertebrates.
- Sunset Peak(within country park) - the site is a good example of forest consisting of interesting species.
- Lantau Peak(within country park) - the site exhibits remarkable tree flora
- Man Cheung Po (within country park) - this consist of the Ng Yuen Garden which contains a good collection of interesting plants and the valley which contains some rare plants.
- Pok To Yan and Por Kai Shan - these two adjoining sites contain montane shrub forests which are undisturbed with great botanical interest and value.
10. There are four existing Outline Zoning Plans (OZPs) in Lantau, namely the Tung Chung Centre Area, South Lantau Coast, Mui Wo Fringe and North East Lantau Port. Unspoiled coastal areas along South Lantau and uplands are conserved with presumption against development to provide land-based and marine-based recreational venues for the community. The OZPs have zoned Coastal Protection Areas (CPA) at Pui O, Cheung Sha, Shui Hau and Tong Fuk, and Green Belts (GB) at Fan Liu, Shek Pik, Tai Long Wan, Pui O and Cheung Sha. In CPAs, landuses permitted include agriculture and recreation including ancillary beach use and barbecue sites. In GBs, landuses permitted include agricultural, recreational and forest plantation.
Mitigation and Compensation of Development Projects
11. Under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, developments in Lantau are required, at the planning stage, to carefully assess if valuable ecological features (flora, fauna and habitats) will be affected, and if so, to ensure that they will be conserved as far as possible. Project proponents will have to take measures such as minimising the extent of reclamation, maintaining the continuity of streams through out the works, designing interfaces for engineering developments to maximise potential for re-colonisation and recreation of habitat, carrying out water quality modeling to ensure that acceptable hydrological conditions are maintained etc. Before the commencement of any construction works, an EIA study will be conducted and submitted to the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) for advice. The following are a few examples of the major mitigation measures for development projects in Lantau:
- Compensatory Woodland Planting at Tung Chung
To compensate for the loss of woodland habitats in Chek Lap Kok and North Lantau due to the new airport and related projects, a compensatory woodland planting programme has been carried out by AFD since 1994. Some 359,000 tree seedlings of 60 native tree species have been planted to cover 60 hectares in area. The planting area will form a continuous and extensive woodland by joining scattering patches of existing woodlands in the area on the east of Tung Chung. It will help stabilize hill slopes and enhance the aesthetics of the backdrop to the new airport. The AFD will maintain the woodland in subsequent years until it is self-sustaining.
- Mangrove Replanting at Tai O
To compensate for the loss of mangrove and coastal habitat due to development of the new airport at Chek Lap Kok and North Lantau, a new mangrove habitat will be created on the disused salt-pans at Tai O. The mangrove replanting project will tie in with the proposed Tai O Sheltered Boat Anchorage Project for economic reasons as well as for minimising environmental impacts during construction stage. Environmental impact assessment and preliminary design of the projects are being carried out. It is estimated that the engineering works of the projects will commence in 2001 and the mangrove replanting will commence soon after.
- Impact of Sewage on Chinese White Dolphins
Although the mathematical modeling results and evidence in the scientific literature do not provide clear evidence of the need for disinfection of sewage, the Government is taking a precautionary approach and will disinfect the discharge from Siu Ho Wan to remove most of the bacteria in order to reduce the possible impact of sewage on the Chinese White Dolphins. The recommendation was endorsed by ACE and action is being taken to implement the recommendation at the Siu Ho Wan sewage treatment plant.
12. AFD has been promulgating conservation of Lantau by organizing activities for public participation. For example, in summer 1998, country park conservation camps were organized at the two management centres to offer opportunity for young people and students to enjoy the natural beauty of Lantau while being involved in conservation projects and learning conservation principles.
13. AFD has involved the public in the country park tree planting scheme in Lantau. In 1998, some 20 groups with more than 1,800 citizens participated in the tree planting scheme and planted over 3,500 seedlings.
POTENTIAL ENHANCEMENT TO CURRENT PROGRAMME
14. The potential North Lantau Country Park Extension was identified as one of the potential country park sites in the Territorial Development Strategy Review in 1993. It covers Pok To Yan, Por Kai Shan, Wong Lung Hang and other areas of conservation importance, and totals about 2,344 ha. in area, i.e. about 18 per cent of land area in Lantau. The study on the boundaries of the potential North Lantau Country Park Extension has been completed. Locations of the potential country park extension and Marine park are at Annex
. However, since the area of the potential North Lantau Country Park Extension is not under threat from developments, resources in 1998 have been allocated to areas which are in greater need for protection, such as designating Lung Fu Shan as a country park and implementing the conservation projects in the Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site. The extension of the Country Park remains an objective.
15. Investigation of the feasibility of designating as SSSI` sites which support species and habitats of conservation value, such as mangrove, Romer's Tree Frog and other rare plants and animals, is an on-going process.
16. AFD is undertaking a feasibility study on suitability of designating waters to the south west of Lantau as well as the waters around Soko Islands as a marine park. The study will be completed in mid 1999.
Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau