Use brownfield sites before arable land

Use brownfield sites before arable land

Having read recent news reports about developing the northeastern New Territories, I strongly believe the government should not do so.

Although Hong Kong needs land for public housing, the government should first develop brownfield sites - vacant areas with developments on them already. There are a number of container sites, car parks and recycling sites in the area. By developing these sites, we are minimising the loss of fertile land.

A study conducted by the Professional Commons in March shows that there are about 800 hectares of brownfield sites in the New Territories. This figure is larger than the total area of the government's northeastern New Territories re-development plan. It is estimated that more than 10,000 villagers will be affected by the plan.

The main problem is that the villagers haven't been given proper notice. Although consultations were conducted in 2009 and 2010, villagers were not actively engaged. According to an interview conducted by hk.asia-city.com, villagers only knew about the plan a few months ago. If the government really wants to demolish villages, they should have drawn up a compensation package to make both sides happy.

Another consequence is the loss of farmland. According to estimates by environmental groups, 98 hectares of arable land (including abandoned land) will be affected by this project. Farming is already on the decline; this plan will lead to farmers losing their jobs, and all food being imported. But abandoned land can and should be rehabilitated.

The villages in northeastern New Territories are beautiful because of the villagers' efforts. I hope the government considers the villagers' position, withdraws the proposal and develops brownfield sites in the New Territories instead.

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