Lung Mei beach plan: is it trick or treat?

Lung Mei beach plan: is it trick or treat?

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Among the concerns of the beach project is the conservation of wildlife in that area.
Among the concerns of the beach project is the conservation of wildlife in that area.
Photo: Felix Wong/SCMP
The voice of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as he blamed the previous administration for not passing on a well-played game of chess still rings loudly. At issue has been the artificial beach project at Lung Mei's natural mudflat. The plan now seems more executive-dominated than need-driven.

The project got the green light from many bodies, including the District Council, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Subcommittee, the Legislative Council, and others. But environmental groups have been challenging these decisions and public opposition to the planned beach is growing rapidly.

It is unclear how many Tai Po residents would want to swim in the water at Lung Mei. It is not particularly clean. But local landlords, along with most district councillors, have a vested interest in this project. They have been reaping the benefits of skyrocketing property prices and land sales to developers building resort hotels.

Green groups are furious that a revised EIA report for the project seriously under-reported the number of species that live in Lung Mei and would be threatened if the beach project went ahead. One species missing from the official list is the globally endangered estuary seahorse, which likely uses the site as a breeding ground.

The public has also been misled by the government's exaggeration of a popular demand for the beach. Even with great public demand for a new beach, officials could have considered natural beaches along Ma On Shan's coastline as substitutes.

Instead, they have decided to downplay the dangers to the local ecosystem.

Some environmental groups are planning to jointly file a judicial review of this project to protect Lung Mei's prolific biodiversity.

And so the game of chess between supporters and opponents of the planned beach carries on. We need to check the government when it comes to new developments. Motivated citizens and environmental groups must work together to keep officials accountable for their actions and decisions.

To use a Halloween metaphor, we have to learn how to tell tricks apart from treats.

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