Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ye cannae change the laws of physics - except in Hong Kong

Governments like people to forget things - it makes it so much less embarassing for them later.

For centuries, the inhabitants of Ma Wan Island lived a quiet life, making their living mostly by fishing and farming; then in more recent times many took up jobs across the water in the nearby industrial areas of Tsuen Wan and Kwai Chung. When the Tsing Ma Bridge was built to serve Hong Kong's new airport, the islanders asked the government if they could have a road link to the mainland, making it easier for them to get to work, in recompense for having their tranquil island blighted by the massive concrete supports and traffic fumes of the bridge. However, the Hong Kong government at the time said it was physically impossible - not just prohibitively expensive, but physically impossible - to build a spur road off the bridge to the island.

A few years later, Sun Hung Kai Properties came along with billions of dollars to build a new housing development on the island, and suddenly the physically impossible became possible after all. Yes, money is so powerful in Hong that it can even triumph over the laws of physics!

While we're remembering what the government would rather we forget, let us also recall that the Hong Kong people were promised an extension of the North Lantau Country Park to help compensate for the environmental damage caused by the airport construction (not to mention our very own cuddly concrete Disneyland). Despite the extension being gazetted in 2001, ten years after the airport opened that promise still hasn't been kept.

Worse, the government's "Concept Plan" for Lantau Island proposes a range of inappropriate developments on the island. And I haven't had a chance to read the full story yet, but from a headline I glimpsed today apparently the government has screwed up the removal of some of Pui O's picturesque water buffalo population, with most of those moved ending up dead. Poor Lantau! Poor buffaloes! Poor us!

Making It Better:
An alternative plan for sustainable development on Lantau without destroying the island's rural character

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