By CONNIE LEE
THE approval of the government for the construction of golf course and the reservoir in Kau Sai Chau by the Royal Jockey Club has exposed a great loophole in government policy.
Last year, when the government was planning to approve the creation of the 32-hole golf course, the government did not ask the opinion of environmental groups like World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong (WWFHK) . This has already been complained by the environmental groups.
The same happened again when the government approved the creation of a reservoir to irrigate the golf course in Kau Sai Chau. The reservoir covers 5.73 hectares of foreshore and seabed and will cost around $500 million.
“The government did not ask our opinion when it was discussing the plan with the Jockey Club. We are discontented about the government’s actions,” said Mr Chu, the Conservation Officer of the WWFHK.
“There is much land in Hongkong which is not under the Planning Ordinance. Therefore, the development of the land is not under control,” said Mr Chu.
If the land is under the Planning Ordinance, the government needs to explain and to provide information for the general public before they can make a decision.
“According to the current law, the government does not need to explain on how they use the land. Whether the government and the developer provide information to the public is up to them. The general public can do nothing if the information is not released,” said Mr Chu.
Although the government said that it did ask the advice of the environmental group this year, the environmentalists felt that the government had already made decision.
“We feel that the government and the Jockey Club only disclosed the plan when everything was settled,” Mr Chu said.
The main concern about this issue is not only the construction of the golf course and reservoir, the most important thing is that the future use of some areas is excluded from planning control.
“We think there is a need to make sure the government provides information about the planning in these areas. The best way to supervise the government is to make all land in Hongkong under the Planning Ordinance,” Mr Chu said.
“The government and the Jockey Club have discussed the problems with the Sai Kung District Board and the local people before the approval," said Mr Wan Yuet-kat, a member of the Sai Kung District Broad.
The local people are mainly concerned with the environmental problem, the effect on the residents and the pollution of irrigating the golf course.
Since the pesticides used for the golf course may pollute the sea, the Royal Jockey Club said they would recycle the irrigated water again to prevent the problem.
“The Jockey Club have discussed with the Advisory Council For the Environment which consists of leaders of some environmental groups,” said Mr Chan Wai-yip, a legislative councillor.
Mr Chan admitted that loopholes existed in the government policy. “Next year a new law will be discussed in the Legislative Council. It says that there must be a detailed environmental assessment of any development before the government approves the project. The government can approve the plan only when the assessment is passed,” Mr Chan continued.