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May 18th, 2013:

Nature needs a voice in Hong Kong to protect Chinese white dolphins

South China Morning Post

Published on South China Morning Post (

Home > Nature needs a voice in Hong Kong to protect Chinese white dolphins

Nature needs a voice in Hong Kong to protect Chinese white dolphins

Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 12:00am

Comment›Insight & Opinion

Michael Lau

Michael Lau says the plight of the Chinese white dolphin in Hong Kong waters shows how development continues to take priority over conservation, with ecologists’ views increasingly ignored

It is difficult not to be amazed by the diversity of life forms when you venture into a tropical rainforest or dive into a coral reef. Locally, a trip to a mudflat, such as at Lung Mei at low spring tide, or to the Deep Bay wetlands in winter equally yields wonders.

Some 1.2 million species have been found and named by biologists but incredibly, it has been estimated that there are 8.7 million species sharing the earth with us. Clearly, our knowledge of biodiversity is limited, with some 86 per cent of the life on earth still awaiting our discovery.

The once-proposed Southwest Lantau and Soko Islands marine parks have yet to become reality

Ecologists are tasked to study, understand and sometime even predict – for example, in impact assessments – the complex relationships among plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, and the like, and the environment. This is an awesome task and the reason why ecologists often cannot give clear, definite answers.

Ecology is the cornerstone of conserving species because we need to understand their requirements and their interaction with other species and the environment before we can ensure their survival. This professional discipline provides critical information on the state of the environment and allows decision-makers to make informed choices on what development could be carried out and where it should be sited, in order to avoid a severe impact on our life-supporting system.

In recent years, however, the influence of ecology in major decision-making processes on development in Hong Kong seems to have weakened.

As an example, take the Chinese white dolphin, an apex predator and an indicator of the health of the marine environment. We have long-term data on the population in its primary habitats in Hong Kong waters based on Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department-commissioned monitoring surveys. These expert surveys reveal a significant decline in dolphin numbers, from an estimated population of 158 in 2003 to 78 in 2011, a 50 per cent drop in less than 10 years.

There is a certain bitter irony when observing the popularity of this intelligent species among the Hong Kong public, when this is balanced with the fact that our development and other demands put us in direct competition with the dolphins for increasingly scarce resources and space. This competition has resulted in numerous threats to the dolphins.

Ever-increasing reclamation is the most significant threat right now. This is made worse by dredging, dumping water and noise pollution and a rise in vessel traffic – especially high-speed vessels. The dramatic population decline indicates that these threats have not been addressed effectively. The 17-year government-commissioned dolphin monitoring programme provides valuable information on the dolphins’ status, but the programme alone is not a conservation measure.

In Hong Kong, we have a good environmental impact assessment process, showing how impact from development projects should be avoided, minimised or mitigated to ensure developments do not have a major ecological impact. Judging from the continual decline of the Chinese white dolphin, however, the logical conclusion is that the mitigation measures of development projects in its habitat, in western waters, are not working.

One key component of the existing dolphin conservation plan is the Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau Marine Park, the so-called “dolphin sanctuary”. Given that the area is small and the dolphins inhabiting it venture out to surrounding waters that are not protected from development or habitat modification, its effectiveness as a sanctuary is somewhat hindered. This marine park should at least provide increased feeding opportunities for the dolphin population, by allowing fish and other food stocks to flourish. However, this objective is undermined by the fact that commercial fishing is still allowed with a permit within the marine park. The result is that the dolphins in this “sanctuary” are competing with fishermen for food.

The state of the Chinese white dolphin illustrates how far conservation measures lag behind development plans. The once-proposed Southwest Lantau and Soko Islands marine parks have yet to become reality. Another ironic example is that the Brothers Islands will be designated a marine park only after the completion of construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge in 2016, long after any damage has been done.

As an ecologist, it is alarming to see decision-makers, without the relevant background, making offhand comments that grossly understate development projects’ impact or oversimplify conservation actions. We have well-trained, professional staff in the AFCD and Environmental Protection Department who should be duly consulted and listened to.

Outside the government, there are also experts in tertiary institutions and green groups who are happy to advise. But it appears that development is the golden rule and anything standing against it, even a scientific discipline such as ecology, has no place in the decision-making process.

If we are serious about saving the charismatic Chinese white dolphin, we should look at the threats seriously and address them. Since the threats result from human activities under the control of several different government departments, they should all agree on, formulate and implement a holistic and comprehensive dolphin management plan without further delay.

The Convention on Biological Diversity was extended to Hong Kong in 2011. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets, set out in the convention’s strategic plan for 2011-2020, set a clear goal: address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by bringing biodiversity into the mainstream across governments and societies. To fulfil its obligations, the Hong Kong government should start integrating biodiversity values into development and planning processes.

Conservation and development should never be a zero-sum game. With a finite area of land and sea, and with global crises concerning water and climate looming, Hong Kong needs a more open dialogue on how we want to shape our environment and life.

In some ways, ecology is the only “voice” nature has to make itself heard by decision-makers. By strengthening this voice, we will not only reach informed, consensual decisions and create viable solutions for Hong Kong society, we will hopefully create a future for the Chinese white dolphin.

Dr Michael Lau is acting director of conservation at WWF-Hong Kong


Chinese white dolphins

Animal preservation



Source URL (retrieved on May 18th 2013, 7:46am):

Expanding carriers seek more space over Chinese skies

South China Morning Post

Published on South China Morning Post (

Home > Expanding carriers seek more space over Chinese skies

Expanding carriers seek more space over Chinese skies

Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 12:00am

Business›China Business



Civil aviation a is rationed a meagre slice of the mainland’s air corridors, with military curbs worsening the congestion as carriers expand

China’s skies do not have enough space. The country’s air force controls airspace and allots only 20 per cent to civil aviation. With the mainland’s three biggest airlines planning to add at least 273 planes in the next three years, traffic congestion that already delays 25 per cent of flights is set to worsen.“At present, the limited air space resource has restricted the development of civil aviation,” said Li Jiaxiang, the head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). “We will strive to further open up the airspace,” he said in Beijing this week.

Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines have expanded their fleets as economic growth spurs air travel demand in the world’s most populous nation. The country is expected to have 4,200 commercial aircraft in 2020, compared with the current fleet of 2,001 with 46 airlines, Li said.

Civil aviation uses about a fifth of available routes of the nation’s total airspace, according to Shi Boli, who heads the department of Air Transportation Regulation at CAAC. The military controls about 52 per cent of airspace in the more densely populated east, according to a report by the official China News Service in June 2011. “We are working hard and the military is also trying to improve the management of airspace,” Shi said. “But, it could take some time to achieve some improvement.”

In the United States, military restrictions do not have much impact on civilian aviation because its airways tend to be in desert regions or over oceans, far away from the busy airport hubs in cities such as New York, said Kevin Hiatt, president of the Virginia-based Flight Safety Foundation. The military has also allowed its airspace to be used by civilian flights on occasions such as busy holiday periods, he said.

Airspace over Europe is managed as a single unit and segregated on a “dynamic basis according to the needs of users”, air traffic supervisory agency Eurocontrol said. In general, areas will only be reserved for military use at certain times and at certain altitudes.

The on-time performance rate of mainland airlines was about 74.5 per cent last year, Shi said. In the US, 82 per cent of the flights arrived on time last year, the Bureau of Transportation statistics said.

“People are hoping that the country’s new leadership can have a breakthrough in getting more airspace released to accommodate the rapid growth,” said Kelvin Lau, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Daiwa Securities. “Otherwise, delays will persist and hurt the airlines’ long-term growth prospects.”

People are hoping that the country’s new leadership can have a breakthrough in getting more airspace released to accommodate the rapid growth. Otherwise, delays will persist and hurt the airlines’ long-term growth prospects

Kelvin Lau, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Daiwa Securities

The country’s air force, which has controlled the airspace since the People’s Republic was established in 1949, has started gradually relaxing some of the curbs. It had begun to open low-altitude airspace and release more information about the availability of temporary routes, Xinhua reported in August last year.

Still, the pace is not quick enough to catch up with the airlines’ growth as the number of annual passengers has more than doubled in the past seven years, said David Wei, an aerospace analyst with Shanghai Securities. “The military has a bigger say in China’s airspace usage for historical reasons,” Wei said. “It has no incentive to concede the right unless the government wants it to.”

Airspace restrictions also forced airlines to fly longer distances on some routes, said Liu Jieyin, executive vice-president at Okay Airways, which operates flights between cities including Tianjin, Hangzhou and Sanya.

“This is still better than before when we had to wait on the ground for hours for the completion of military drills,” Liu said. “We couldn’t take proactive measures as we wouldn’t know about the drills until the last minute and couldn’t tell passengers the real reason either.”

Air China, Asia’s biggest carrier by market value, will receive 113 aircraft in the next three years, according to a company statement. China Eastern will add 93 planes in two years while China Southern will have 67 additions this year, the carriers have said.

“Tomorrow’s growth will further pressure the system,” said Will Horton, a Hong Kong-based analyst at CAPA Centre for Aviation, which advises airlines. “While reforms are gradually being made, the military seems impervious to the government’s wish for more airspace.”



Civil Aviation Administration of China


Source URL (retrieved on May 18th 2013, 6:51am):

Hong Kong immigrants streaming out of Canada | Vancouver Sun

COMMUNITY/Opinion/Immigration Immigration RSS Feed

Hong Kong immigrants streaming out of Canada

May 18, 2013. 2:23 pm • Section: Immigration, The Search

Hong Kong immigrants streaming out of Canada

Numerous studies for Metropolis, a Canadian government-funded immigration research body, report that many newcomers to Canada from Hong Kong (as well as from Taiwan and China) “never intended to stay.”

Posted by:
Douglas Todd

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Just like thousands of compatriots who came to Canada from Hong Kong, Edward Shen has returned home.

The psychologist, who earned a PhD at Simon Fraser University, went back to his bustling East Asian homeland for reasons both familial and professional.

He is far from alone. Hong Kong-born Chinese people made up the predominant group of newcomers to Canada and Metro Vancouver in the 1990s. But since then, they have been leaving by the thousands each year.

One reason is family. Shen, who is a friend of mine, was among the first wave of Hong Kong arrivals to Vancouver, touching down here in the late-1980s. He became deeply involved in the life of the city.

However, Shen felt compelled to return to Hong Kong several years ago, in part to care for his aging mother. He also fell in love with a woman who lived in Hong Kong.

Another reason many people from Hong Kong have been returning home is money. Even though Shen had a busy psychotherapy practice in Vancouver of mostly ethnic Chinese patients, he is earning just as much working fewer hours in Hong Kong.

Still, Shen says the most common reason many Hong Kong residents have returned to their homeland from Canada is they have obtained what they believe is the “safety” of a foreign passport.

Says Ed Shen: “Most Hong Kong people know that there is no big money to be made in Canada, even less so in Vancouver. Vancouver in many people’s eyes is a place for retirement of rich people.”

Most Hong Kong residents immigrated to Canada in the decade before 1997, when the city of seven million residents officially became a “special administrative region” of the People’s Republic of China.

After 1997, when emigrants recognized China’s authoritarian regime was not imposing excessively Draconian restrictions on Hong Kong, many who had obtained Canadian passports began streaming back.

Statistics Canada’s numbers tell the tale. Despite Canada’s rapid population growth in the past 15 years, there are now 32,000 fewer Hong Kong-born residents in Canada than there were in 1996.

The 2011 National Household Survey, released last week, shows 209,000 Hong Kong-born residents in Canada (about one third of them living in Metro Vancouver). That compares to 241,000 who lived here in 1996.

Their total numbers in Canada have been dropping despite 1,000 to 2,000 new Hong Kong immigrants a year continuing to trickle in. Even accounting for deaths, it is clear that thousands of Hong Kong citizens each year have been leaving Canada.

Hong Kong now contains more than 350,000 residents holding Canadian citizenship, according to Vancouver lawyer Richard Kurland, editor-in-chief of Lexbase, a widely read publication on immigration policy.

The perspectives of Shen and Kurland are backed by scholarly studies.

Numerous studies for Metropolis, a federal government-funded immigration research body, report that many newcomers to Canada from Hong Kong (as well as from Taiwan and China) “never intended to stay.”

The Metropolis papers reveal a large portion of ethnic Chinese immigrants talk about being in “immigration prison” while in Vancouver, Toronto and elsewhere – enduring the three-year residency required to obtain a Canadian passport.

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Todd: All Canadians benefit from a common language

Simon Fraser University researcher Nuowen Dang is among those who has found “citizenship acquisition is a key motivation” for people who move to Canada from Hong Kong.

That is true both for those who stay in Canada and those who return to Hong Kong, Dang writes. (It is true also of other East Asian immigrants, Dang added, including those from Taiwan and mainland China, the latter now being Canada’s top immigrant source country.)

The main factors drawing thousands to return to Hong Kong, Dang writes, are “higher-paying jobs, greater job security, job promotion opportunities and family reunification.”

And the outbound trend continues. “Many migrants,” Dang says, “do not plan to stay in Canada but rather invest in themselves for later movement” from country to country.”

Metropolis researchers Shibao Guo and Don DeVoretz found few ethnic Chinese people who departed from Canada “expressed regrets about leaving, suggesting that many of them had not intended to stay long-term.”

Even though Shen is one immigrant who did have strongly mixed feelings about leaving Vancouver to return to Hong Kong, his story reveals the powerful pull of family and finances.

“(In Hong Kong) I am perhaps working about 60 to 70 per cent of what I was in Vancouver, but saving up more than I used to, given the much lower tax rate (17 per cent flat tax),” Shen wrote in an email.

“Most Hong Kong people know that there is no big money to be made in Canada, even less so in Vancouver. Vancouver in many people’s eyes is a place for retirement of rich people, as they find the living standard in Vancouver very high. Which is true. People who want to make money choose Toronto over Vancouver.”

Kurland, the immigration lawyer, agrees that many immigrants from Hong Kong “who go back are tired of the high cost of living, including housing prices.” He adds that some “never fit in socially in Canada.”

As well, Kurland emphasizes many people from Hong Kong, as well as other ethnic Chinese immigrants, tend to see Canada as an “insurance passport,” a potential safe haven in case of crackdowns by the mainland Chinese government.

Echoing Shen, Kurland noted many Hong Kong returnees with Canadian passports are getting into the habit of visiting Vancouver from time to time, while harbouring hopes of eventually retiring here.

Many of Hong Kong’s well-off, educated residents, Kurland says, typify a new “international class of citizens” who have dual passports and can afford to migrate around the world to enhance their lifestyle.

Some want to “relax for a couple of months in Vancouver” during the summer when Hong Kong is “horrifically” hot, Kurland said. And, appreciating the West Coast’s clean air, some dream of peaceful retirement here.

Noted immigration specialist Richard Kurland says there is a potential danger for Canada in these global migration movements. The most crucial worry is: What happens if the ongoing clash of political wills between mainland China and Hong Kong blows up?

There is a potential danger for Canada in these global migration movements, however. The most crucial worry is: What happens if the ongoing clash of political wills between mainland China and Hong Kong blows up?

Kurland warns that the huge contingent of expatriate Canadians in Hong Kong would cause expensive problems for Canadian governments if China imposes more human-rights restrictions on its dependent region.

That, Kurland says, could cause hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents with Canadian passports to suddenly flood back to this country – where they would be immediately eligible for health care, education and other taxpayer-funded benefits.

Something similar happened before to Canada. When Lebanon became embroiled in a war with Israel in 2006, more than 50,000 residents of that country held Canadian passports.

Many hadn’t seen Canada in more than 20 years, Kurland says. But, since they had dual citizenship, we had an obligation to airlift thousands out of the war zone.

“They ended up having a Canadian vacation, paid for by Canadian tax dollars. And three months later, they were back in Lebanon,” says Kurland, who frequently appears before House of Commons immigration committees.

Even though it will likely not be a military conflict that pressures Hong Kong residents back to this country, Kurland says Canada could still experience “a mass emergency crunch.”

“If it goes badly between China and Hong Kong, you would see an extraordinary number of Hong Kong returnees” suddenly eligible for Canadian support services. “It’s an economic vulnerability for the country.”

Clearly, the issue of returnees to Hong Kong – to say nothing of all the immigrants who head home after obtaining a Canadian passport – has profound implications.

Not only for the returnees. But for the future social and economic well-being of Canada.

As Kurland says, “The Hong Kong story is not over.”

Saudi Gazette – Kerala govt to bear airfare for returning expats: Minister

As part of tackling the waste management problem facing the state, the
minister unveiled plans to introduce the plasma gasification in six major
cities, including Trivandrum, Cochin and Calicut. “The government plans
to cash in on the Gulf model of advanced waste management by introducing
this system.”

Referring to the measures taken to improve the condition of minorities in
the state, Ali said that Kerala stands as a role model for many other
Indian states in implementing schemes and programs for the minorities.

GCC will now look at incinerator alternatives after it agrees to back planning refusal

GCC will now look at incinerator alternatives after it agrees to back planning refusal

12:00pm Saturday 18th May 2013

By Chris Warne

GLOUCESTERSHIRE County Council will defend the decision of its planning committee to refuse permission for the £500 million Javelin Park incinerator project near Haresfield.

The authority’s planning committee unanimously opposed the controversial application in March and at a meeting at Shire Hall on Wednesday (May, 15) it was agreed that a cross-party working group should be established immediately to consider alternatives.

GCC’s Conservative administration signed a 25-year contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty for the plant back in September and the company could still appeal the planning committee’s refusal.

But anti-incineration campaigners from GlosVAIN welcomed GCC’s commitment to support its planning committee in the event of an appeal as a ‘huge step forward’.

Campaigners did express disappointment, however, that the motion tabled by former Lib Dem leader Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm and Wotton) was watered down.

The original wording of Cllr Hilton’s motion had said: “This council recognises that the waste incinerator project no longer has the support of this council following the outcome of the county council elections.”

And it added: “Mechanical Biological Treatment may be a suitable technology as an alternative to burning household waste.”

Labour leader Lesley Williams (Stonehouse) subsequently proposed an amended motion, omitting the reference to MBT and the outcome of the elections, which Conservative leader Mark Hawthorne (Quedgeley) said his party was prepared to back.

The revised motion, which was passed unanimously, called on the authority’s chief executive to “seek robust support to defend the unanimous planning committee decision in any appeal process that may take place in the future.”

It also said: “This Council should immediately establish a ‘Plan B’ cross-party working group to consider alternatives to the current proposals for a waste incinerator at Javelin Park.”

Sue Oppenheimer, chairman of GlosVAIN, said: “We are very pleased that there was enormous support to look again at options for waste and we hope that GCC will also approach UBB to assess whether they are prepared to look at other options which we understand the contract allows them to do.”

Speaking after the meeting Green Party Cllr Sarah Lunnon (Stroud Central) praised the new minority Conservative administration for seeking ‘to find a solution based on consensus rather than strong-arm tactics’.


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