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Keep vows, group tells Airport Authority

South China Morning Post – 31 August 2011

Green measures over building of Chek Lap Kok not good enough, says association

The Airport Authority has been told to make good on the environmental pledges it made when building the airport at Chek Lap Kok before asking the public to accept another huge project for a third runway.

The authority should “honour its cheques first before asking for more”, the Conservancy Association said, accusing the airport operator of not delivering satisfactorily the compensation it had promised for ecological losses during the original construction.

It said this failure underlined the need for the authority to disclose at earlier stage what compensation measures it planned to introduce if the third runway plan, involving 600 hectares of reclamation in key dolphin habitats, went ahead.

“They have to clearly demonstrate to the public that to what extent their measures could really protect the environment,” senior campaign officer Roy Ng Hei-man said.

Ng said the authority might consider starting the mitigation work even before construction on the HK$136.2 billion runway began.

Three days before the consultation on the project is due to end, the association said that in digging through the environmental impact assessment reports for the airport, produced in the 1990s, it had identified at least three pledges designed to compensate for the loss of Chek Lap Kok island, flattened for the airport.

It said checks on the sites showed none had been completed satisfactorily. In one, a waterfront site at Tai O where the authority had pledged to replant 11 hectares of mangrove for the loss of seven hectares on the island and in north Lantau, it found an estimated five hectares with one key species, common on the levelled island, growing poorly.

East of the Tung Chung new town where the authority promised to replant trees to compensate for removal of a 20-hectare secondary forest that was home to more than 101 bird species, the group found there were two dominant tree species, neither of which bore the right fruit to attract birds.

Parts of the site were just shrubs and weeds.

The association also said that to compensate for loss of a freshwater wetland, 16 other sites of similar characteristics were to have been included in country parks or designated as sites of special scientific interest. But so far, only one, in Sha Lo Tung, has been listed.

The Airport Authority said it had fulfilled its commitments to mangroves, secondary woodland and freshwater wetlands.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said designation of the 16 reserve sites were not pledges in relation to the airport development.

Ten groups will hold a joint press conference today to state their demands to the Airport Authority.

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