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Green Plan For Delta’s Environmental Blues

Kitty Poon – SCMP – Updated on Aug 20, 2008

At the 11th Joint Hong Kong-Guangdong Co-operation Conference held recently, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Guangdong governor Huang Huahua unveiled their plan for a “green greater Pearl River Delta quality living circle”.

The concept signifies a shift in joint efforts to protect the environment. It reflects an emerging consensus that a new framework for cross-border co-operation has to be established to ensure quality of living and the continued competitiveness of both Hong Kong and Guangdong in the long run.

Conceived at a meeting between Mr Tsang and Guangdong party secretary Wang Yang in March, the initiative to build a green delta envisions a holistic approach to environmental protection in the region as an alternative to the issue-based co-operation adopted previously. In past years, Hong Kong and Guangdong governments have worked tirelessly to combat regional air pollution. Tremendous efforts have been made.

The green delta framework, if it materialises, will extend the scope of co-operation to producing clean energy, launching recycling industries, enhancing clean production measures, and making a joint effort in natural conservation and public education. This all-encompassing strategy seeks to treat environmental ills at their root.

The green delta agenda relies on a synergy of strengths while enabling each community to tackle its pressing issues. Hongkongers are striving for a better living environment. Guangdong is stressed by the need for industrial restructuring and pressure to meet green standards set out by the central government.

Through co-operation, both sides would have an opportunity to position themselves ahead of the curve. Hong Kong could channel necessary funds and advanced technologies for the establishment of green enterprises. Guangdong is well positioned for clean energy and recycling projects.

Of course, building a green delta is not a simple task. Policymaking always tests the ability and will to forge a consensus among diverse stakeholders. Agreement and co-operation across the border would inevitably be more daunting.

However, the future for a green delta remains bright, for two reasons. First, Guangdong is more determined than ever to strengthen its ties with Hong Kong. Second, intensified co-operation between Guangdong and Hong Kong also echoes the central government’s call for regional collaboration on environment protection.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning recently visited Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau to study the prospect of a green delta. The research is expected to result in a green blueprint for the greater Pearl River Delta.

Formulating a green delta also depends on public participation. Views from entrepreneurs, advocates, academics and citizens will help ensure the creativity and feasibility of the scheme. A green delta is the way forward.

Dr Kitty Poon is the undersecretary for the environment

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