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Residents Attack Car Park Plan For Heritage Garden

19th century landmark chosen for 400 parking spaces

Fox Yi Hu – SCMP – Updated on Sep 05, 2008

A plan to build a car park in a World Heritage-listed garden has highlighted the clash between conservation and urban growth in Macau.

Luis de Camoes Garden, also known as Dove’s Nest, was built in the first half of the 19th century and became part of the “Historic Centre of Macau” which acquired World Heritage status in 2005.

The Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau plans to build a car park at the garden’s nursery site to meet demand for parking spaces in the area.

Bureau chief Tam Vai-man said last week that the government was working to clear some property ownership issues before it could start building the car park, the entrance to which would be located outside the garden on private land.

The car park would provide more than 400 parking spaces for cars and motorcycles.

But Macau historian Chan Su-weng said the project would affect the garden’s historic value and called on the authorities to listen to cultural experts before pressing ahead.

“It is the oldest garden in Hong Kong and Macau,” Mr Chan said.

“And there are prominent World Heritage sites – the Casa Garden and the Protestant cemetery – adjacent to it.”

Although there is no building of consequence on the nursery site where the car park would stand, the site should be protected as part of the garden, Mr Chan said.

“Protecting World Heritage sites is not just about keeping buildings,” he said.

The hilly and heavily wooded garden is named after Luis de Camoes, considered Portugal’s greatest poet and sometimes likened to Homer and Dante. Camoes was exiled to Macau in the 16th century and completed his epic Os Lusidas in the former Portuguese enclave. It is believed he lived in a cave near the garden.

A bronze bust of Camoes has been standing under a grotto in the garden since 1886. Also featured in the garden is a statue of Korea’s first Catholic priest, St Andrew Kim, who went to Macau to study in 1837.

The Historic Centre of Macau, featuring streetscapes and piazzas with more than 20 monuments, was included in the Unesco World Heritage list in July 2005.

The car park plan has annoyed some residents who fear it will spoil the views and natural environment.

Sixty-year-old Vong Kuai said he was worried that the car park would cut into the size of the garden and pollute the air.

“This hilly land is cut out for being a garden. Lots of people come here to exercise,” said Mr Vong, who has been living near the garden for four decades. “There is land elsewhere. Why must they eye this garden?”

A lack of parking spaces in Macau, coupled by an unpopular traffic law, sparked a protest by more than 3,000 motorcyclists in September last year.

There were 95,223 motorcycles and 84,466 vehicles in the city of 29.2 sq km at the end of July.

Transport officials have repeatedly stressed the need to increase parking spaces and ease traffic jams. The number of motorcycles in Macau has been growing at an annual rate of about 8 per cent in the past few years. A lack of parking spaces often leads to illegal parking and riders tend to ignore the parking tickets they receive.

Mr Chan suggested that if the government was determined to push ahead with the car park project it be built underground so as to minimise its impact on the garden.

The Macau government has yet to respond to a South China Morning Post inquiry.

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