After three and half years of aggressive development plans from the Leung government, the Sustainable Lantau Blueprint is a return somewhat to the status quo.
It scraps proposals for intrusive tourist facilities, ignores calls for new roads and urges greater conservation of key areas such as Pui O Wetlands and cultural heritage.
Notably it has dumped many of the unpopular proposals from LanDAC, such as the plan to extend Ngong Ping 360 to Tai O, install a chairlift to Sunset Peak and build water-skiing facilities in Shui Hau and a spa in Cheung Sha.
However, it upholds the government’s biggest development plan – the massive East Lantau Metropolis (ELM), the site of a future CBD and housing on 1000 ha of mostly reclaimed land in the waters between Mui Wo and Hong Kong island.
On the positive side for the environment, the blueprint on a number of occasions acknowledges the need to “conserve sites of natural and cultural heritage importance,” although it doesn’t say how this would be done.
For example, it appears to have taken on board community anger over dumping on the Pui O wetlands.
[The wetland] is rich in biodiversity of wetland plants and macro-invertebrates and is reminiscent of the living of farmers a few decades ago. The water buffaloes living there now are part of that cultural history. … Pui O can be an important educational resource to showcase the rural history of Hong Kong and the valuable wetland flora and fauna.
But while it says measures to protect the wetland “are being explored,” it has no detail.
It also runs up against the logic of the ELM. While it calls for the retention of Mui WO’s rural character, it also endorses the government proposal to build a highway from North Lantau through the town to the ELM.
On the vexed issue of Lantau transport, the document, like the 2007 plan, urges greater use of ferries for round-island transport between villages such as Cheung Sha, Shek Pik and Yi O. It also suggests convenient ‘hop-on hop-off’ short-distance transport services for South Lantau Rd and expanded cycling and mountain bike paths.
While the report has discarded many of LanDAC’s excessive development ideas, it has some of its own, including a beach volleyball court at Cheung Sha, a water sports centre at Pui O, and “an adventure park at an appropriate location.” It argues for the addition of “supporting facilities” on local hiking trails, including signage, information kiosks, “and provision of maps, toilets and emergency telephones.”
It also resurrects the government’s super-prison proposal from early in the last decade, suggesting Lantau’s correctional facilities may be relocated to Hei Ling Chau as a part of ELM.
Finally, and again without elaboration, it says it is exploring the feasibility of “themed camping grounds” in places such as Shui Hau, Tong Fuk, Pui O and Shek Pik.