Question and Answer Session

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					Question and Answer Session Question - Mick Banks: I am in the construction industry, I would just like to make a general question to the floor, primarily for the first four speakers. I think a lot of us were probably quite happy to hear what was being said today and it would be quite easy to walk away with a bit of a warm glow about how things are being done or people are moving in the right direction. But perhaps I would just like to ask the question, how is everything that‟s been discussed today going to move on to the CPU? Maybe I have missed something but what is the point at which all these great Because we have had enough plans and research and all that kind of And if there is one things that have been discussed and talked about today, how is that actually going to go into reality? thing. It seems to me that there are some concrete ideas that have been mentioned today which could quite easily move into government policy. theme that ran through many of the speakers it was the fact that the next step is now with government, to make some changes, and particularly from my point of view, with things like Building Ordinance planning, etc, which I have a lot of interest in. don‟t know who would care to answer that but anyone from the table. Chairman: with it? Mr Cho: I think on behalf of the Central Policy Unit, I will tackle this question. Basically, the role of the Central Policy Unit is very simple. facilitate. generating debate within the community. bureaux and departments. I mean we are here to We organise this seminar for the sole purpose of arousing interest, Now, amongst the audience today there are Would anyone pick up the question or would CPU be interested to deal I

government officials from various bureaux and departments – all the concerned And, of course, having discussed the topic openly today – and I look forward to receiving any further comments from you if you were not able to express your views today, through email or through fax or whatever – collectively we will put down the ideas and then definitely within the government system there is this mechanism to process the views and ideas further. For example, there are various advisory committees under, for example, the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau, and other government departments will have their own consultative mechanisms and policy decision making mechanisms. will go on naturally. Chairman: So you have the assurance that they will be considered and considered

So all this

carefully. Question – Ian Birney: I am a town planner – planning consultant. Just following

on from the points that have just been made, one of the problems is that while we have these statements of policy and intent, when we get to the working level we seem to come into problems where people don‟t understand what the basis of the conservation objectives are. examples of this. And at the working level, every day we are seeing And this question is really Now, I don‟t really want to attack all engineers but at the moment

I would like to have a go at geotechnical engineers. addressed at the first two Davids.

We have constantly in the last two years seen the spread of concrete over just about every slope in Hong Kong. I have it from good engineers outside government that Personally, I cannot see any the Geotechnical Engineering Office is now trying to prevent slopes that are thousands of years old from falling down. conservational value in covering all of the slopes with concrete and what really frustrates me, and probably members of the Town Planning Board, we have been asked in several cases to do very detailed analysis of trees, impact of development on the trees, have really tried to preserve a whole group of trees, and then GCO comes in with their requirement and obliterates the whole lot. Now, if you would like to have a look at two examples, which you may see -–Leighton Hill development, we spent a lot of time trying to save that; and there is another one closer to Mr Kerr‟s office, it is the hill just outside Pacific Place. Now that hill has been there for ages, right? At the moment they are just starting to cut all over all of the frontage on to Queensway. And I think we‟ve gone to the extremes. I know in the 1980‟s there was an argument with GCO and the landscape people that the growth of natural trees and natural coverage can actually help maintain the slopes. But we seem to have gone to the extreme and if you look at the last typhoon and rainy season, virtually no slopes fell down. think we are now going beyond what is necessary. Now that is great. But I And this does not only apply to We have gone beyond

this case but it applies to all situations where we are working on old engineering standards which were designed for the 1970‟s and the 80‟s. that and unless we can change those quickly, I think we are stuck in the same mould that we are. But perhaps the first two Davids could just give me their comments regarding the current approach to concreting over every slope that we have got. Answer – David Melville: I think it is horrible, in a word. Yes, vegetation does

hold slopes together.

Many of the hills in Hong Kong have been held together by Clearly, there are some slopes in Hong Kong which And it doesn‟t just stop on the slopes either. I

vegetation for a very long time.

are dangerous and need some geotechnical engineering to hold them in place but I think it has got way out of control. think if you are talking about over-engineering solutions to everyday problems one only needs to also go and look at some of the drainage projects that are being put in where we have massive concrete structures at a time where everywhere else in the world people are abandoning those and going back into natural water courses. what comes out of a concrete-mixer. Answer – David Dudgeon: I would just add to that the issue of over-concreting the As David mentioned, the There is a need for the engineers to wake up to the fact that the environment is more than

environment in Hong Kong is quite an important one.

more the New Territories is concreted, the more the water is forced to run off the land rather than percolate through the soil and then flow down streams causing floods and overspill. The same issue on natural slopes in Hong Kong. vegetation and that more unstable. That said, I think it is a bit difficult for David and I to say very much about slope stability because we are biologists, we are not involved in the issue of human safety. So if the geotechnical engineers say that the slope is unsafe, there is no way on a conservation viewpoint we are going to argue don‟t concrete it over or don‟t make it more safe. The question may be what would make it more safe. Chairman: Is there any geotechnical engineer? Okay. It reminds me of the The areas which are concrete are impermeable to water, therefore you get more run-off over slopes of puts more pressure on the slopes and is likely to make them

Policy Address - Mr Tung said that we are going to build a green model city. Don‟t turn the green into grey. Question – John Fellows: I am from Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden. Both

David Dudgeon and David Melville mentioned the need for a strategy and action plan to implement the convention on biological diversity. I am not quite clear, is there actually a process underway to produce such a strategy and action plan? Answer: We haven‟t actually started it yet but the First Davies ecological baseline would certainly help in that direction.



Okay, so it has been placed on order. I am the Director of Territory Development Department.

Question – Mr H.K. Wong:

We have heard the speakers this afternoon focusing their attention on conservation but I think we have heard relatively little about Hong Kong‟s future development, which is actually the title of this forum. Now, I have been working with planning studies for some time; it would appear to me, I think, in Hong Kong we have got a serious problem as to how to identify new development areas. Given all the constraints, not only the environment, the ecology, there is heritage to be preserved and there are fung shui problems, there are country parks not to be touched, so there are lots of constraints. So in the process of trying to identify new development areas we have to live within all those constraints. Now, the other side of the picture is that Hong Kong‟s population is going to grow. I think, according to the planners, probably by the year 2011 we are going to have 8.3 million population in Hong Kong. grow. We know the land area in Hong Kong won‟t So, unavoidably, Although it can grow in the past through reclamation but not any more these

days because of the public sentiment about reclamation.

development will have to come from the New Territories and with all these constraints I have just mentioned, I would like the speakers to throw some light on the future roadmap for Hong Kong in further development. How development can take place in the future, taking account of all these constraints. Chairman: Thank you Mr Wong for reminding us gently that we might have only His question

touched half of the subject - so we have to stay for another three hours. would like to pick that up.

has been directed to the speakers, I wonder whether any of my colleagues on the stage

Answer: Not really. I find myself in a position that if I make any suggestions, it may prejudice our commercial interests, so probably not. But I think a very important point was made earlier by one of the first two speakers about the small house policy. The utilization of land resources really needs to be reconsidered, nd of course we know there are political and social and other implications to that. But quite frankly, if Hong Kong is to grow and accommodate the population forecast that you have mentioned, we just have to look at how we utilise land and some of the policies we have had in the past are probably not applicable – perhaps dating from the 60‟s – and so are just not applicable going forward. think that is a little bit out of reach of this panel today.

But as to identifying areas, I

Answer: Also, the land use planning process could also help because it will especially involving strategy EIAs, then it helps identify with the least impact. kind of plot ratio. Some speakers also speak about this. If we accept that there has to be development, where the development should be sited, what We wish to touch less land. That means, perhaps again high-rise maybe the solution but how high, high tall, what is the footprint for this development. And also, while we develop we still And also, especially when a What for? Just living in have to keep greenery to balance the development.

development is more and more intensive, in fact the urban people have to get in touch with nature, otherwise it is shutting them in built up areas. houses, not quality living. So I think we have to consider all this and take all this in

perspective and build a nice environment for both people and wildlife. Answer: Surely, if I may Chairman, a point here, and one I mentioned in my introductory remarks, is the use of railway systems. We are guilty in Hong Kong of smothering it with concrete and a great proportion, though I could not give you a percentage, is covered with roads - and roads require cut slopes and so the slopes get concreted. I am surely not alone on this issue and have been advocating for a long time that we need to put more capital into railways. This is not a poor was short. community anymore. It is not like the days when we first gave birth to the MTR where capital We have substantial capital base, I am pleased to say, in the government and therefore in the public purse and the policy of how railways are funded is something that we absolutely have to look at. It is easy to add an extension to a road, the traffic is going to grow, there is going to be car ownership increase let‟s have a bit more road. The consequences of that are enormous. It is an easy short term decision but the cumulative effect of it is to use land area – and as I have just said, not just for roads but for slopes and all the other paraphanalia that goes with it – and you can‟t use that for development. But if we put more capital into railways and put those underground, that will allow a significant more productive use of land and of course it also allows more intensive use of land because railways, as we know, serve large numbers of people. It is a fundamental policy change to think how we go about funding railways and I would offer that as probably a more constructive solution than just identifying a plot of land somewhere that we could develop. David Dudgeon: If I could be flippant just for a moment – and my colleague, Dr

Michael Lau who is in the audience, I can see him cowering behind his seat over there

– once mentioned to me that people in Hong Kong seem to confuse sustainable development with the term „sustaining development. And it does seem to me that when we hear projections – with no disrespect to Mr Wong – about 8.3 million people in Hong Kong or even more scary projections, and then we consider that the people already in Hong Kong wish to enhance their existing lifestyle, something does not compute here. There is a point where the footprint of Hong Kong will become so large that it will simply not be possible for southern China to sustain a city with the impact that Hong Kong is placing on the environment. Now leaving that aside, the issue of bio-diversity conservation, which I am intimately involved with, we at Hong Kong U have been carrying out a bio-diversity survey and one aspect of the survey has been to highlight spots which are of conservation interest – which we intended, as it were, to stick red flags in and say, “Hey, don‟t go here”. But the other side of the coin was, we can also – my colleagues will kill me for this – identify sites which have rather low conservation value and it is possible to identify places in Hong Kong where one might say, “This is where your development could and should be centred”. So the bio-diversity conservation argument is not just about saying don‟t go here, don‟t go there, don‟t go anywhere. It is about saying, “Don‟t go here, but you could go here”. Question - Steven Cheung – Hypo & Randal: height of the trees. I am a geotechnical engineer.

About trees – it can be good to the slope, it can be bad to the slope, depending on the So if it is a short size, usually it is quite good because during a But trees can also do So if typhoon it won‟t be blown away and then pull the soil off.

some damage to the foundations, particularly to the shallow foundations. I have done a lot of research on trees on foundations in Canada, as well as in the UK. we have to cut it off in Canada, otherwise it will damage our foundations. Now, I‟ve heard a lot about the speakers talking about bio-diversity and also heritage I think it is quite good – and also development. But we also should focus – I think later on you are going to have seminars – on energy conservation as well as resource conservation. So in this regard, we can build a sustainable development in Hong Kong, particularly we have to focus on the three R‟s, the conventional three R‟s – recover, reuse and recycle. But I always encourage one more R, which is not to use Basically, I anything that is not environmentally friendly. That is my fourth R.

the tree size – for example a Maple Leaf Tree – we get two times the height, usually

taught in Canada as an environmental professor. Question – Wallace Chang (Department of Architecture, CUHK): I have a question directed to Mr David Lung. I think for the moment Hong Kong is building a And also, we borrow Disneyland and at the same time we are demolishing … Macau, our neighbour. strategy.

models, conservation models, from Singapore but we neglected what was done in So, I wonder if there is any unique way, the Hong Kong way Can David Lung give me of building our own attitude towards a conservation policy, and also a conservation Maybe in terms of the design strategy as well. some answers on indications on this direction please. Answer – David Lung: I think, like I said in my talk earlier, that putting culture

into a reality, putting cultural conservation into reality, we are talking about the present possibilities in Hong Kong, because Hong Kong has a land-driven economy, right? Even though there has been some recession after ‟97 in terms of the land-driven economy and then the government are now thinking of putting other kinds of economies into the jackpot so that Hong Kong is not a single direction in terms of our GDP growth, still we are under pressure for fighting for land in heritage conservation, no matter whether it is a historical building or archaeology. Like I said in my speech, there are currently 8,000 pre-1950 buildings. But given

that, we have to prioritize them – some are more important, some are less important. Just like David Dudgeon said, my colleagues will kill me if I say I will let go of any. There are some really conservative conservationists. Even if we were talking about preserving facades – there is a school of conservation called facadism, preserving facades – but even the conservative conservationists will call it facadomy. It is a sin just to keep the façade, they have to keep the entire building. So, I mean there are many, many schools of thought in preservation. But given that tight-land economy we have to make decisions and put criteria, put values, on to the different types of buildings. And my bottom-line is, we are perhaps counting by the numbers and perhaps we could save at least, the bottom-line, about 800-1,000, given that 6,000 may go or 7,000 may go. I don‟t know about this because at the present moment we are still working on this historical building survey, territory wide survey, and there has not been a full report come out yet. Once the report comes out we can identify those and we can tell the government, “Now this is our baseline, this is the bottom-line; those are the ones that you cannot touch, definitely, but the rest of them, you can think of other means of strategy. As David Dudgeon said, they are the dubious ones and So, I think there are more ways to go about it,

we can study them case by case.

because we are talking about limited resources here, limited growth here. Just like the Director of Territory Development says, we are catering to a manageable population in the next 20 years time. more things. resources. We are fighting for more land, fighting for But how do we do it all together so that we can maximize our So I

Like Western Kowloon – it is not a matter of not reclaiming land. It is a

matter of, after reclamation of land, we have put 40% of the land into roads.

think we have to think of more ingenious ways of using our resources and to recycle our resources, like Keith Kerr said. How to use the industrial building and turn it temporarily – and by temporarily it means 30 years – into elderly housing. move. Chairman: Thank you for raising the issue of Mickey Mouse. David Dudgeon So I think we have to put all these things together before we can make another further

may like to add that to your bio-diversity list. Question – Gordon …,Australian Consulate General: Just a comment. It was a

big part of Mr Tung‟s Policy Address but I am surprised it has not come up today so far, the issue of Hong Kong as part of southern China. It is a bit hard to talk about conservation, perhaps, certainly in terms of bio-diversity and ecology, without giving due regard to Hong Kong as being part of Guangdong Province. And I am interested in the comment David Dudgeon made that Hong Kong has a much higher level of bio-diversity than the rest of Guangdong. Is there some geographical reason for that? Answer – David Dudgeon: A small correction. Actually, what I said was, Hong

Kong was disproportionately high – its area, relative to the whole of Guangdong. The answer to that question is, that is the sixty-four million dollar question, of course. We don‟t entirely know what it is that drives bio-diversity in any communities, so I can‟t give you a neat little answer in a nutshell. One of the reasons why Hong Kong is so rich in bio-diversity is because Hong Kong is on the cusp between species which have a southern distribution from the temperate zone and species which have a northern distribution from the tropical zone and they tend to overlap in Hong Kong. worlds. Question – John Fortune, President of the Hong Kong Underwater Association:

And that gives you, as it were, the best of both


would like to take you all from land, under water now. I would like to represent the Underwater Association views. bottoms. We have three excellent marine parks – with muddy We feel that if there had been better contact with the people who go diving, We feel that there should be a marine park

the people who spend all their hobbies and their time underwater, we could have had marine parks in probably better places. could put these marine parks. accessible. get there. research unit, with more local input coming into it, to determine exactly where we Port Shelter, for instance, is ideal. It is good, it is There is some coral left – not much but there is some – and people can We also need better protection for our marine parks so that dynamiting,

cyanide poisoning of fish, is stopped. In the Philippines I know, for instance, there is such a lot of dynamiting – I was down there recently and there was a dynamite explosion every three or four minutes, and a lot of cyaniding. This also goes on in Hong Kong still, although we try and stop it. We need better publicity We do need greater protection of our marine environment.

amongst the public and amongst our fishermen – and I know there are some representatives of the fishermen here today – so that they do understand that it is in their own interests in the end, to protect our underwater environment. input in making it a better place for people to come and see. Chairman: Thank you for bring your concerns to the surface. I wonder if Frank We would very much like to be part of any marine park research unit, so that we can put our

or any of the panel members would like to make a quick response. Answer – Mr Lau Sin-pang(?): Yes. We are studying potential sites for We

designation as marine parks and we involve some (of the) public in consultation, and also we employ academic staff as a consultancy to do this kind of work. enforcement – telling us where illegal activities occur and that kind of thing. (?) Perhaps to carry on the interest in marine one step forward. Beginning this week, And I am Because if certainly welcome members of the NGOs to help us, not only in surveys but also in

I have a team of marine archeology experts from Beijing coming in to start digging in the Hong Kong coastlines to find out what is underwater in Hong Kong. the beginning – but I am sure in the future we have a lot of resources. sure there is something – we have not really put a lot of resources in that but this is you think of 2,000 years ago when the Silk Route of China, starting from Guangzhou all the way to Persia and the West, boats passing through Hong Kong, there must be a lot of things under Hong Kong waters.

And that might even increase your

imagination – just from being a natural habitat for marine, it could be of archeological interest in underwater as well. Answer – David Dudgeon: looking after. on. Briefly, the issue about education and awareness and

getting people more aware that we have got a marine environment that is worth For quite a long time AFD and the NGOs have been working in relation to terrestrial conservation in Hong Kong, with a lot of visitors centres and so And on the marine side, WWF is now looking forward to having a Marine Education Centre at the Hoi Ha Wan Park, and we hope that that will not only introduce students to the environment but the community at large, and also act as a tourist attraction. Question – K.C. Lai, Geographical Educator: While we have heard a lot of

discussion about bio-diversity, our heritage, conservation, I would like to add one point about the geographical diversity and the geological diversity of Hong Kong. They do not appear as interesting as dragon-flies or, say, Hakka villages, but these are some of the educational sights of our students. Field studies are not, say, as popular as elsewhere in other countries. overseas paid by the government. whole school life. Even Singapore, they have annual field studies to But in some of the places in Hong Kong, such as

Cheung Chau, that‟s the first field trip of many students and the last field trip in their My studies indicate that about 40% of our secondary four students, the first field trip in their life is Cheung Chau. Now, these areas are outside the country park areas. Now this is very worrying Recent reports from

because they don‟t have the care of Mr Lau and his colleagues.

photographs that we saw in the papers is that some of those – the granite rock sites, which are actually a Mecca for geographic excursions – since the - I don‟t know which department - maybe it is the Regional Services Department or the Lands Department have built concrete walkways to all these kinds of rock formations. We have some very enthusiastic lovers of rocks who started to bring in, say, paints and paint things on the rocks. They want to make sure that the students or the public know that this rock is looking like a duck, so they paint the words “Duck Rock” on the piece of rock and elsewhere. Now, that is why, I think, some of the students – why the Chief Executive is saying that we have enhanced creativity of our students. Because you cannot say they are deprived of their right to say that is a Pigeon Rock, not a Duck Rock or a Chicken Rock. But everyone who goes there, that is now a Duck Rock. Now, what worries

me is the plight of all these places which are outside the country parks but which are of educational value, and maybe because of the good wishes of whatever government department to develop it, say, and those areas are now under threat. So when I hear the Chief Executive‟s address of developing Sai Kung and Lantau into recreational areas, I have a shiver at my back. What sort of recreational areas are they going to develop? future. A Walt Disney Cheung Chau or Po Lin Temple, and opening up more areas which have never been under the threat of so called recreation in the So I just raise this point for your consideration. Thank you. It teaches us that rocks are hard and solid, they are not

Chairman: eternal.

Question – John Wong (Hong Kong Marine Conservation Society): have been a lot of remarks on conservation. seems that the other topic today is Hong Kong‟s future development. work.

Earlier, there As Mr Wong,

I think we all agree to that. But it

in Cheung Chau development mentioned earlier, there are a lot of constraints on his And yet, Hong Kong‟s development actually is driven by population growth. I just wonder whether the government has looked into the limit of Hong Kong – the area – how many people can we actually accommodate. This has a big effect on our whole planning in the future. So, maybe I would like the panelists to comment on this – and if Mr Wong wants to comment on that. And also, someone mentioned about the efficient use of land and space. there are a lot of new proposals about making good use of them. plot ratio, that means we will increase our land surface area more. not been taken into account seriously by, I think, the government. And also about the issue of the concrete slopes. We‟ve wasted a lot of cement. Actually, in

Hong Kong we do waste a lot of land – some of the obsolete lands and buildings, and And yet, Hong And yet, that has Kong does not lack spaces. If we look into the air there is a lot. If we increase the

Hong Kong, in general, is a very wasteful community. I think maybe we have been used to this in the past. I think this is the time we should think, what we do is it necessary. slopes. As earlier mentioned about the slopes, we are overdoing stabilizing the And yet, we are causing Some of the slopes are actually stable enough.

more harm than good in doing this additionally, the excess works, to our environment. So these are my comments or questions and I hope someone can follow up.



All these three are important issue.

Perhaps time will allow us to deal

with the first one, population. that – or from our panel. Answer – David Dudgeon:

Anyone from the floor who would like to speak on

I think it is very telling that the study brief for …


21, does not make any mention at all about population. It is difficult to see how you can have a study on sustainability without addressing it. important point. Chairman: And this is a very important issue that has a significant bearing on the I think John has got a very

resource use, on the environment, the conservation of Hong Kong. Question – Albert Lai (Conservancy Association): The Association is, perhaps,

the oldest green group in Hong Kong – since 1968 – so we do have a view on conservation. But before I come to that, I would like to draw on a point about development. Even after 1997, we seem to be still thinking in a box in terms of development, because there are some speakers or some from the audience who are talking about the constraints we have in Hong Kong and worry about what footprint we can afford inside the territory. I would like to suggest that I am one of those who really think that Hong Kong and Guangdong will eventually integrate together. So in that regard, should we not think about development as not just a development within the Hong Kong boundary itself, but really a development in the Pearl River Delta region. I mean, for instance, this is actually happening. Government‟s intervention. every day. coming to work in Hong Kong or vice versa. We wait for the Macau

I mean like we have people living across the border We have … doing that, exactly,

So maybe Hong Kong can accommodate 8 million or 10 million, but this So this not only has a lot of bearing on the development itself,

figure of 10 million and any further population pressure can be accommodated across the border as well. environment as well. Back to the point about conservation. I am surprised that we have not heard about any concrete steps in terms of conservation. which I understand will be circulated later. We actually have prepared a print-out, Basically, what we propose to do is that but also, obviously, it has a lot of importance as far as how we conserve our natural

in order to really take some concrete steps on conservation we need some institutional

mechanisms. One is really the Nature and Heritage Conservation Fund. The second is that we do think that we need a Nature and Conservation Bill, so that we can enshrine all the conservation policy in a legal code. government, too. And perhaps we need some changes in the Maybe the Development Department should also be changed to a

territorial Conservation Department and leave the developments into public hands and conservation into government hands. Chairman: Thank you, Mr Lai. He has come prepared and to ensure that we

would go home not empty-handed. Question – Kim Salkeld (HK Government Environment Unit): do things here. Not a question,

but to say, despite the pressures being intense there is still tremendous opportunity to And figures that support this view - just looking at land use at the moment – just over 1,000 kilometres here, actually less than 20% is developed urban area, 40% is protected country park area. That leaves 40% of land area – I will leave aside the sea for the moment – which is, if you like, neither planned nor protected. The potential to make good use of that land, both for people‟s needs and And also, remember the point that did come out for nature‟s needs, is tremendous.

very well, even within the area that we have built already, the potential to enhance the value for conservation as well as the quality of living environment for people is tremendous, and that is something we can all work on together a lot. The issue of population. It isn‟t something that just affects Hong Kong, it is the whole planet – and we have just gone past the six billion mark. But then it is not just simply the number of people that matter, it‟s the way people act, the economic activities they get involved in, the choices they may. One set of figures that I often think about is, here we have at the moment 6.8 million people. Bangladesh has got 116.8 million people. Very different environmental impact. Probably, on global Locally, there is terms, Hong Kong has more impact than those 116.8 million. Bangladesh. Los Angeles has got 3.4 million people in its metropolitan area. They probably have more environmental impact than we do. What matters is the choices we make. The key, at the heart of sustainability is, everyone in Hong Kong better understanding what their own choices make and have on the environment around them, locally and

probably greater environmental impact because of the poverty of people in

globally, and working together to make better choices. potential in Hong Kong to make those. Chairman:

But there is still tremendous

I have seen many hands, yet in the interests of time I have to draw the But there will be ample opportunities next Saturday – just a There will be other platforms to air your views, etc.

Q&A session to a close. at the Science Museum.

commercial – there will be another forum on Environmental Policy in the 21 st Century