Government defends award of controversial bathing beach project
The government has defended its decision to proceed with its controversial project at Lung Mei beach in Tai Po as environmentalists threaten a judicial review over the decision.
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the ecological value at Lung Mei beach was lower than other sensitive areas such as Ting Kok East and Yung Shui O in Sai Kung.
“The quantity of seahorses discovered [there] is more when compared with at Lung Mei,” Wong said, referring to earlier reports of the presence of a rare species of seahorse.
He added the government would increase conservation efforts and as such the government’s decision took into account any ecological value.
In a press release Wednesday, the government noted the petition against the bathing beach at Lung Mei but said the Chief Executive-in-Council decided on Tuesday to not invoke the power to suspend, vary or cancel the environmental permit issued for the project.
“In accordance with the above decision, the EP of the Lung Mei bathing beach project remains valid. The Civil Engineering and Development Department has accordingly awarded the contract for the project today,” the government press release said.
A CEDD spokeswoman said the project has been awarded to Welcome Construction Company for a contract sum of about HK$74 million.
Work will start in the middle of this month for completion in March 2015.
A spokesman for the concern group Save Lung Mei Alliance strongly criticised the government as acting alone in its decision and said it would apply for a judicial review.
The Office of the Ombudsman said earlier it would be reviewing the actions of government departments concerned over the beach project.
The Lung Mei bathing beach project has met strong opposition from environmentalists and other concern groups because the artificial beach could destroy the ecology in the area.
What has had the concern groups jumping up and down is that they believe the environmental permit that was issued in April 2010 by the Environmental Protection Department was based on an earlier ecological study that was not thorough enough.
Only last week Save Lung Mei Alliance announced the results of a new ecological study carried out early this year by the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department that confirmed the presence of several species of rare aquatic animals at Lung Mei.
As such there were hopes that this new report would convince the government to have a rethink over the project.
The Finance Committee of the Legislative Council approved funding of HK$208.2 million at money-of-the-day (MOD) prices for the project last July.
The works include a 200-metre long bathing beach with groyne (a kind of wave barrier made of rubble mound), beach buildings, a refuse collection point and a fee-paying carpark.
Work was supposed to start last November for completion in November 2014.
The decision to build the beach must have come as a relief to the winning contractor who have been waiting eight months for news of his tender.
Due to the fuss kicked up by the objectors CEDD has had to twice extend the validity of the tenders that were first submitted last October.
The CEDD spokeswoman said it had received eight tenders and declined to disclose information on whether any of the tenderers had subsequently withdrawn their tenders due to the long delay.