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SEN speaks at Asia-Pacific Seminar on Geological Conservation and Sustainable Development 2008 (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the opening ceremony of the Asia-Pacific Seminar on Geological Conservation and Sustainable Development 2008 today (August 13):

Ladies and Gentlemen,

     Good morning! I welcome all of you to the Asia-Pacific Seminar on Geological Conservation and Sustainable Development 2008.  I am honoured that Hong Kong is the host city for this large-scale geological event in Asia.  I am happy to have a chance to meet geological experts and environmentalists from different countries.

     Hong Kong is commonly recognised worldwide as an international metropolis of skyscrapers and busy streets, as well as home to one of the world・s greatest natural harbours.  On another side of this busy city, however, there lies a great expanse of countryside with rich bio-diversity and geo-diversity.  

     Though a small place of only 1,100 square kilometres, Hong Kong・s terrain is very diverse, which provides a wide range of habitats supporting different wildlife.  The Chinese White Dolphins in the waters of Hong Kong and the migratory birds in Mai Po Wetland are some of our famous :ambassadors; of nature.  

     Some of Hong Kong・s best treasures, however, are less well known to the general public.  The hexagonal volcanic rock columns in Sai Kung are one example.  These acidic volcanic compositions, which measure up to two metres wide and 200 metres high, and extend for an area of more than 5,000 hectares, are rare in the world and are of high conservation value.  Another interesting place is Tung Ping Chau, which has many spectacular sedimentary rocks.  The rocks are composed of siltstone and mudstone.  They have been sculpted into multifarious forms by the brilliant craftsmanship of nature.  The rock groups in Tung Ping Chau are the youngest in Hong Kong, but are actually more than 65 million years old!  These natural heritages make special contribution to our understanding and appreciation of Earth Science and the geological history of Hong Kong.  We must preserve them for ourselves and our future generations.  

     Fortunately, with more than 40% of Hong Kong・s land area designated as country parks or other special areas, these fascinating rocks and landforms are mostly put under our protected area system, managed for conservation, recreation, education and tourism.  Any new development in the protected area must be approved by the authority and be compatible with the conservation objective.  There is also legislation to prohibit the removal of or disturbance to any stone or soil in the protected area.

     As well as protection under various existing mechanisms, the Government is stepping up its effort in promoting geological conservation.  The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has launched many promotional activities for geographical resources education.  Examples include setting up Hong Kong landform exhibition zones in country park visitor centres, providing more geographical information with interpretation plates along walking trails, and publishing books on these subjects jointly with geological experts.  The Government has also commissioned studies to study the geology of Hong Kong and conduct surveys of the rocks.  The findings of these studies will help us formulate more comprehensive strategy for geological conservation.  

     Having studied geography at university, I have a special interest in and affinity towards rocks and landforms.  I strongly believe that geological conservation is not only for the geologists or students.  Containing so much history of the Earth, rocks are indeed an ideal subject for nature appreciation, recreation and sightseeing. It is important to all countryside lovers who appreciate Hong Kong・s rock formations and the charm of the countryside.  We encourage everyone attracted by the rocks and natural landscape around us to join our conservation league.  I welcome you to become visitors of any one of our 23 country parks, and perhaps our 24th country park on Northern Lantau by the end of the year.   You do not have to travel far to see them, as most sites are less than an hour from the city centre, and they are accessible by public transport and well managed walking trails, which make visiting them easy and pleasurable.  You will be amazed by the proximity of Hong Kong・s countryside to the urban area and how green our city is!

     Today・s seminar has two themes, geological conservation and sustainable development. Geological conservation contributes to the building of a sustainable future.  It helps our future generations to continue to thrive in a natural and green environment.  Besides geological conservation, we are working on several fronts to improve the environment.  For example, to further enhance building energy efficiency, we have just completed a public consultation on the mandatory implementation of the Building Energy Codes. There is overwhelming support from professional bodies and the general public. We are now preparing the relevant legislative proposal to improve energy efficiency and conservation in buildings.  Our goal is to make Hong Kong green in both the countryside as well as the urban area.  

     Public support is vital to any environmental policy.  Your presence today sends us a positive and clear signal that many of us do care about our natural resources and the environment.  I would like to extend my gratitude to all colleagues, scholars, peers and friends and in particular the organising committee who make this seminar possible.  Without your continuous support for and commitment to preserving Hong Kong・s countryside, we would never have sustained this precious city oasis and natural gem.  I hope that this seminar can serve as a forum for useful discussion on geological conservation and sustainable development and promote regional co-operation in these areas.  

     Finally, I wish you all a successful and look forward to seeing more of this kind of seminar to come in the future.  Thank you!

Ends/Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Issued at HKT 12:42


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