Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Hok-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (March 4):
One of the proposals in the Revised Concept Plan for Lantau, which was published by the authorities in May 2007, is to carry out improvement works in Mui Wo. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the latest projected commencement and completion dates of the aforesaid improvement works, as well as its estimated expenditure; and
(b) given that the closed Silvermine Cave in Mui Wo has been reported to have some rare species of bats, an abundance of fishes and stalactites at the primary stage, and thus is rich in ecological resources and worth visiting, and the Silvermine Bay Waterfall, which used to be a popular tourist attraction, has lost much of its attraction due to reduction in water flow in recent years, whether the Government will actively consider renovating and re-opening the Silvermine Cave, as well as improving the water flow of the Silvermine Bay Waterfall, and incorporating them in the improvement works, linking them up with tourist attractions such as the Waterfront Promenade, Pier Plaza and Mui Wo Old Town to form an ecological and leisure tour route, so as to increase the number of tourists and enhance economic development in the district; if it will not, of the reasons for that?
The improvement works in Mui Wo were included in the Revised Concept Plan for Lantau released by the Government in May 2007. Two public forums were held in September 2007 and May 2008 to collect public views on the works project. The feasibility study of the works will be completed shortly. We plan to engage consultants to carry out the detailed design of the proposed works later this year.
My reply to the two-part question is as follows:
(a) The improvement works in Mui Wo will be carried out in phases. Works for some of the items, including the enhancement of Mui Wo Township and various attractions, will commence early next year. The whole project is expected to be completed in 2014. According to the latest estimation, the total project costs would be about $300 million.
(b) Under the feasibility study of the improvement works in Mui Wo, the consultants have explored the feasibility of opening the Silvermine Cave for tourism purpose. During the research and site visits conducted, more than 100 bats were found inside the cave. This suggests that a unique habitat has already been formed inside the cave. According to the information provided by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, four out of the nine species of bats found inside the Silvermine Cave are uncommon in Hong Kong. According to the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap 170), bats are protected under the law and shall not be disturbed. Moreover, some passageways in the cave were found to be immersed in water and there were also signs of water seepage. These issues of natural ecology and geological structure need to be addressed carefully. We will carry out further investigation and study to ascertain the problems in the stage of detailed design for the project.
Regarding the suggestion to improve the water flow of the Silvermine Waterfall, we will conduct further study on its impact on private land, the environment, drainage and geotechnics before we can establish the feasibility of this proposal.
As mentioned in the reply to part (a) above, enhancement works of the Mui Wo Township and various attractions (including the entrances of the Silvermine Cave and the area around the Silvermine Waterfall) will be carried out with priority by the Civil Engineering and Development Department with a view to enhancing the convenience and attraction of Mui Wo to visitors. The enhancement works include building/ improvement of new/existing rain shelters, standardising as well as provision of additional directional signs and information signs for visitors, enhancement of the environment along the waterfront as well as provision of additional open space and cycle parks.
Ends/Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Issued at HKT 15:01