LCQ3: Nature Conservation

     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Hok-ming and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (January 18):


     The authorities have already implemented the New Nature Conservation Policy for more than seven years, and only the projects at two sites of conservation value (i.e. Fung Yuen and Long Valley respectively) have been included under the Management Agreement (MA) Scheme so far; and there has not been any case of successful application for the Public-private Partnership (PPP) Pilot Scheme.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the latest progress of the projects implemented in respect of the 12 priority sites of conservation value under the MA Scheme and the PPP Pilot Scheme;

(b) as I have learnt that the Advisory Council on the Environment has earlier indicated its support for the Sha Lo Tung project in Tai Po and the Fung Lok Wai development project in Yuen Long under the PPP Pilot Scheme, yet so far there has not been any progress in implementing such projects, of the reasons for that; and

(c) whether it has reviewed and assessed the effectiveness of the implementation of the MA Scheme and the PPP Pilot Scheme at present; and whether there are other new measures for implementing the aforesaid two schemes effectively, so as to respond to the demand of the community for conserving the 12 sites of high ecological value?



     In 2004, the Government announced the New Nature Conservation Policy (NNCP) to regulate, protect and manage natural resources that are important for the conservation of biological diversity of Hong Kong in a sustainable manner, taking into account social and economic considerations and for the benefit and enjoyment of the present and future generations of the community.  Under the NNCP, we aim at identifying practicable ways to better achieve the nature conservation objectives, in particular, to enhance conservation of ecologically important sites which are under private ownership while respecting the landowners' property right.  A total of 12 priority sites of high ecological importance for enhanced conservation (the priority sites) had therefore been identified.  Two new measures were proposed for the conservation of these ecologically important sites under the NNCP, namely the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and Management Agreement (MA) schemes, with a view to encouraging the participation of the landowners, non-government organisations (NGOs) and private sectors on nature conservation through providing financial incentives under these two schemes.  Our replies to Hon Cheung's question are as follow:

(a) For part (a) of the question, under the MA scheme, funding support would be provided under the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) to enable competent NGOs to enter into management agreements with landowners of the priority sites for enhancing conservation.  Out of the 12 priority sites, three MA projects have been carried out at four priority sites, including the Long Valley Priority Site by the Conservancy Association (CA) and the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (HKBWS); Fung Yuen Priority Site by the Tai Po Environmental Association (TPEA); and the Ramsar Site and Deep Bay Wetlands outside Ramsar Site Priority Sites by the HKBWS.  Up till today, the total funding support amounts to some 26 million dollars.  Through ECF's support, these NGOs have entered into management agreements with landowners or tenants to enhance conservation of the private lands within these priority sites through cooperation.

     Since their implementation in late 2005, the MA projects at both Fung Yuen and Long Valley have produced encouraging results.  There has been an increase in the number and diversity of butterflies at Fung Yuen.  The total number of butterfly species at the site increased from 162 in 2005 to over 210 in 2011, covering about 90% of the butterfly species in Hong Kong.  At Long Valley, the total number of bird species increased from 221 in 2005 to 275 in 2011, covering over half of the bird species in Hong Kong.  In addition to the direct benefits to biodiversity, the MA projects also raised the public and local communities' awareness on nature conservation.  For instance, with funding support from the ECF, the CA entered into management agreements with local farmers for planting conservation-friendly crops.  This enabled the farmers to continue their farming activities and at the same time participate in conservation.  The CA also assisted the farmers in exploring more sales outlets to enhance the sales of the produce.  As for the MA project at Fung Yuen, the public and local communities gained more understanding and awareness of nature conservation through various public activities organised by the TPEA.  In light of the merits of the scheme, the ECF supported the continuation of these two MA projects.

     Besides, in November 2011, the ECF committee endorsed the funding application submitted by the HKBWS for implementing a new MA project at the Ramsar Site and Deep Bay Wetlands outside Ramsar Site Priority Sites to enhance the conservation value of fishponds at the two priority sites through management agreements between the HKBWS and the fishermen at Northwest New Territories to promote traditional fish pond operation that would favour the foraging of birds.  This one-year pilot project is now ongoing.

     As with the latest progress of the projects under the PPP Pilot Scheme, it is provided in our reply to part (b) of the question.

(b) For part (b) of the question, under the PPP scheme, developments of an agreed scale and plan would be allowed at the ecologically less sensitive portions of the 12 priority sites provided that the developer undertakes to conserve and manage the rest of the site that is ecologically more sensitive on a long-term basis.  This scheme not only encourages the participation of private sectors and NGOs in nature conservation, but also balances development and conservation.

     We have received a total of six applications to carry out PPP project at the 12 priority sites.  In 2008, after deliberation the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) supported the Sha Lo Tung PPP project.  The project proponent proposed to set up an Ecological Reserve of over 50 hectares at the Sha Lo Tung valley to conserve the biodiversity there.  On the other hand, a columbarium and related facilities of about 5 hectares would be set up at the ecologically less sensitive portion of the Sha Lo Tung valley.  Since this is a designated project under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (EIAO), the project proponent submitted the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on December 30, 2010.  Unfortunately, in view of the earlier judicial review relating to the  EIAO of the Hong Kong íV Zhuhai íV Macao Bridge (HKZMB), the project proponent withdrew the report on May 16, 2011.  Now that the judicial review on the HKZMB has been concluded, it is understood that the project proponent will resubmit the EIA report to the ACE shortly.  The project proponent will also apply to the Town Planning Board on land use matters.

     The Government also received a development proposal at Fung Lok Wai, which lies within one of the 12 priority sites. The project proponent proposed the development of a low-density private residential of about 4 hectares, while dedicating about 70 hectares of the site for conservation through setting up a Wetland Nature Reserve.  The EIA report was endorsed by the ACE in November 2009.  The project proponent submitted an application for planning permission to the Town Planning Board on August 19, 2011.  The application is being considered by the authority.

(c) For part (c) of the question, we found that the MA projects have produced encouraging results both in terms of enhancing the conservation value of the sites and promoting public awareness on nature conservation.  We will continue the liaison with different NGOs and relevant communities and encourage them to participate in the conservation of suitable sites through MA projects.  For the PPP scheme, in view of the requirements on conservation, planning and development, and the need to keep a balance between these different aspects, relevant project submission and deliberation would take a longer time.

     Meanwhile, with reference to past experience and latest progress, we reviewed the effectiveness of the MA and PPP schemes and made various enhancements last year.  Firstly, to enhance the conservation of land which has ecological or aesthetic value, but has yet to be included into country parks, ECF has agreed to extend the scope of the MA scheme to cover private land in country park enclaves and within country parks.  To ensure the sustainability of the pledged conservation programmes under PPP, the project proponent would be required to donate upfront to the ECF a lump sum sufficient to generate recurrent incomes to support the pledged conservation programmes, and to identify competent bodies as their conservation agents to manage the ecologically sensitive portion of the concerned sites.  The above injection arrangements will be applicable to the Sha Lo Tung project and Fung Lok Wai project, and we have required the concerned project proponents to consider the above.  We believe these arrangements will help take forward the pilot PPP projects.  Based on the experience gained from the Sha Lo Tung and Fung Lok Wai projects, we will carry out timely review on the effectiveness of the PPP scheme.

     Apart from the above two schemes, the Government have implemented the NNCP, in particular. to protect sites of ecological importance through various conservation measures, including designating country parks, special areas, marine parks, coastal protection areas and conservation areas; formulating and carrying out conservation action plans for species and habitats of conservation importance; and regulating developments at sites of high ecological value through the EIAO so as to respond to the aspiration of the community for conservation.

Ends/Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:11