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Fight for South Lantau wetlands

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The long-running campaign to prevent further damage to the Pui O wetlands faced a serious setback on September 13. A Judicial Review, challenging the government’s assertion that it does not have discretion to prevent landfilling of private land with ecological value, was rejected by Judge Thomas Au at the High Court. Members of Living Islands Movement (LIM) are calling on residents to take action.

“It seems illogical to us and other observers that the government would conclude that they have no authority to prevent a private landowner destroying a valuable wetland habitat which is also a biodiversity hotspot and home to rare and semi-rare species of wetland animals and plants,” says Martin Lerigo of LIM.

“The land in question was zoned as a Coastal Protection Area by the government and their intent that it should be protected was clear in the zoning regulations, which state unambiguously that landfilling is prohibited,” Martin adds. “This is not enforceable due to an administrative anomaly which underlines the government’s inability to establish a coherent set of regulations governing land use, an issue that has become ever more troublesome in recent years.”

Judge Au’s decision means that Hong Kong will likely now lose a significant amount of its last remaining wetland habitats. LIM is calling on the government to amend the legislation and implement statutory protections for Coastal Protection Areas.

“It is a matter of grave concern that this judicial review decision has taken two years to be delivered,” says Martin. “We ask the Secretary for Justice to explain this unacceptable delay and outline how she will fix the problem, without which confidence in the rule of law will be seriously eroded.”

Image: www.economist.com

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