The Planning Department has received 813 written appeals and 1,462 submissions regarding plans by two developers to build columbariums for 7,850 funeral niches on Po Toi Island, most of whom object on environmental grounds, RTHK reported.

A Town Planning Board hearing was held on Thursday morning for shareholders to give comments on the draft of the zoning plans for Hong Kong’s most southerly island. The Planning Department said that the plans would involve large-scale deforestation and that it would have a negative impact on the environment.

The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, Conservancy Association, Designing Hong Kong, Green Power and World Wide Fund For Nature Hong Kong said that the island should be made into a country park, which was what the government had promised back in 2001. The groups said that many species of birds discovered on the island should be protected, and that any large-scale development would greatly affect them.

Po Toi’s unusual rock formations. Photo: HKFP.

A representative of the developers said that the project would create jobs and improve water and electrical facilities on the island. It would also improve transport, as ferries to Po Toi Island currently only run four days a week – Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Operators have been asked to increase the frequency at which the ferries run. It is predicted that the columbarium will attract 1500 visitors daily.

A Town Planning Board committee member, Lincoln Huang Ling-hang, questioned whether developers will still ensure the benefits of the inhabitants of the island when all the funeral niche storage spaces have been sold. The developers said that they will establish a foundation for that purpose.

Photo: HKFP.

Barely inhabited 
Another committee member, Roger Luk Koon-ho, said that there are only nine residents on the island now and that these new plans would completely change the land use of the island. A resident said that he did not want to see the island inhabited by dead people, and that it should be the responsibility of the government to provide basic facilities for them. Another, however, said that the project will bring a stable supply of electricity, and that residents would not have to rely on canned food all the time.

The question of Po Toi Island was raised this June in the Legislative Council, to which the then-Secretary of Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing replied that “the government keeps an open mind on suggestions relating to the supply of electricity in remote areas” and that it will be considering proposals.

Photo: HKFP.

According to the Discover Hong Kong website, Po Toi is known as the “South Pole of Hong Kong” and its peculiar-looking rocks have been voted the most beautiful in Hong Kong. Residents on the island make a living from fishing and selling seaweed products, for which the island is known for. The island spans approximately 3.69 square kilometres.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.