Environmental groups have expressed concerns over the government’s new plan to open currently closed roads to private cars on Lantau Island, which will take effect starting from Friday.

Speaking to Apple Daily, Tse Sai-kit, spokesperson of the Save Lantau Alliance, said that stray cattle and buffalo are common in the southern parts of Lantau Island, and drivers unfamiliar with the roads may accidentally run the animals over. In 2013, eight cattle were killed after a vehicle ran over them while driving along South Lantau Road.

Cattles are commonly seen in south Lantau.
Cattle are commonly seen in south Lantau. Photo: Apple Daily.

He also argued that that there is existing public transportation to allow visitors’ access to the island. He speculated that the government was aiming to increase the traffic on the island, and create pressure to further develop the area. The Save Lantau Alliance is an NGO that has opposed the government’s strategy of developing Lantau and its surrounding waters, instead advocating the preservation of the island as Hong Kong’s “backyard”.

The new “Driving on Lantau Island” scheme will allow 25 private cars to enter roads on southern Lantau Island each day. Places including Ngong Ping, Tai O, Cheung Sha and Mui Wo will therefore become accessible using private cars.

Ngong Ping
Ngong Ping village. Photo: WikiCommons.

In December last year, the Transport Department loosened the regulations on the number of coaches allowed in southern Lantau, saying the plan was to promote tourism and boost the local economy.

The future of Lantau has been the subject of controversy since Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced plans for its development in 2014. During Leung’s 2016 Policy Address in January, he detailed the government’s plan to transform Lantau Island into a “low carbon and smart” district – including establishing an East Lantau Metropolis – through the construction of new artificial islands. In response to this part of his address, legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip accused Leung of damaging the natural environment on the island.

Eric is currently a Bachelor of Journalism student at the University of Hong Kong. Eric has his finger on the pulse of Hong Kong events and politics. His work has been published on The Guardian, Reuters and ABC News (America).