The Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society has urged the government to halt its land reclamation plans, saying that it may further harm the living environment of the city’s rare Chinese white dolphins. The NGO said the government’s environmental impact assessment mechanism has been a failure, after efforts to set up a marine zone around the city’s mega-bridge project proved to be “useless.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s Lantau Tomorrow Vision reclamation plan involves building 1,700 hectares of artificial islands off the coast of Lantau Island, as well as 220 hectares of reclamation near Lung Kwu Tan, 20 hectares at Siu Ho Wan and 80 hectares at Yam O.

According to a report by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department this year, the number of Chinese white dolphins appearing in Hong Kong’s marine territory has halved from 80 in 2012 to 40 in 2017 – a historic low since records began in 1995.

Chinese white dolphin
Chinese white dolphin. Photo: Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.

The dolphins have not appeared for three years around the north-eastern side of Lantau Island, near the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. Construction for the bridge’s link road and its artificial island started in 2012, and it is set to open on Wednesday.

‘Useless’ marine park

Taison Chang Ka-tai, the society’s chairman, said the dolphins in Hong Kong’s waters were mainly of two separate communities – one around the northern side of the bridge, and another around the southwestern side of the bridge. However, Chang said the construction of the bridge had prevented the two communities from travelling to and from each sides.

Chang said the government made a promise in its environmental impact assessment report for the construction of the bridge that it would set up a marine park for the dolphins at The Brothers Islands. But the measure, made in December 2016, has had little positive effect, the NGO said.

Chinese white dolphins

The marine parks were situated only 150 metres away from the bridge’s artificial island.

“The number [of dolphins] at The Brothers Islands has been dropping – it was zero in 2015, 2016 and 2017,” Chang said. “There were no dolphins going there. What is the value of a marine park when no dolphins appear there?”

“Based on the experience of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, we can see that the compensation measures [suggested by environmental impact assessments] are useless.”

The Brothers Islands marine park
Photo: GovHK.

Reclamation for the airport’s third runway system began in August 2016.

Chang said that the government’s further reclamation plans at Lung Kwu Tan and Siu Ho Wan will worsen the waters North of the Lantau Island.

“These reclamation projects near the marine parks will further decrease the usefulness of the marine parks,” he said.

Taison Chang Ka-tai
Taison Chang Ka-tai (R). Photo:

The policy address announced two weeks ago did not include any plans to protect the ocean and the dolphins, Chang said.

“If white dolphins one day disappear from Hong Kong’s waters, Hong Kong people can hardly explain that to the next generation,” he said. “When a biological indicator disappears, humans will be affected too.”

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.