Introduction to Living Lamma’s response to CEDD’s Greening Master Plan (GMP) for the Islands District
A Snapshot of Living Lamma’s past engagement with Government
Living Lamma was started in May 2009 in response to two issues – dumping on agricultural land in the Yung Shue Long Valley and Home Affairs Department (HAD) plans to construct a concrete platform over the last remain bit of unspoiled shoreline along the Yung Shue Wan harbour. Both of these negatively impact our community by causing damage to the natural environment or carrying out works that are not in keeping with the rural character or that are designed to meet residents’ needs.
Living Lamma has continued to campaign on these two issues, hoping to close loopholes that allow dumping on agricultural land and to insist the rural public minor works are based on proper research and design.
Unfortunately, in Hong Kong, government inertia prevents action that could clean up our environment. Bureaucracy formulated under the colonial system, when residents of rural areas were expected to ask for little or nothing by way of community improvement, governs government – public relations. Budget is allocated, not on the basis of community need, but on outdated standards of procedure. Money is earmarked to capital works – pouring concrete and putting up railings – but not to measures that would conserve, beautify or provide maintenance. Thus, HAD can fund the building of a sitting out area, but with no budget to employ a landscape architect or maintenance staff, HAD cannot make it look nice or clean it – hence people do not like the end result.
In February 2010, Living Lamma presented its report “Stop the Mess” to representatives from EPD, HAD, LCSD, FEHD and Lands Dept on a joint visit to Yung Shue Wan. The report highlighted more than 250 areas for improvement
– littering, dumping, graffiti and other eyesores caused by insensitive design. Living Lamma asked the departments to work together on resolving the problems in our community. In fact, where the problem was under the jurisdiction of one department and the solution was governed by policy, we found that action was taken very quickly and efficiently. For example, FEHD cleared rubbish dumped off the side of the path on government land.
If the problem involved multiple departments, action proved difficult or impossible, particularly if some kind of change in standard procedure was required. For example, we requested that rubbish black spots were not only cleaned up, but also redesigned with some simple planting or by placing a bench in the area so that, once cleaned, the area would not be dumped on again. This proved impossible to achieve.
Living Lamma has continued to push for simple improvements. We have asked LCSD to improve the quality and scope of its planting. We have asked LandsD to replant trees that they fell and recycle or dispose of the green waste created through their actions so as not further exacerbate our environmental problems. We have asked FEHD and EPD to work together to overhaul the bin areas to include some simple planting to encourage people to put their rubbish in the bin. We have, time and again, asked HAD to include landscape design in their public minor works.
For all of the countless hours, Living Lamma members have spent on engagement with government, we have seen little success. It took 15 months, for instance, for LCSD to plant the flower beds in front of the library after Living Lamma complained that these were been used as open litter bins. It took 10 months to move a huge pile of mixed waste from government land between the restaurants on the harbour front, and then there was no action to beautify the area to prevent further waste from being deposited there.
Living Lamma focuses on measures to conserve, beautify and maintain areas of our community so as to improve the living environment.
It is in this context that we provide suggestions to the CEDD on the Greening Master Plan for the Islands District.
General Remarks on the GMP for the Islands District
As noted, at the forum held on 26 October 2012, work on the GMP for the Islands District began in February 2012. Until the forum, consultation had only been with a “District Participation Group”, which included the District Councilors and Rural Committee representatives, but excluded green groups and other experts on local conditions.
There has been no publicity of the Greening Master Plam for the Islands District on Lamma and no public forum organized to gather the views of residents. The first notice of the forum was provided on a banner at the ferry pier in Central, 13 days prior to the event. Living Lamma did not receive an invitation to participate until after a complaint had been made to the organizers.
At the forum, it was established that CEDD and their consultants had already conducted a site visit to Yung Shue Wan and as a result had not found one area suitable for enhancement through planting under the GMP programme for the Islands District.
Living Lamma welcomes efforts to improve our community through landscaping and planting that is in keeping with Lamma’s natural environment and rural character. However, it would appear from the presentation given at the forum that the GMP for the Islands District might be quite limited in what it can deliver. It seems to follow the same formula as the urban GMP, with modifications in plant choice and methods of planting. It does not appear to provide solutions to problems in our community that could be resolved through measures to conserve, beautify and maintain areas.
Living Lamma’s analysis of the 250 problem areas in the Stop the Mess report pinpointed five main causes of mess in our community. In each case, there is potential for action under the GMP for the Islands District to make a difference and we would like to explore these areas more thoroughly with CEDD and their consultants:
- Dumping and Waste Management – There are numerous places on Lamma where rubbish is being dumped. In many cases, the rubbish has been left behind for many years. In monitoring this situation, it has become clear that many of the refuse collection points are no longer fit for use. People tend to dump their rubbish outside these areas, while the bins inside remain empty. It is also clear that without proper landscaping, many areas that might be cleaned up will just be dumped on again. Could a GMP for the Islands District help address these problems?
- The government has fenced of some areas to prevent dumping, but the fencing and signage is so ugly that this just adds to the general degradation of Lamma’s environment. Could a GMP for the Islands District enhance these areas through planting?
- Shoddiness in work carried out, particularly in the disposal of waste. Building sites, for both private and public works, are often dumping grounds with little concern for the impact on residents and visitors. At best residents have to put up with rusty hoardings while work is undertaken. At worst, the sites are open rubbish bins, which sometimes are never cleared. Perhaps a GMP for the Islands District could include guidelines for minimizing the impact of building work through planting?
- Lack of maintenance – Public / government buildings, such as the ferry pier, library, post office, clinic, rural committee building, district councillor’s office, FEHD’s office, the WSD’s building and the entrance ways to the schools could look much better if they were maintained properly and enhanced with simple planting. Lampposts could also be enhanced. Could a GMP for the Islands District improve the look of these facilities? Could a GMP for the Islands District also include guidelines for residents on how to improve their properties through planting?
- Trees. In 2010 there was an increasing number of notices to fell trees, but no evidence of on-going maintenance or replanting. Could the GMP for the Islands District undertake this work? There is also an increasing problem with lack of proper facilities to recycle or dispose of green waste. Green waste is dumped off the side of paths or wrapped in plastic and placed in landfill. Could a GMP for the Island District help solve this problem?
- Design. There seems to be no concept of rural design. Development on Lamma is not sensitive to preserving the look and feel of the village. When individual departments are asked to improve the look of their projects with landscape design, they cannot either because of policy or budgetary constraints. There is also no clear avenue for instigating general beautification that could cut across different jurisdictions. Could a GMP for the Islands District help make the design of works undertaken by other departments more attractive? Could a GMP for the Islands District focus on the beautification of the waterfront area, or other specific areas such as the entranceways to villages or other public areas?
Specific Examples from Yung Shue Wan
We would now like to provide specific examples of measure that could be undertaken. Illustrations and additional information are provided in the Appendices as indicated.
Dumping and Waste Management
Path sides & Bin Areas
Case Study 1: Tai Peng New Village
See Appendix 1
Living Lamma recommends that the GMP for the Islands District adopts one problem area, such as that found in the entranceway to Tai Peng New Village, to demonstrate how people’s behaviour can be changed with simple enhancements such as planting.
Shoddiness in Building Site Management
Case Study 2: Lamma vs. Ocean Park
See Appendix 2
Living Lamma recommends the formulation of guidelines on how to minimize the impact of building works in a rural environment, for both public and private projects.
Lack of Maintenance
- Public facilities
- Other public areas
See Appendices 3.i & 3.ii
Living Lamma recommends that the GMP for the Islands District focuses on improving the outlook of public facilities. It should also include a practical bi-lingual growing guide for balconies, baskets and small-scale gardens, which can inform the public and encourage greater participation in planting. It should also identify areas that would be appropriate for community gardens. Funds could be made available
for inter-village competitions along the line of Britain in Bloom or Best Kept Village. Restaurants in Yung Shue Wan now recycle food waste to make fertilizer. This should be properly promoted and the programme expanded to promote planting.
See Living Lamma’s Paper Appendix 4.
Living Lamma recommends that dedicated tree wardens be deployed in the Islands District so that ongoing maintenance is undertaken in a systematic way. Urgent measures should be taken to tackle the invasive vine species and sustainable methods to handle green waste should be established. Where possible, for every tree that the Lands Department fells, one should be planted, particularly where the felled tree causes a loss of shade.
- Greening Yung Shue Wan, from Welcome Wall to Stinking Nullah
- Public Sitting Areas
- Exercise Areas
See Appendices 5.i, 5.ii & 5.iii
Living Lamma recommends that CEDD and its consultants conduct further site walks to familiarize themselves with the area. We would also like to see local community forums to discuss the GMP for the Islands District that includes local residents, community gardeners and green groups and other interested parties, as well as the locally elected leadership. It would be a good idea to ask village heads to communicate with residents and submit ideas for beautification of their own villages, which could then be discussed publicly. Issues such as land ownership, small house policy and government constraints could then explained and understood. Participants could then provide positive, educated input on the GMP and an action plan for community improvement could be established.
This paper has set forth some ideas on how the living environment at Yung Shue Wan could be improved through measures that could be included in a GMP (more aptly called a CBMP – a Conservation, Beautification and Maintenance Plan – for the Islands District). As the picture at the top of this report shows, Lamma is already green. What is required, however, are measures that can protect and enhance our community in the years to come. We hope that CEDD and their consultants will be able to act on these suggestions and look forward to receiving their feedback.
List of Abbreviations Used in this Report
CEDD Civil Engineering & Development Department EPD Environmental Protection Department
HAD Home Affairs Department
FEHD Food & Environmental Hygiene Department LandsD Lands Department
LCSD Leisure & Cultural Services Department WSD Water Services Department
8th November 2012
Author: Jo Wilson