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This page is updated on 2006-07-27 12:04
Christian Service News
Issue 42 (Jan 2004)
Opinion Feedback
Opinion on Victoria Harbour Reclamation

Traffic congestion has long been an undeniable and obvious public concern in the Central Wanchai district. It is encouraging to see that the government has taken an active role in resolving this problem. As much as we appreciated the effort thus far, doubt became apparent when the proposal to reclaim 28 hectares of land for the construction of Central-Wanchai bypass was announced by the government.

Our reservation originated from the symbolic portrayal of such historical accolade in regard to the Victoria Harbour. The harbour represents not only a natural heritage of Hong Kong, but also an icon that carries the history and memories of many Hong Kong people. It has the cultural and historical significance to them and it is imperative that the Victoria Harbour be conserved. Hence, any development that may induce negative impact on the landscape value of the harbour should be reviewed thoroughly prior to its enactment.

Furthermore, we have serious doubt about its claim of being the only available option to relieve the current traffic congestion. While different scenarios of future economic development of Hong Kong are being considered, it might be necessary for the government to identify possible solutions simultaneously such as the adjustment of the Electronic Road Pricing system, crowd control over private vehicles on the road at any given time, the bus routes and bus stops restructuring within the area, providing of incentives for commuters to use the mass transport systems, and to achieve an efficient loading and unloading schedule for trucks and lorries.

The government has also proposed to build a waterfront promenade as one of the justifications for the reclamation project. Despite some of the positive social implications of that proposal, e.g., a family hangout spot, a site to help release daily stress, it remains a less than sufficient reason to have caused such an extent of damage to the harbour. Besides, the possibility to create a waterfront promenade can still become a reality by simply making improvements to the existing promenade at both the south and north banks of the harbour.

Based upon the public consensus that HKCS had come across on this issue, one of the contributing factors that created much controversy on this proposal was due to the limited public opinions currently represented in urban planning issues prior to sanction.

Therefore, it is perhaps time for the Hong Kong government to consider adopting the concept of "Rooted Governance". Hong Kong is no longer a dependent colonial society like it was during the British ruling. Citizens of Hong Kong are mostly deeply rooted in this seemingly minute piece of land in spite of its colonial nature over the last century.

"Rooted Governance" speaks of the support of the citizens. It relies heavily on the engagement of different stakeholders during policy formulation process, and on the consent from the majority throughout the decision-making and policy evaluation. " Rooted Governance" guarantees social cohesion, altruism, and government by consensus. A tripartite democracy (public, private, and the civil society) has a lesser chance to give rise to conflicts. It is because diverse opinions among stakeholders would likely be raised and resolved during the deliberation and that each party would have committed to the final decision knowing that concerns from all possible angles have been considered.

The recent controversy on the Victoria Harbour Reclamation could well be a showcase for the current government to realize a "Rooted Governance" through "Stakeholder Democracy". It is of the urgent need for our government to consider restructuring its consultation mechanism concerning urban planning issues by taking a new governance perspective that is rooted in the citizens, rooted in evidence and rooted in the tripartite engagement of the public, private and the civil society.

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