It has been an eventful year for the Conservancy Association.
Over the past twelve months we witnessed many issues that pose formidable challenges to our mission: from harbour reclamation to Wanchai and Kai Tak planning review, from Hei Leng Chau Super-prison to Lantau Concept Plan, from worsening air pollution to Harbour Area Treatment Scheme, from Hunghom Pennisula to solid waste management strategy, from Hopewell Mega Tower to Oil Street Depot site, from King Yin Lei Mansion to Central Police Station Heritage Complex, from tree-felling at Stanley Bonsai Garden to Taipo Wishing Tree saga, from management agreements for ecologically sensitive sites to public private partnership for rural conservation. The list goes on.
In all of this CA has played either a leading or proactive role to protect the environment and advocate for sustainable development. On top of this CA continues with its busy programme in environmental education and other project work.
Yet have we achieved much? Despite our best efforts the results have been mixed.
It is easy to observe a rising level of environmental awareness in the community, and to a lesser extent, in the corporate sector. More importantly, by forging alliance among civil society groups and broadening public participation, we are building up social capital that may have long lasting impact.
However, our success in fostering public policy changes are hampered by two factors: 1) the disarray in the government’s internal policy-making process which leads to a breakdown in its pursuit for the proclaimed vision of sustainable development; 2) the pro-big-business ideology dominated by the Washington Consensus of globalisation which engenders a “development-at-all-cost” mentality in government and in the business sector.
A new Chief Executive for the SAR Government in July offers a precious opportunity to tackle the first hurdle of institutional weakness. Yet whether this opportunity will be seized upon depends very much on the new leadership’s commitment to sustainable development. There is no lack of knowledge on what is the right path to follow, but a lack of political will to break the shackle of entrenched interests.
As for the second hurdle of ideology, many are pessimistic about the lack of intellectual leadership for change. Will we Hongkongers ever adopt a new ideology of enlightened globalisation that is capable to acknowledge its differential impact on communities, recognise the limitation of market approaches, respond to the fragility of the eco-system, and, above all, promote social justice? Without this sea-change in governing philosophy, sustainable development remains an unreachable mirage.
Over the past four years of my chairmanship in CA I was touched time and again by the enthusiasm and resourcefulness of our directors, staff and civil society partners, to whom I am fully indebted. Their perseverance offers a gleam of hope. To a small extent CA’s history has born this out: by standing up as a lone voice for conservation in 1968, an environmental protection department found its way into the government hierarchy 17 years later. It all seems so natural today that nobody can now image an SAR government without the EPD.
Provided the civil society keeps up its vigilance, what seems impossible today could one day be seen as inevitable by future generations.
1 June 2005