Two volunteer paragliders, bearing the message of ‘Save Our Lantau’, were flying above the beautiful nature of Lantau on 30th September. This is an action to showcase the strong will of over 120 thousand citizens who have signed the petition demanding the government to stop the controversial plan on building artificial islands in the Central Waters of Hong Kong. Why did they join the action of “Save Our Lantau”? Let’s speak to the two paragliders for more behind-the-scenes stories.

Greenpeace’s “Save Our Lantau” Paragliding Actions. © Vincent Chan / Greenpeace

Will the beauty of Lantau stay?

“The mountains, the sea, and the beach are beautiful, especially on a day when the water is clear and you look down from the sky.” To the female paraglider, the colours of Hong Kong water is comparable to Okinawa, especially on the dry days where there has been no rain for a period of time, “You can even tell the colour difference in the deep and shallow water, which is amazing.” As rain will flood the sand and mud to the sea, the water is less clear after rainy days.

The male paraglider, as a diving enthusiast, has an even more in-depth observation towards the sea water. With 5 years’ of experience in paragliding, he finds that the Hong Kong water is dirty, “It looks clear at a glance, but if you look from the sky, the water is yellowish as the reclamation work lifted up the mud from the sea.” He sighed, “If the reclamation work is not stopping, the situation is no doubt getting worse.” He decided to take action before it is too late. “Nature is the gift of the Earth; it should stay what it is without human interference. Once we damage nature, it takes a long time to recover.” No one is certain on how the ‘Tomorrow Lantau’ project would negatively impact the environment, and we need to speak now to prevent it from happening, he added.

The paragliding action to raise awareness on saving the Lantau

On the day of the paragliding action, the two pilots took off from the airfield on the east side of South Lantau and soared into the sky for 10 minutes. Besides demonstrating the message of “Save Our Lantau”, the paragliders were documenting the beauty and the ecological environment of the island.

The beautiful and valuable environment of Lantau can stay through sustainable development planning. © Vincent Chan / Greenpeace

Greenpeace initiated this action in response to the upcoming meeting of the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee on approving the $550 million “Lantau Tomorrow” preliminary research funding. As Lantau is where the Hong Kong airport is located, there are designated areas for paragliding. Greenpeace also worked closely with the pilots to ensure the action was comply with the flight regulations and air traffic safety. Besides paragliding, Greenpeace activists also launched the “Save Our Lantau” banners on a beach, raising public awareness of protecting Lantau in solidarity.

The action making-of

The Greenpeace paragliding and activist teams arrived at Tung Chung at 8am, where the flying team headed off to Pak Kung Au and the others went to the Cheung Sha beach to set up. It was indeed full of emotions and enthusiasm witnessing the action come to live after months of preparation, feasibility studies, planning and rehearsals. When the team was ready on site, they then need to wait for the ‘green light’ from nature – the appropriate wind direction and speed.

The gear of paragliding is heavy, the two pilots need to take 85 litres of equipment to the mountains.  © Vincent Chan / Greenpeace

“First, it’s the rain, then the wind direction was not right. We were almost giving up until we saw a rainbow in the midst of bad weather. To me it is a sign that encourages me to not giving up.” The female pilot recalled. “Paragliding is like uniting with nature. This is also the time where I find that I am so close to nature. As paragliding needs wind, and the whole process is truly depending on the wind, you can feel that humans are so powerless in front of nature.” She also shared a tip on finding the ‘right wind’ for flying, ‘When I see black kites (the eagles commonly seen in Hong Kong) soaring around, I know I have the suitable weather. That’s why I always follow them and let them guide my way.”

The weather was unstable on the action day, but the pilots managed to catch the opportunity in the midst of bad weather and took off to the sky successfully. © Vincent Chan / Greenpeace

Why are the pilots joining Greenpeace in protecting the Lantau? “Come on, Lantau is amazing, please don’t destroy it!” said the pilots, “We share the same value with Greenpeace in protecting the environment, and we wanted to contribute what we have so we have no regret.”

Thank you to the two volunteer paragliders, together let’s “Save Our Lantau”. © Vincent Chan / Greenpeace

Greenpeace’s “Save Our Lantau” campaign

Besides protecting the environment especially the marine ecosystems in our waters from excessive reclamation and infrastructure works, stopping the reclamation can also protect the sustainability of Hong Kong’s public finance. Greenpeace has published the ‘Analysis of Lantau Tomorrow’s Impact on Hong Kong Public Finance’ report’. The report finds that Hong Kong’s public finance is facing multiple crises such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, aging population and economic downturn. If the government pushes through the “Lantau Tomorrow” reclamation project, Hong Kong’s fiscal reserves may risk being drained in 11 years.

Compared with the Lantau Tomorrow, developing brownfield sites is more cost-effective.

According to Greenpeace , developing brownfield sites costs only about HK$33.3 billion and it could provide at least 139,000 new homes, roughly the same amount as reclamation. Therefore, Greenpeace urges the government to prioritize development of brownfield sites and to withdraw the Lantau Tomorrow reclamation project.

Save Our Lantau!© Vincent Chan / Greenpeace