Nature and the City

Nature and the City
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
To be held virtually via Zoom
NATURE AND THE CITY: What is a Wetland in the Planetary Urbanization?
Mathew Pryor, Michael Leven, Werner Breitung

Organizers: Division of Landscape Architecture and Urban China Magazine

Convener: Ting Wang, Ph.D. Candidate, Division of Landscape Architecture

Seminar Introduction:

By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. The accelerating move toward completely urbanized societies has been referred to by some scholars as “planetary urbanization,” pointing to the increasing human impacts on the environment in the era of globalization. In such processes, how has the notion of “nature” been mobilized in emergent environmental discourses and become “mainstreamed” in specific contexts?

In this seminar, we will explore these questions by focusing on the growing role of wetland construction as environmental solutions in recent years. Our considerations include: What are wetlands? What are the different agendas associated with wetland projects? How are they related to that of other green city concepts such as national parks and eco-cities? How may the impacts of these schemes be compared with those elsewhere?

Keynote Speakers:

Mathew Pryor, Associate Professor and Head of the Division of Landscape Architecture, the University of Hong Kong

The Meaning of Wetlands: Stories from the HK Wetland Park

Hong Kong Wetland Park, was planned and constructed (1998-2006) as an ecological mitigation area in compensation for wetland areas that had been lost during the development of Tin Shui Wai New Town. It is often cited as one of the most successful restoration projects undertaken in Hong Kong. The 61-hectare wetlands comprise both freshwater and brackish habitats, supporting an intentionally diverse range of faunal and floral lifeforms. The park continues to flourish, attracting some 460,000 visitors every year and almost every child in Hong Kong visits the wetlands during their school years.  But all is not as it seems.  In this presentation, Mathew Pryor, recalls some of the stories from the initial planning, design and construction of the park, to illustrate some of the fallacies that are commonly embedded in the concept of ecological mitigation.

Michael Leven, Director and Ecologist in AEC Ltd.

Beyond Impact Avoidance: How can the EIA Process Benefit Biodiversity Conservation – A Case Study of a Hong Kong Wetland

With ongoing loss of natural systems to residential and industrial development, the use of active management has been increasingly employed to mitigate for the environmental impacts of habitat loss.

In this presentation I will discuss the lessons that can be learned from the creation and management of the Lok Ma Chau Mitigation Area, a 32ha freshwater wetland which was formed from disused fish ponds to compensate for the habitat loss and impacts on wildlife arising from the construction and operation of the MTR Corporation’s Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. I have been involved with this project from the initial EIA stage, back in 2001, through its creation and establishment, to date, including two substantive reviews in which, with the active involvement of the MTR Corporation and the support of EPD and AFCD, management objectives have been extended beyond merely compensating for project impacts to securing lasting ecological and biodiversity gains.

Werner Breitung, Professor in David Lam Institute for East West Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University

The Social Construction of Nature – Wetland Conservation in an Urban Borderland

Landscapes are always formed by natural and cultural forces. They reflect the climatic and geological conditions as well as human values and practices. This is also true for landscape conservation. How much the ways and outcomes of conversation depend on such values and practices is shown at the example of an urban borderland – the Deep Bay Area between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

Based on observation and interviews over an extended time period, the author demonstrates how two conservation areas, the Mai Po Nature Reserve in Hong Kong and the Futian Nature Reserve in Shenzhen, differ significantly from each other, despite of the fact that their underlying natural and historical landscape is the same. The political border and related differences in values and policies have had a major impact on wetland conservation and on landscape formation.


Cecilia Chu, Associate Professor, Division of Landscape Architecture, HKU

Xiaoxuan Lu, Assistant Professor, Division of Landscape Architecture, HKU

Guo Cui, Executive Editor, Urban China Magazine

All are welcome!

For enquiries, please contact Ting Wang at


* This event is also supported by the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong & Macau, CIB-HKU Student Chapter and Shanghai HuaDu Architecture and Urban Design Group (HDD).