Developers versus rural areas inc Tai Long Wan

I was among people who emailed the government, in response to preparations for development at Sai Wan, Tai Long Wan.

Developers damaging areas that are within yet technically excluded from country parks is hardly a new issue; development was earlier prevented at Sha Lo Tung (long running saga there!), and at Ham Tin, Tai Long Wan, and damaged places include Sham Cheung on south shore of Tolo Harbour. Now, however, the issue is more in the spotlight, and South China Morning Post has been active, including with list of areas that have been bought by developers.

Just had reply from government, which mentions issue more widely than Sai Wan. Hopefully, then, some progress is possible, rather than piecemeal approach with development halted here, protested here, halted there and so forth. Email says:

      西灣事件的跟進工作

敬啟者 :

                謝謝你早前電郵行政長官、環境局局長、發展局局長及其相關部
門,表達對西灣事件的關注。我獲授權回覆如下:

                政府高度重視自然保育,十分關注大浪西灣事態發展。環境局以及
發展局在2010年7月28日的立法會環境事務委員會與發展事務委員會聯席會議上,闡述
了政府的跟進工作。城市規劃委員會會為西灣制訂發展審批地區圖,規劃管制西灣的
發展。西貢地政處、漁農自然護理署(漁護署)及環境保護署(環保署)亦已採取管制行
動。詳情可瀏覽立法會文件 :
http://www.legco.gov.hk/yr09-10/chinese/panels/ea/papers/devea0728cb1-26...
.

                與此同時,漁護署署長會嚴格評估如何保護西灣的自然環境,包括
應否把西灣納入西貢東郊野公園的一部分。

                除了西灣以外,香港還有其他被郊野公園包圍,但未納入郊野公園
範圍內的土地。漁護署將聯同有關部門,檢視現時對這些土地的保護措施是否足
夠,包括應否把它們納入郊野公園範圍內,或採取其他管制措施。各部門亦會加強監
察及相互通報機制。

                自然保育工作的成功,有賴社會共同參與。我們感謝你的關注,若
你對政府的自然保育工作有進一步意見,歡迎把意見電郵至enquiry@epd.gov.hk

環境保護署署長
(李潛穎代行)

           Follow-up actions arising from the Sai Wan incident

Dear Sir / Madam,

                Thank you for your email to the Chief Executive, Secretary
for the Environment, Secretary for Development and relevant departments
under their purviews, expressing your views regarding the Sai Wan
incident.  I am authorized to give you a reply as follows :

                The Government is committed to promoting nature
conservation, and is very concerned about the Tai Long Sai Wan
incident.  At the meeting of the Legislative Council (LegCo) Joint Panel on
Environmental Affairs and Panel on Development held on 28 July 2010, the
Environment Bureau and the Development Bureau informed LegCo the
Government’s follow-up actions.  The Town Planning Board would prepare a
Development Permission Area (DPA) plan for Sai Wan, and the area would be
subject to statutory planning control.  Various departments (including
District Lands Office/ Sai Kung, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation
Department (AFCD) and Environmental Protection Department (EPD)) have also
taken control actions.  You may refer to the details in the LegCo paper:
http://www.legco.gov.hk/yr09-10/english/panels/ea/papers/devea0728cb1-26...
.

        Meanwhile, the Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation
will critically assess how to protect the natural environment of Sai Wan,
including whether to incorporate Sai Wan as part of the Sai Kung East
Country Park.

                Apart from Sai Wan, there are other sites in Hong Kong that
are surrounded by country parks but excluded from the country park
boundaries.  AFCD in conjunction with departments concerned will review the
adequacy of the existing protection for these sites, including whether to
incorporate them as part of our country parks, or to implement other
control measures.   The concerned departments will also enhance the
monitoring of these sites and their alert system.

                Community participation is a key to success in our nature
conservation works.  We thank you for expressing concerns, and should you
have further views on our nature conservation works, please email us at
enquiry@epd.gov.hk.


(Miss Vivien Li)
for the Director of Environmental Protection

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Martin Williams's picture

A Designing Hong Kong petition in support of more protection of our rural areas, including Tai Long Wan Sai Wan, is quick and easy to sign.

You can find it here: http://www.designinghongkong.com/forms/view.php?id=11

Martin Williams's picture

Another threatened area, another petition.
Concerns Ma Shi Chau, a small island in Tolo Harbour, now part of Hong Kong Geopark.

From Association for Geoconservation:

Have you heard about the latest development of the columbarium development at Ma Shi Chau?

AGHK has been fighting for two years to object the illegal development of columbarium at Shui Mong Tin of Ma Shi Chau.   The developer of Ma Shi Chau Shui Mong Tin had in June 2010 submitted application to change the land use from agriculture to columbarium. We had submitted our objection to Lands & Planning since May 2010 when  SCMP disclosed such info. and repeatedly reinstated our stance.  Lands Dep state they are considering the application.

This is a very critical moment, if Lands Dep approve the change of usage, it will be irrevocable. Hope we can make our best efforts to save the fatal destiny of Ma Shi Chau.  

The Tai Po residents have initiated  a joint petition objecting the change of land use, please support and sign the petition.

http://www.nodream.info/suimongtin/index.php[/quote]
- petition is in Chinese; for signing, looks like add name, then tel (if you wish), email (if you wish; tho I think petition signatures need at least an email).

Martin Williams's picture

Email I've just sent some HK green groups, in response to message about concerted action for Ma Shi Chau:

After seeing Shui Mong Tin emails this morning, I visit Facebook and see:
"Deadline Oct 30 for your SUPPORT of DPAs for Hoi Ha , So Lo Pun, and Pak Lap."
and
" Say Yes to the Protection of Pak Nai"

This follows soon after Sai Wan, and with columbarium threat on Lantau. Etc etc.

Too many, scattered threats.

I remember Lisa Hopkinson rallying green groups and others when there was potential threat at Ham Tin, Tai Long Wan. Development there was greatly restricted.
To me, seemed this could lead to more such action; yet there hasn't been a lot that I've noticed, until the past few weeks.
Meanwhile, developers and others have been moving.

As we all appreciate, protection should not be largely on case-by-case basis, especially not responding as and when emergencies happen (Sai Wan, say).

Over years since Ham Tin case, in my view, much talk, not enough action, about protecting a variety of rural sites.
I believe DPAs should be standard in many more places. Should have followed Ham Tin, if not earlier. Not hanging around till now.

Perhaps this is time to rally more support for those in government who would like to do more; I mentioned similar to Edward Yau, and he said they need support from all walks of life. [Haven't met Donald Tsang; you'd think having a birdwatcher in charge should be helpful... ....]

One small way might be for petitions etc for individual places to consistently mention for DPAs at other (unspecified) important rural sites.

From public relations point of view, also good if can have some consistent message about rural sites.
Something that counters the idea that if you buy land, and maybe trash it, you can do as you want with it.
Something that can be repeated, in similar form, by various groups, so that it becomes widely accepted. Simpler than the "technical" details re OZP/DPA, but not too vague.
Facebook group on Sai Wan helps show the time may be right.

Important, as Paul Zimmerman and others have noted, to build on Sai Wan and other cases, to increase support for protecting green areas in Hong Kong.
It has been a long time since country parks were established, in what was surely a bold and visionary move. More progress now needed.

So no clear plan here in my email, I'm afraid. But a belief that broad action is needed, and possible.

As you may know, I run a website, Hong Kong Outdoors www.hkoutdoors.com
Includes a forum. My idea in establishing this was partly to set up a site that could include a range of info/views - not "just" from WWF or FOE, say; help spread conservation message.
You would be welcome to post there, even if copying existing info. English or Chinese, or better still both, are ok. [I do post a fair amount, but tiring and time consuming for just one guy!]
- site has less immediate impact than Facebook, but  can be useful longer term, including for search engines. For instance, top in google for "hong kong disneyland shark fin"

Well, maybe all the above seems old to you.
Or maybe it could be useful to discuss ideas, see if it's possible to come up with concerted messages and aims for safeguarding areas that deserve protection.