Mangroves under threat

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 July, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 July, 2000, 12:00am

The Association for Tai O Environment and Development is concerned about the Government's plans to develop Tai O, Hong Kong's last fishing village, in particular the proposal to build a boat anchorage.

The association's members are Tai O residents and we do not want to see the Planning Department take the wrong decisions, which might do ecological harm to the village.

The proposed designation of the large embankment opposite Nam Chung and Fan Kwai Tong, as an anchorage for fishing boats, will have far-reaching implications and we are against it.

We have come to this conclusion after discussing it in the association and talking to villagers and from our knowledge of the area, as long-time residents of Tai O.

The anchorage is unacceptable and impractical, as it will lead to the mangrove replanting area becoming polluted.

Plastic bags and other kinds of refuse will be dumped into the sea from fishing vessels and this will strangle the mangroves and therefore kill them off.

Fish in the mangrove replanting area will eat the refuse and this will kill them. In Yi O stone beach, there are many examples of mangroves being killed by discarded plastic bags from fishing vessels.

Also, there is always the possibility of there being oil slicks as a result of fuel leakages from the fishing boats. You can already see such oil slicks at the stone beach. In fact, it should be renamed 'black beach'.

We cannot understand the logic behind having an anchorage for up to 220 boats next to a mangrove conservation area.

The noise from this anchorage will affect the peace and quiet that residents of Nam Cheung and Fan Kwai Tong Tsuen enjoy at present.

We are also concerned that the boats might bring with them criminal elements, leading to smuggling and the shipping of illegal immigrants.

Tai O is a peaceful and law-abiding community. We do not want to end up like other outlying islands such as Cheung Chau.

We have the following questions for the Government regarding its proposal: Before it made its proposal did the Planning Department consider how many fishermen might use the anchorage? How did it reach this capacity figure of 220 boats? As far as we know, there are fewer than 30 fishing boats in Tai O. If the anchorage is also intended for mainland boats, then why is it going to be built using Hong Kong taxpayers' money? Did the relevant government departments working on this proposal, realise that this anchorage would be adjacent to the mangrove replanting area? Has any ecological feasibility study been undertaken? Have the government departments conducted any feasibility study on other areas, such as the old fishing boat anchorage, before considering the proposed fishing boat anchorage in this area? Did officials consult residents to see if there was any demand for this anchorage? Will this be just another example of wasted resources, like the case of Lung Tin Estate Phase II, which has been left vacant for several years, and the temporary football grounds which have a low usage rate? Will there be any designated government department responsible for monitoring the ecology, environment and law and order situation in the area if the anchorage is built? And who will be held accountable if the environment is damaged? We urge the administration to consider carefully our views and to answer our questions.

HO PUI HAN Executive Committee member, Association for Tai O Environment and Development