No punch in planning

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 June, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 June, 1993, 12:00am

I REFER to the article ''Student's thesis site disappears'' (South China Morning Post, May 18).

I feel very sorry for Mr Maxwell that one of the study sites for his doctoral thesis has been dredged (allegedly for oyster culture) and that most of the mangrove trees there were destroyed.

This incident highlights the fact that enforcement of the Town Planning Ordinance is not strong enough to promptly stop unauthorised development in the New Territories.

The subject area is a mangrove swamp at Tsim Bei Tsui which is part of the Inner Deep Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This SSSI was designated by the Director of Agriculture and Fisheries in 1986. However, the site was not legally protected until 1991 when it was included in the statutory Development Permission Area plan which was prepared under the Town Planning (Amendment) Bill 1991.

By the time the Bill came into force, people were naive enough to believe that land use in the New Territories could be effectively controlled, and that continued ''development'' of agricultural land into open container storage could be halted.

World Wide Fund for Nature Hongkong reported the dredging activity at this SSSI to the Government in August 1992 when it had just started, but it was not until November of the same year that the Government was able to take enforcement action to stop the unauthorised development. However, it was too late because most of the mangroves had been destroyed.

There is a clear and urgent need for Government to strengthen the enforcement under the Town Planning Ordinance by increasing the staff required to handle unauthorised developments promptly.

In the longer term, the Government should find ways to make short the administrative procedures required to take enforcement actions under the Town Planning Ordinance. Otherwise, land use control in the New Territories becomes meaningless when farmland and fishponds have all been filled up and the rural landscape destroyed.

BILLY HAU Conservation Officer World Wide Fund for Nature Hongkong