Designate Long Valley as a nature park
We refer to the report headlined 'Fate of wetland in hands of farmers' (South China Morning Post, November 28).
The Government has finally realised what we have pointed out, that the future of Long valley as a valuable wetland is not secure, despite the victory to prevent the construction of the Lok Ma Chau spur line through Long Valley. The Government can remove these concerns almost instantly. In 1999 the then Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands, Gordon Siu, announced that Long Valley would be set aside as a nature park as part of the re-zoning for Kwu Tung North. All that is required is a Planning Department statement that this zoning as a 'nature park' has not changed, and that Long Valley will be resumed as part of this plan, to allay the concerns of green groups, farmers, and landowners.
There is no good explanation why this has not been done, but there is a bad one. When it comes to planning issues, the Railways Ordinance takes precedence over other planning legislation, so no other plans can be finalised until the alignment of the railway is confirmed. This causes tremendous problems for the Planning Department, and in the case of Long Valley is the only issue holding up an announcement of the Government's intentions for the marshland.
Meanwhile under the current zoning regulations, farmers have the freedom to practise any form of agriculture, from the growing of wet crops such as water spinach or lotus (which are very attractive to birds, and account for the unique ecological value of Long Valley), to orchard planting, goldfish rearing or even pig farming (which are less ecologically attractive), on land zoned as 'agriculture'.
During the Long Valley Campaign the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society and World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong, sought to obtain greater protection for Long Valley by applying for it to be zoned as a 'conservation area'. Our application was deferred by the Planning Department until the plan for Kwu Tung North New Town was released. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department verbally advised us it was not really worth applying for the re-zoning, because that zoning offered little extra protection.
In your report Deputy Secretary for Environment and Food Thomas Chow said a review was being carried out to formulate a conservation policy to control the use of sites with ecological values. The drafters of this policy must meet with the Planning Department to conduct a complete reassessment of the intentions and efficacy of the current, woefully inadequate conservation area designation.
Hong Kong Bird Watching Society
World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong