Government has duty to protect Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 November, 2010, 12:00am

Christine Loh Kung-wai's column ('Shifting sands', November 19) highlighted the confusion which has arisen over the boundary of Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park and the status of plots of agricultural land which have recently been sold but which have been under water for a good number of years.

The government should be mindful that the ownership of agricultural land does not automatically give the owner the right to build. Wherever the debate concerning the ownership of land and what defines the boundary of the marine park leads, one point remains clear: the administration has a duty to provide the park with the protection it requires.

In defining that area of protection, in the form of revisiting the Marine Park Ordinance and expanding the boundary, or in the Town Planning Board establishing a coastal protection area now that Hoi Ha has become a development permission area, proper protection of the unique environment of Hoi Ha Wan must acknowledge two important points.

Firstly, defining the boundary in relation to a high-tide mark at a particular point in time is far too simplistic and does not recognise the dynamic nature of coasts and shorelines.

Secondly, the undersea environment and the coastline which surround it are integral parts of the same ecosystem. Intertidal areas and belts of mangroves which border the sea must be afforded the same degree of protection as the sea areas.

The intertidal areas, particularly the beaches and sand flats, also require protection as valuable public amenities.

The environmental impact of the village of Hoi Ha should be minimised by the installation of sewage facilities as soon as possible and, certainly, before any further development is authorised. The discharge of domestic waste water containing bleaches and non-biodegradable detergents directly into the sea is unsustainable and environmentally damaging. As for the immediate banning of commercial fishing in the marine park, as Ms Loh states, it is a 'no brainer'.

David Newbery, Sai Kung