Too many chiefs for a short stretch of road
It's only 2.2 kilometres long but a stretch of road in Sai Kung shared by cars and hikers may be the most overgoverned access way in Hong Kong.
Lung Ha Wan Road, which leads to an entrance to Clear Water Bay Country Park, is under the jurisdiction of three government departments - the Transport Department, the Home Affairs Department through the Sai Kung District Office, and the Lands Department - which have responsibility for three separate segments ranging from a two-lane carriageway to a narrow track.
However, none has been able to deal with hikers' complaints about the perils of increasing traffic volumes on the road since an equestrian centre opened at the end in 2008.
The Ombudsman blames the Lands Department, which is responsible for the lower section of the road, for not being 'proactive' enough in addressing the dangers.
'In the past, we could even have lain down on the road as there were fewer cars and pedestrians,' hiker Chan Chi-ming, 60, said. 'Now, we have to take frequent notice of car sounds and be alert to dodge away from vehicles.'
The first section, about 450 metres long and managed by the Transport Department, is two-way with footpaths on either side. A spokesman said it was designed to the department's standards and no improvement work was needed.
The second section, of about 470 metres, which passes several villages, is narrower. It is managed by the Sai Kung District Office and has speed humps to slow traffic.
The third and longest section, 1.3 kilometres, is the narrow track shared by walkers and cars and managed by the Lands Department. Its district land office has granted the Equestrian and Education Centre use of the road under a short-term waiver.
The Ombudsman said in a letter that the office had taken too long to implement a solution to ensure pedestrian safety after receiving complaints. 'The district land office should have been more proactive and forthcoming in handling the complaints and co-ordinated with other relevant departments to resolve the matter at an earlier stage.'
Although the Lands Department said the equestrian centre was responsible for the road's maintenance, it also said it was co-ordinating with the Transport Department on improvements.
None of the departments could say why it took three of them to manage such a short road.
Sai Kung district councillor Peter Lau Wai-cheung, who represents Hang Hau East, is also at a loss. He said the road was built by the British army during the colonial era for military use. It was later handed over to the government and was opened to the public in phases.
He said traffic was heaviest in the first section of the road, with temples and homes for the elderly on both sides. The road was designed with two lanes to handle the traffic.
The District Office carried out works to repair and widen the second section after residents appealed to the council.
Lau said the third section had the least traffic and did not need any maintenance work yet. But he was also surprised that it took three departments to manage the road.
'It is really hard to understand how things work in the government,' he said.