Building small houses in park enclaves will degrade biodiversity

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 3:34am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 3:34am

As local experts in ecology, biodiversity and nature conservation, we strongly object to any proposal that allows increased development of small houses within country park enclaves such as So Lo Pun, Pak Lap and Hoi Ha Wan.

The government recently embarked on the planning and implementation of the international Convention on Biological Diversity, and in that context is responsible for fostering the conservation of biological diversity in Hong Kong.

Unfortunately, it now intends to follow the request of the Heung Yee Kuk and allow substantial development zones for small houses within the enclaves. Eventually, there could be as many as 19 such zones with a total area of 320 hectares within these enclaves where over 3,000 small houses could be built.

Certainly, there will be cumulative ecological impact brought about by such development, which could very well exceed the carrying capacity of ecosystems within and around the enclaves. Without careful studies of the carrying capacity and potential cumulative ecological impact of the future designation of zoning for small houses, it is a very unwise decision to allow more houses, more people and more vehicles to exist within these ecologically sensitive areas.

For instance, the Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park is unique in Hong Kong and southern China, with very high marine biodiversity. The intertidal soft shore of Hoi Ha Wan sustains the highest species richness of marine invertebrates among 41 soft shores surveyed within Hong Kong, while its reefs are host to 64 stony coral species and over 120 coral-associated fish species. The area encompassed by the draft outline zoning plan (OZP) of Hoi Ha Wan also supports a diverse array of terrestrial flora and fauna as shown by recent ecological surveys although not, interestingly, those conducted by the government.

The construction of the 60 to 90 small houses envisaged under the proposed OZP will destroy or fragment natural habitats and reduce biodiversity.

As history reveals, land-use change and rural development are major drivers of biodiversity loss. As an Asian world city, Hong Kong should embrace the principle of sustainable development and enable future generations to enjoy the country parks, appreciate their wildlife and live harmoniously with our natural heritage.

It would be shameful if the government made an irreversible decision allowing excessive development within country park enclaves.

Professor David Dudgeon, Professor Kenneth Leung, School of Biological Sciences, University of Hong Kong (on behalf of seven ecologists of HKU)