• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 2:11pm

Department failing to stop pollution of pristine Hoi Ha Wan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 August, 2014, 2:46am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 August, 2014, 2:46am

I refer to the report ("Tai Po beach clears court hurdle", August 13). Why does the government rush ahead with this project when water quality in existing beaches is deteriorating?

I refer specifically to Hoi Ha Wan. I have been swimming there regularly since 2006 and the water has always been crystal clear. Since 2014, its shallow waters have turned markedly murky and foamy.

Most of the farmland in Pak Sha O village, adjacent to a stream that feeds into Hoi Ha Wan, has been bought by developers.

The Lands Department is more agreeable to approving village house applications on cultivated farmland. Therefore, land at Pak Sha O is being farmed for vegetables. I suspect there is massive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which is now finding its way to Hoi Ha Wan via the stream. This may have caused a rapid deterioration of seawater quality.

A high standard of water quality in Hoi Ha Wan must be maintained for at least two reasons.

First, about 100,000 people use it and its beaches for recreation annually. The government should have the health of these people at heart.

Second, the biggest and prettiest coral colonies in Hong Kong are found there and the surrounding seas. This is one of Hong Kong's irreplaceable treasures. Corals are extremely sensitive to chemicals. Adding more toxic chemicals and waste products to Hoi Ha Wan waters will impact on marine life negatively.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department declined to have the near-shore water quality checked, because it has subcontracted the work of monitoring Hoi Ha Wan water quality, until March 2015, to a third party.

The department should have located the monitoring station closer to shore and corals where it matters, but it was located one kilometre away.

The future looks dire for Hoi Ha Wan and Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park. Recent outline zoning plans show more village houses will be located close to streams and shoreline.

These locations are much sought after by developers for their scenic value. Without central sewage treatment, chemicals and grey water from new houses will reach Hoi Ha Wan. In time, it could be renamed Hoi Ha sewage pit.

Village house development is lucrative. This creates pressure on government departments to "facilitate" by bending their own rules. We must remain vigilant to protect our country and marine parks.

Tom Hou, Sai Kung


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Well said! AFCD has done absolutely nothing to protect Hoi Ha Wan during the process of the drawing up of the OZP for Hoi Ha - they have acted as if the Marine Park did not exist. AFCD are sanctioning the building of 40+ houses - all with individual septic tanks - some within 10 metres of the beach. AFCD has not told the Town Planning Board that the Marine Park boundary is, actually, out to sea and the maps used by the Planning Department are hopelessly out of date - despite knowing this. AFCD is also refusing, point blank, to restrict agricultural activities in the so-called "protected" areas, The land in these areas is nearly all owned by developers, including some owned by the same company as at Pak Sha O. So, we are likely to see the widespread destruction of forest and marshland and the spreading of fertilisers and pesticides within 5 metres of Hoi Ha Wan - AFCD has stated thet they do not see any potential problem with this, as chemicals used by Hong Kong farmers have to be on the AFCD approved list (a list which includes dozens of chemicals which are critically harmful to marine life)!
AFCD's actions have been utterly shameful - they seem to forget that they now have a "C" for Conservation in their name. AFCD are presiding over the destruction of Hoi Ha Wan, which is a vitally important environmental resource and a place where hundreds of thousands of people come to enjoy the clean water and beautiful countryside.
The pollutants which are causing concern adjacent to the beaches at Hoi Ha are E.coli and Endocrine Disrupting Compounds (EDCs) - from domestic waste. These pollutants have not been detected at the monitoring stations out in the bay and so can only have come from existing septic tank systems at Hoi Ha and the runoff from the Hoi Ha stream, which comes down the valley from Pak Sha O. Hoi Ha is a sheltered bay within the Tolo Channel, and is not well flushed by tides. We do, occasionally, get red tides at Hoi Ha (the last one about 2 months ago) and these are likely to come from further afield. Yes, of course, the PRC must improve its control of pollution entering the marine environment but, I am afraid, the pollution which is likely to destroy Hoi Ha Wan, is nearly all local and can be prevented if AFCD does its job, development is made sustainable and the sewage at Hoi Ha is properly treated, either by installing a mains sewerage system or a local solution. Hong Kong cannot blame the PRC for this one!
I believe the greater culprit in the matter are the reckless polluters in mainland China and specifically around the Pearl River Delta who take advantage of the poor environmental controls and monitoring of the PRC government as is highlighted by the regional affect all around Hong Kong in Mirs Bay and the Pearl River Delta side. Yes "nutrients" that feed algae and cause them to "bloom" could also be coming from upstream in addition to the septic tanks already in existence in the adjacent village, but the greatest of all evils unfortunately is outside of the capabilities of the AFCD even if they did take protecting Hong Kong's unique environment seriously as opposed to where it is convenient and will not cause them any additional difficulties such as conflicting views with Hong Kong's blatantly abused free land for male indigenous villager policy. This year we have seen more storms than last year which would result in flushing more nutrients into the bay and of course we have the global impact of rising sea water temperatures both of which will result in "blooms" being greater than what we have seen before. I am afraid as years go by it will only get worse until 1) environmental controls and monitoring in the PRC catches up to generally accepted international standards 2) global sea water temperature stops increasing and 3) the AFCD undergoes a regime change and they begin to put actions to their words.
I am curious does E. Coli "feed" algae blooms? Have you conducted your own independent testing of the near beach water, estuary and Hoi Ha Stream? If you have, was it conducted with a reputable test body? Can you publish your data? Surely if your test results show that levels in the stream, estuary, and near beach water are growing and are too high as compared to whatever standard is currently followed in Hong Kong, the Environmental Protection Department would take action on the matter.
Do all the current villagers in Hoi Ha have their septic tanks checked every six months as is recommended by the EPD?
I find this article confusing.
It is a simple matter to see where the bulk of the pollution is coming from and that is the houses along the foreshore of the bay. Why not start a campaign against those households so that they clean up their act?
The Procommons Report on the bay did not show most of the pollution coming down the stream. It comes from the village. The HKU data also shows this to be the case. So I don't know any data that shows the problem is the Pak Sha O River. Can that please be made available. Continued monitoring of the river shows a slight decrease in pollution levels in the last year.
Finally if the enclave was made Country Park and not undergoing a breakup into a lot of illogical zones, then AFCD could actually do something about it. May I add that organizations like the Friends of Hoi Ha (FoHH) allowed the Government to think that the area could be zoned instead of dissolving the enclave and making the area Country Park as was done at Tai Long Wan.
Now zoning is being done in most of the enclaves throughout the Sai Kung Country Park. Hoi Ha is being used as the example for zoning this is even Tai Long Wan enclave was made country park. So sad..


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