Campaigners against Tai Po man-made beach reveal E coli danger

Area where government plans to build beach is loaded with sewage bacteria, say green campaigners, as construction is set to begin

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 October, 2012, 3:11am

Campaigners against government plans to build a beach at Tolo Harbour have revealed that the area is apparently not fit for swimmers.

Tests carried out at Lung Mei, Tai Po, by green groups opposed to the artificial beach showed high levels of E coli, the bacteria associated with sewage and food poisoning.

Levels were more than five times those considered safe for swimming, at 10 bacteria per millilitre as opposed to 1.8/ml.

Dickson Wong Chi-chun, spokesman for the Hong Kong Wildlife Forum which conducted the tests and which has been campaigning against plans for the artificial beach for the past few years, said the findings confirmed that the area was unfit for swimming.

"Even though the government has been trying to improve water quality in the area, we don't see any sign of this," said Wong, a postgraduate in environmental science. "What's more puzzling is that the Environmental Protection Department, which keeps track of water quality of all beaches, has not updated the data of Lung Mei recently," he added.

According to the EPD website, the annual ranking for Lung Mei's water quality last year was "poor", but no information was given in the columns of "last sample collected" and "grade".

The test results come ahead of tomorrow's protest march against the Tolo Harbour artificial beach. Campaign groups including Green Sense and Conservancy Association will gather at the Central piers to march on the government headquarters in Admiralty.

The tender of the public works contract is closing on Friday, and construction is due to start next month and finish in 2014.

Wong said his group had carried out more than 30 ground surveys at Lung Mei since 2007, with members getting rashes on the legs after wading through the water.

Back in 2008, the plan was met by objections from an alliance of 11 green groups who fear the beach will spell ecological disaster for 200 bird and marine species at the site. It will be 200 metres long and 75 metres wide and require the dredging of 10,500 square metres of sea bed.

Rural landlords and some members of the Tai Po District Council, meanwhile, have welcomed the plan for a first public beach in the district and hope to see it become a new tourist spot.

The project has passed all the planning hurdles, including environment and town planning bodies. The Legislative Council approved the HK$208 million funding in July.

The government earlier said it was developing a new sewerage network in the area to prevent domestic sewage from running into the beach area and polluting the sea.

Yesterday the Civil Engineering and Development Department said these sewerage works in Tai Mei Tuk, Wong Chuk Tsuen, Lung Mei and Lo Tsz Tin had been completed and connection works were in progress.

The Environmental Protection Department said there was no detailed information for Lung Mei beach as it was still a non-gazetted beach (without lifeguards and facilities for swimmers).