Visitors urged to tread lightly in newly famous Lung Mei beach
Green groups urge public to tread lightly as crowds flock to coast's sealife attractions
The controversy over a stretch of coastline near Tai Po destined to become a man-made beach has boosted the area's popularity, alarming green groups concerned about a new disturbance to its marine life.
The number of parents and their children visiting Lung Mei has doubled in recent weeks, after environmental activists stepped up their campaign to stop the government-funded development from going ahead.
Environmentalists, whose concerns have alerted the public to the area's marine life, which includes seahorses, have now appealed to visitors to minimise the disturbance to sea creatures, such as destroying their nests or even taking them away.
Six-year-old Maggie Lam was among the curious children sticking shovels into the sand to see what they could find.
"We are trying to catch some [marine species] and take them home to keep them," Maggie told the South China Morning Post yesterday. "We'd caught starfish before and had taken them home. But after two days, they all died."
"Locals fear loss of Lung Mei beach" Video by Hedy Bok
Jellyfish, starfish and other sea life were fished out of the water along the roughly 200-metre-long beach. Beachgoers armed with nets, plastic buckets and toy shovels were a common sight.
An eight-year-old girl showed the Post her collection - more than 20 little crabs and lobsters caught by her father.
The shopkeeper of a bicycle rental stall said he had seen more weekend visitors. "They usually come as a family of three or four and spend a day here, playing at the beach, riding bikes around and holding a barbecue," he said.
Dr Michelle Cheung Ma-shan, of the Eco-Education and Resources Centre, said: "It is a good chance for parents to educate children on the importance of conserving our nature but it has to be done with the correct attitude: just watch but don't touch."
Peter Li Siu-man, senior campaign manager of the Conservancy Association, added: "Although the negative effects are not irremediable, the ecology cannot possibly take the pressure in the long run if visitors disturb the animals frequently."
The wild destination Lung Mei, located near the Plover Cove Reservoir, was almost unheard of until the HK$200 million government plan to turn it into a man-made beach entered the final stage of consultation - and drew intense media focus.
The government said there was a need for a beach to serve the residents of Tai Po, Sha Tin and neighbouring districts. The plan has been 14 years in the making.
Last week, the Tai Po district council passed a motion in support of the project. A government spokesman reiterated yesterday that it would "go ahead with the Lung Mei beach works project as planned".
Green groups fear the development will upset the ecology and harm the estimated 200 marine and bird species in the area. The groups held a "Save Lung Mei" rally in Admiralty, which drew hundreds of people.
In response, the government has offered to draw up a coastal plan for the long-term conservation of the wider Ting Kok area.