Marsh to be protected in new plan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 December, 2013, 4:29am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 December, 2013, 4:29am

The Planning Department has agreed to reduce the amount of land available for village house development in a Sai Kung village to preserve a freshwater marsh where a protected orchid grows.

But an environmental group says the revised zoning plan for Pak Tam Au village still leaves streams in the ecologically sensitive area without protection, and vegetation under threat of destruction.

The Town Planning Board will today discuss a draft outline zoning plan for Pak Tam Au and To Kwa Peng, two villages in an enclave between Sai Kung East and Sai Kung West country parks.

As To Kwa Peng has no space for villagers to build homes under the small-house policy, the government plans to allow villagers there to expand into Pak Tam Au. The two villages had a combined population of fewer than 50 people according to the 2011 census.

Under the small-house policy, male indigenous villagers in the New Territories can build homes on village land at the age of 18. The policy has been criticised for allowing profiteering by "villagers" living in cities or overseas and for encouraging poorly planned development.

In the latest paper submitted to board members, the department proposes conserving a 0.24-hectare freshwater marsh on the eastern fringe of Pak Tam Au's development zone. The land makes up about 4 per cent of the area allocated for housing.

The change was based on advice from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, which said the area contained Liparis ferruginea, a protected orchid which is endangered in Hong Kong. Proposals from green groups and villagers were rejected.

Under the amended plan, 79 per cent of the enclave, or 19.62 hectares, will be conserved, while the remaining 5.34 hectares is earmarked for development.

Roy Ng Hei-man, assistant campaign manager for the Conservancy Association, said the village development zone should be confined to existing settlement structures and that land adjoining river streams should be zoned for conservation to prevent destruction.

The future of country park enclaves has been a hot issue in recent months, after villagers in Tai Long Sai Wan unsuccessfully challenged the government's attempt to incorporate the enclave that included the village into Sai Kung East country park.