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Hong Kong environmental issues

Show of public support for conservation of Hong Kong wetland after suspicious fires

Green groups carry out poll asking Hongkongers their views on area in New Territories, which is an important stopover site for migratory birds

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 May, 2018, 10:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 May, 2018, 11:42am

More than 80 per cent of Hongkongers polled by a coalition of green groups support better conservation of a wetland in the New Territories that has been plagued by suspicious fires.

At least 62 per cent of the 1,003 adults interviewed also supported drastic measures to permanently protect the ecologically rich area from acts of eco-vandalism and lingering development pressures.

Roy Ng Hei-man of the Conservancy Association, one of the six groups involved in the study, said the results clearly reflected popular demand for the area to be preserved, and urged the government to review its conservation plan.

“Most residents support protecting Nam Sang Wai’s natural environment and [the results] fully indicate that the government should intervene to protect it,” he said.

Fourth suspicious fire breaks out at Hong Kong wetland conservation area Nam Sang Wai

The site, a patchwork of fish ponds, mudflats and tidal belts in Yuen Long – 80 per cent of which is privately owned – is home to the second-largest reed bed in the city and is an important stopover site for migratory birds, such as the globally endangered black-faced spoonbill and great cormorant.

Lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who is supporting the groups, said conservation measures were set out in the government’s 2004 New Nature Conservation Policy to protect Nam Sang Wai and 11 other ecologically sensitive sites through public-private partnerships, but this was no longer effective.

“They need to think of measures outside of the policy,” he said.

The survey by the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme was commissioned by the association, Designing Hong Kong, Green Power, the Bird Watching Society, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

The results showed that 83 per cent of those polled agreed with the need to protect Nam Sang Wai’s natural environment. At least 61.5 per cent of respondents agreed the government should take actions such as land resumption or a land exchange. 

An Environment Bureau spokeswoman said it had no intention of resuming Nam Sang Wai as it involved private property rights issues and would require a large amount of public resources.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department will regularly monitor the ecological status of the 12 priority sites included in the 2004 policy and review implementation and effectiveness of the policy as necessary, the spokeswoman added.

In March, two back-to-back hill fires broke out in the area, scorching more than a dozen hectares of reed beds, abandoned fish ponds and trees. A separate bush fire took place nearby several days later and in early April a blaze broke out at the ferry pier.

Opinion: Better protection needed for Nam Sang Wai wetland

Ng said the reed beds had been recovering from the blaze.

Paul Zimmerman of Designing Hong Kong said underlying land ownership issues in the area needed to be resolved. He accused officials of being “cheap”, “lazy” and unwilling to tackle complicated issues.

“You end up with things like people setting fires,” he said. “This is nothing new. People destroy land hoping in the future that it can be developed.” 

Police are still investigating the suspected arson cases. No arrests have been made.