The government has ordered a landlord to stop all work on a beach site inside the protected Hong Kong Geopark.
Officials said they had found signs of unauthorised excavation at the private site on Tai Long Sai Wan beach.
The Planning Department announced last night that an enforcement notice had been served but did not say who the recipients were. It did not name the site owner but it is believed to be Simon Lo Lin-shing, the chairman of Mongolia Energy Corp.
'The department inspected the site on February 1 and found signs of dredging near a pond,' a department spokesman said. 'Any excavation of land at the site has to obtain Town Planning Board approval in advance. Otherwise, it would amount to unauthorised development.'
Since August last year, a temporary emergency zoning order covering the private site in Sai Kung has been in force, banning all kinds of land use except agriculture. The diversion of streams, filling of land, ponds and excavation are also not allowed.
But it emerged last week that the zoning order, designating the site for 'unspecified use', could not stop Lo's workers from growing flowers, trees and grass on the site. Two man-made lakes have been kept.
Lo could not be reached for comment last night. He had planned to build a private retreat at Sai Wan and escaped prosecution over illegal works and excavation last year. However, six people, including drivers and contractors, and a company were fined more than HK$80,000 for landscape and environmental damage on the 2.2-hectare site, comprising government and private land. His workers later confined work on the garden to private land.
Peter Li Siu-man, a campaign manager of the Conservancy Association, welcomed officials taking action but said it was not enough.
The damaged Sai Wan beach is surrounded by the ecologically sensitive geopark, which has been nominated by the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department for listing in the Unesco Global Geoparks network.
It includes Tai Long Sai Wan but excludes Lo's land.
Cheung Man-chun, a spokesman of Friends of Tai Long Sai Wan, said the damaged site owned by Lo was next to the park and could have a detrimental effect on its ecology. 'Any human activities would destroy the park ecology there,' he said.
Cheung said his group would send information about Lo's site to Unesco this month.
Professor Chan Lung-sang, of the department of earth sciences at the University of Hong Kong, said he did not know if the development of private land would affect the result of the government's application but noted that it was not the only private land located in the fringe of the geopark.
'We demand the government acquire all the private land before lodging the application and set up some buffer zones,' Chan said. 'Or there would be some skyscrapers and resorts immediately next to a world geopark.'