Task force must tackle historical problems

I REFER to the feature headlined, ''Why the Kuk won't come clean'' (South China Morning Post, April 28).

We at the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong (WWF), were pleased that the Government is taking positive steps to tackle the chaos caused by using agricultural land for container parks, dumping sites and vehicle workshops, etc. Before this chaos the extensive fish ponds and farm lands in the New Territories were home to a variety of wildlife. However, several colonies of egrets and herons vacated their breeding site after nearby fish ponds were filled in to become container parks. Their source of food had gone. Animals in streams were killed by lubricants leaking from adjacent vehicle workshops.

Although there is the provision of enforcement in the 1991 Town Planning (Amendment) Ordinance to control unauthorised development, those areas of land established as container parks before 1991, are regarded as ''existing use'', and allowed to continue.

Also, after the defeat of the Government in the Melhado case, it was decided that land-use (such as a container park) on land with an agricultural land lease was not illegal. Whilst WWF HK welcomes the recent government move to set up a task force to clean up the New Territories, there should be urgent legislative back-up to tackle the historical problems in addition to the administrative strategy proposed, and to provide suitable compensation.

The Government should also take into account ecology considerations during implementation of any reinstatement work.

For instance, the ecological value of taking land that was once a fish pond and making it a pond again, (likewise with a marsh), is higher than just clearing the site, and planting some exotic trees. We concede that some of the existing ''spoiling'' land-uses contribute positively to Hong Kong's economy, however such economic activities should be located in well-planned locations in order to minimise any adverse impacts to the whole community and to our wildlife.

CHU WING-HING Conservation Officer World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong