Better protection needed for Nam Sang Wai wetland
Four suspicious fires at the ecologically sensitive park have raised fears that the blazes are deliberate in an area that has long been the centre of dispute among owners, environmentalists and town planners. Whatever the causes, the fires have damaged one of the city’s most treasured natural habitats and action must be taken to stop more degradation
A series of suspicious fires at an ecologically sensitive park in the New Territories has set off alarm bells. Although the causes remain unclear at this stage, there is every reason to be concerned. So far, no one has been arrested, despite reports of four suspected arsons in a month. The government must spare no effort with its investigation and come up with better protection measures for the area in the long run.
Whoever has seen pictures of the damage must feel sorry for the Nam Sang Wai wetland, which has been dubbed the city’s backyard. The latest attack on Monday morning resulted in a wooden boat and ferry pier being severely damaged. Firefighters quickly put out the blaze, which they suspect was deliberately lit. To the relief of many nature lovers, no reports of major ecological damage were reported.
It may be too early to conclude if any organised crime is involved. But the repeated attacks inevitably fuel speculation from conservationists, including the former Hong Kong Observatory chief. Describing the latest incident as planned and targeted, he believed it was aimed at stopping people from visiting the site.
Others suggested that it could be related to personal disputes, as the location of Monday’s blaze was not inside proposed development plans for the area. Whatever the causes, the fires have damaged one of the city’s most treasured natural habitats. The area is a popular retreat for locals and tourists alike, and a stopover site for migratory birds.
There has been a suggestion that the government should buy back the land for conservation. Currently, about 80 per cent of the area is privately owned, the bulk of it by a group jointly controlled by Henderson Land Development and a family. Government land accounts for another 20 per cent. The buy-back option can be further explored. But it requires more details, such as the cost to taxpayers, to facilitate further discussion.
Like other conservation projects in the city, the wetland has long been the centre of dispute among owners, environmentalists and town planners. The incentive for greater development and profits by private owners makes conservation a challenge. Better protection efforts are needed, lest more damage is done.