More Hong Kong geopark residents leaving ancestral homes
It is four years since Hong Kong National Geopark was accepted as a member of the Global Geoparks Network, and renamed Hong Kong Global Geopark of China.
This year the geopark which includes eight sites is applying for revalidation.
Much has been done in the last four years to preserve these sites and educate the public. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department described the progress made in February, in "Preparation for the Revalidation of Hong Kong Global Geoparks in 2015".
However nothing has been done to involve indigenous villagers in Tung Ping Chau even though much of their private land is included within the geopark boundaries. In all the documents written on Tung Ping Chau as part of the geopark, there is no mention of private land ownership. Yet everywhere on the island you see dilapidated houses and abandoned farmland.
A great deal of private farmland and village environs are also zoned within the country park. All kinds of restrictions are imposed on villagers' use of land and activities such as fishing in the marine park. Without the provision of drinkable water and electricity, more local residents have been forced to leave their ancestral homes.
Over the years, despite their repeated protests, the department and Hong Kong Geopark have refused to involve them as partners when developing the Tung Ping Chau Geopark. They have been totally excluded despite clearly being stakeholders.
This exclusion blatantly violates one of the core principles stated in the Guidelines and Criteria for National Geoparks Seeking Unesco's Assistance to join the Global Geoparks Network (January 2014). It stipulates that sustainable tourism activities "must fully respect the traditions of the local populace", and that "it is vital to involve the indigenous population in the establishment of a geopark".
This was reiterated by Professor Kazuo Oike, chairperson of the 4th Asia-Pacific Geoparks Network San'in Kaigan Symposium organising committee, that the "attraction of geoparks is 'to be able to see, eat, and learn about' geo-resources with the local people actually living there".
Professor Ibrahim Komoo, co-ordinator of the Asia-Pacific Geoparks Network, said that "the important issue for us to address regarding geoparks is not only to preserve local geographical and geological features, but also to create a new sense of values by integrating regional creatures, culture, and history in order to promote sustainable local societies."
Tang Tin-loi, chairman, Sai Kung North and Tung Ping Chau affairs committee