Typhoon damage in Hong Kong is limited by our country parks – but how long will this last?
The destruction and loss of life due to landslides, water cascades and flooding during Typhoon Mangkhut throughout Asia needs no elaboration. Why then did Hong Kong not suffer this fate? Let’s celebrate our country parks, which have gained in strength since the 1950s, with natural forest, vegetation and watercourses that can resist such destructive assaults and protect us. Who then should take the blame in the future for trying to destroy our magnificent protector, which is being subjected to increasing attack from all sides?
Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po floated the idea of allowing building in country parks in 2013. The Heung Yee Kuk and rural developers have already wreaked havoc in the New Territories. Unauthorised hillside graves are increasing in both number and size, with three government departments simply identifying, recording and eventually passing the buck between each other and then filing it away.
Then there are the selfish individuals and small groups who illegally carve out their personal space for cultivation, exercise, rest or mahjong, which includes erection of structures.
Government bureaus, department heads and legislators have presided over totally insufficient legislation, penalties, enforcement and coordination over the past 50 years.
Our country parks saved us from Typhoon Mangkhut, but if attacks on them continue unabated, catastrophes will eventually follow. The response will no doubt be a promise to identify the cause, institute an inquiry and issue a collective denial of responsibility for the decades of inaction.
Geoffrey Leonard Merrick, Ma On Shan
Look to country parks as a source of land in the long term
Hong Kong has suffered from a shortage of public housing for decades. Most people need to wait at least five years to be allocated a flat by the government. To solve the problem in the long term, the idea of building in country parks has been floated. Environmental groups are against the idea, since it will eat into Hong Kong’s green belt. However, in my opinion, the government should go ahead.
Country parks make up 40 per cent of our land area. But most of them have common plants and trees, which are not of high value. If the government can use some of that land, it would help to reduce the problem of not enough public housing while not destroying too much nature.
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While it has been suggested that brownfield sites be used to build public housing instead of country parks, these sites can only house 84,000 flats, which is just 18 per cent of the government’s 10-year building target. This will only solve part of the housing problem. Therefore, we must look to the country parks in the long term.
Our 44,000 hectares of country parks are 60 times the size of the available brownfield land, which a concern group has put at 773 hectares. If we use one third of our country parks, which is about 20 times larger than the current brownfield land, it could meet Hong Kong’s building target for more than 40 years.
Thus, while using brownfield land for public housing should be the immediate priority, in the long term, country parks should be considered as a source of land for housing too.
Patrick Leung, Sai Kung