A group of Hong Kong villagers who destroyed a mangrove to protest a government conservation plan that would affect their farmland, had sold their land 20 years ago, Ming Pao Daily reported Thursday, citing its own investigation.
Only a small area of farmland near the conservation site on Lantau Island are owned by the villagers, the report said.
The revelations came as the villagers sought to resume farming in the area after destroying a mangrove, claiming the site had been a bay until the government built a highway across it in the 1990s.
The highway changed the river flow and estuary and the mangrove forest grew in the area, they said.
The villagers are opposing the proposed conservation project for Tai Ho Wan and accusing the government of depriving them of their right to resume farming and build houses in the area.
Citing civil registry records and aerial shots obtained by its reporters, Ming Pao said the mangrove had existed for at least 30 years.
The records also show that 90 percent of the land were sold to private developers in the 1990s, the report said.
Heung Yee Kuk vice chairman Daniel Lam, who represents Lam village which owns about 35,000 square feet or 11 percent of the land in the area, said some of the villagers might have mistaken the exact location of the plots.
He said it was a misunderstanding.
Lam said the mangrove destruction by the villagers is controversial but urged the government to understand their wish to make a living from the land.
Peter Li, a senior campaign manager of the Conservancy Association, said it will take a few years to grow back the mangrove.
He called the villagers’ actions illegal and urged the government to strictly enforce environmental regulations to avoid a repeat of the incident.
In March, the government gazetted 4.64 hectares in Tai Ho Wan as a site of special scientific interest and prohibited any development near the area.
The move sparked by a violent protest in which about 200 residents of three villages used hoes and bulldozers to destroy a swath of the mangrove forest.
Lantau villagers destroy mangrove in protest over land
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