Green groups urge protection of nature reserve from organic farm

December 14, 2015 10:45
A piece of land in Sha Lo Tung, famous for its rare dragonflies (inset), has been flattened. Photos: Protect Sha Lo Tung, Facebook

Environmental groups have urged the government to protect part of a nature reserve in rural Tai Pao where large patches of greenery have been lost to a local farmer's attempts at development, Apple Daily reported Monday.

WWF-Hong Kong and the Conservation Association said they received tips two months ago about the assault on the wilderness in Sha Lo Tung, an enclave of Pat Sin Leng Country Park and one of the 12 nature reserves prioritized for conservation by the government.

An inspection of the site revealed that swampland has been filled in and dozens of trees have been cut down.

A piece of land as large as 7,000 square meters around the nearly abandoned Cheung Uk village in Sha Lo Tung, which is famous for its rare dragonflies, has been flattened.

The green groups suspect the excavation work was unauthorized.

The place looks like a desert.

They are asking the government to make Sha Lo Tung part of the country park.

One local farmer, surnamed Cheung, claimed he has been clearing weeds for some time and will turn the land parcel into an organic farm from next month.

He said the site was sold to a developer 40 years ago, but the firm has never built homes for the villagers as it promised.

The farmer said he wanted to “start something first” so that the promise can be fulfilled.

Questioning Cheung’s real purpose behind developing the site, Michael Lau Wai-neng, WWF-Hong Kong's deputy director, said the massive clearance of the land has seriously damaged the area and is bad for the ecology.

Any use of pesticides, Lau said, could pollute the water in the Hok Tau Reservoir downstream.

Lau lamented that there is no law to prohibit farmers from developing their own land and, in doing so, endangering the environment.

The Planning Department said in a reply to an inquiry from Apple Daily that any farming activity at a site of special scientific interest, such as Sha Lo Tung, must first gain approval from the Town Planning Board.

Sha Lo Tung Development Co. had been working with Green Power since 2009 to build a columbarium in the conservation area, aiming to earn as much as HK$12 billion (US$1.54 billion) by selling up to 60,000 niches.

The Advisory Council on the Environment has, however, suspended the project owing to ecological concerns and objections from villagers.

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