Illegal tree-felling in Clearwater Bay conservation area

February 18, 2016 12:41
An aerial photo (inset) shows a site cleared of trees about 200 meters from Wing Lung Road in Clearwater Bay. Photos: Google Maps, Apple Daily

A property developer is said to have illegally axed trees and excavated soil at a conservation area in Clearwater Bay Peninsula overlooking the Silverstrand beach.

Apple Daily cited environmental watchdog Designing Hong Kong as saying that the developer, whose identity was not clear, carried out illegal work by disguising the project as a farm.

The watchdog's CEO Paul Zimmerman was quoted as saying that he believes the developer's real intention was to remove the plantations and use the site for construction purposes in the future.

Apple Daily reporters visited the site which measures half the size of a football pitch and is located about 200 meters from Wing Lung Road at Hang Hau.

There were excavation machines, power generators and petrol at the site but there were no workers. Almost all of the trees at the site were removed and a sign saying "J&T Garden" was seen hung on a tree.

Operations have been ongoing for six weeks at the site, according to Zimmerman.

Land records suggested that the plot was owned by several parties, and that a company incorporated in British Virgin Islands is listed as having some links to the property.

The Planning Department said no excavation works is allowed within conservation areas without permission from the Town Planning Board.

It said it will conduct an investigation and will take action if any violations are observed.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said it received a complaint last December suggesting that a path was illegally opened near Wing Lung Road.

AFCD staff found a path measuring two to five meters in width following a site visit.

Both the AFCD and Lands Department are looking into possible violations of unauthorized tree cutting on government land premises under the Forest and Countryside Ordinance.

Zimmerman said there are many such pseudo-farm projects across Hong Kong, where land owners would remove the plantations so as to facilitate applications for house construction to the Town Planning Board later.

He added that given the site's prime location overlooking the Silverstrand, there is little doubt that the landowners are up to something.

Zimmerman called on the government to amend relevant laws to enhance the protection of sites with high ecological value.

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