Green groups see hidden agenda beneath Tai Po canola fields

February 19, 2016 17:13
If you look under the golden blooms in this Sha Lo Tung canola field, you might find a hidden agenda, according to conservationists. Photo:

Look again at the picture.

It's a bed of canola flowers in Sha Lo Tung (沙螺洞) village in Tai Po which residents say is their contribution to the environment.

But green groups insist that beneath the golden blooms is a hidden agenda.

They say it's driven by profit motive and has nothing to do with conserving nature, news website reports.

Sha Lo Tung, an enclave inside the Pat Sin Leng Country Park four kilometers from the town center, is second only to the famed Tai Po marshes in ecological value.

It's home to more than half of Hong Kong's dragonfly species and other rare wildlife, according to conservationists.

They said the canola fields are an excuse to drain the neighboring wetlands to water the flowers, upending the delicate ecological balance and potentially destroying the natural habitat.

In the past, green groups have accused the villagers of destroying trees and vegetation and scorching the land to degrade its ecological value.

That would make it easier to get government approval for change of land use from agricultural to commercial for the purpose of housing development, according to the Conservancy Association.

It said 70 percent of the canola fields are within an area officially designated as a "site of special interest".

The association has written the government to stop the planting of canola and order the removal of the existing field.

Cheung Wai-kwok, president of the Sha Lo Tung village committee, told Sky Post that the canola fields are on a private plot.

He said the villagers want the flower garden to become a Tai Po landmark.

In July, they started planting canola seeds brought in from Hunan province. 

Nearly 40 years ago, some villagers tried to sell their land to a developer but the deal fell through, quoted Cheung as saying.

They have since learned about a plan to build a 60,000-niche columbarium in the village which the residents oppose, Cheung said.

He said the flower garden is meant to attract visitors who might see it as a strong argument against the columbarium and convince them to sign a petition against its construction.

WWF Hong Kong conservation officer Chan Chung-ming said loopholes in Hong Kong’s conservation laws are encouraging destructive activities.

The group wants the government to give Sha Lo Tung, one of Hong Kong’s 77 country park enclaves, its own country park designation.

Green groups urge protection of nature reserve from organic farm (Dec. 14, 2015)

A pair of indigenous Hakka villages in Tai Po (Feb. 13, 2016)

-- Contact us at [email protected]