Promoting green hiking in Hong Kong

April 12, 2021 08:38
Last year, the Environmental Protection Department and local non-profit-making organizations launched a three-month Green Hiking Etiquette Campaign. Photo:Facebook

As Hong Kong people cannot travel aboard freely under the COVID-19 epidemic, they switch to local hiking activities instead, crowding countryside hotspots and creating garbage mountains.

In March last year, an environmental protection group and 16 volunteers went to Tai Mo Shan Country Park to clean up the trails. Within a 9-kilometer mountain trail, they collected 70 pounds of garbage, including a large number of food packaging and plastic bottles, as well as anti-epidemic supplies such as masks and wet tissues, which were not seen in the past. Actually, there were reports about people hanging discarded masks on trees in the countryside, such behavior lacks moral sense and increases the chance of spreading the virus. The team also found at least 1,500 cigarette butts in this cleanup operation. Had the cigarette butts not been completely extinguished, they would easily lead to wildfire disaster.

Last year, the number of prosecutions by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department for damaging plants and lighting fires illegally within country parks increased significantly. Among them, the number of cases of lighting fires illegally was three times that of 2018. The number of wildfires last
year recorded a 3-fold increase compared with 2019, affecting an area of 900 hectares, or about 47.4 Victoria Parks. This shows the destructive power of countryside visitors.

Some foreign environmental protection organizations advocated Leave No Trace principles, calling on countryside visitor to respect nature and reduce environmental damage, which was thought-provoking. The principles include:

1: Plan Ahead and Prepare, like make good use of apps to understand the surrounding of hiking trails to reduce unnecessary accidents and damage;
2: Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces to reduce disturbance to surrounding plants and soil;
3: Dispose the Waste Properly to maintain a clean environment in the countryside;
4: Leave Things They Are, keep the original style, do not remove or take away any natural objects;
5: Minimize Campfire Impacts, reduce fires, make fires in designated barbecue sites or camps;
6: Respect Wildlife, respect wild animals and plants and do not disturb their living environment;
7: Be Considerate of Other Visitors, so that the countryside stays harmonious and inclusive.

In recent years, the Hong Kong government has been actively promoting the Green Hiking campaign to raise public awareness of nature conservation. From September to December last year, the Environmental Protection Department and local non-profit-making organizations launched a three-month Green Hiking Etiquette Campaign through a number of ambassadors to promote the message at popular hiking spots of Robin's Nest, Tai Lam Chung, Tai O, the Tsing Yi Nature Trails and the Yuen Tsuen Ancient Trail. They spread the key messages of Leave No Trace at Mountain and Sea, such as "take your litter home", "bring your own bottle to reduce single-use plastic consumables" and "proper disposal of masks". The ambassadors also introduced the scenery, ecological environment and biodiversity along the mountain trails to visitors to enhance citizens’ conservation awareness and establish a good hiking culture.

The countryside of Hong Kong is full of life and beauty with many varieties of plant, insect and small animal species. It is a nurturing place for biodiversity which has long been recognized worldwide. For example, MacLehose Trail has been selected as one of the world’s top 20 best hiking trails by the authoritative travel magazine National Geographic. We should be proud of it. Therefore, we need to work together to sustain the countryside environment, cherish the countryside and respect nature, so that our outings will be more fun.

-- Contact us at [email protected]m

Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong