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Exposure of luxury housing project at Wong Chuk Yeung, an ecologically valuable site of Sai Kung (11 Oct 2011)


Late last year, Green Power, Friends of Sai Kung and the Eco Education and Resources Centre carried out surveys at 28 enclaves not included in country parks, to assess their ecological value and discover possible threats from development. Apart from the earlier discovery of illegal development at Pak Lap of Sai Kung, we also found that a large area at Wong Chuk Yeung – occupying over 70% of the private property – had been purchased. Evidence showed that a developer is planning to build 150 luxury houses in the area. The most worrying aspect of this is that four-fifths of the purchased land is within "Green Belt". If Wong Chuk Yeung is developed into a luxury residential area, there will be irreversible damage to the natural environment.

Wong Chuk Yeung, Sai Kung, is one of Hong Kong's few areas with a large freshwater wetland and fung shui wood. In the 1990's, biodiversity surveys conducted by the University of Hong Kong revealed the presence of several rare species of flora and fauna, indicating the important ecological value of the site. As we carried out an ecological survey at Wong Chuk Yeung, we also found abundant biodiversity at the site, including the rare Speckled Piculet (Picumnus innominatus) and the only deer species in Hong Kong, Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjak). We recorded 47 bird species, 78 butterfly species (including the legally protected Common Birdwing (Troides helena) and Golden Birdwing (Troides aeacus)), 28 dragonfly species and 10 amphibian and reptile species. According to surveys by Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, the fung shui wood there is the fourth largest in Hong Kong, with 222 plant species, including over 10 that are rare or very rare.

Wong Chuk Yeung is at Shap Sze Heung of Sai Kung, surrounding by Ma On Shan Country Park. As most land is private property, the area was not included in the country park. In the 1990's, the government included Wong Chuk Yeung in the Draft Shap Sz Heung Interim Development Permission Area; in 2001 it formulated the Approved Shap Sz Heung Outline Zoning Plan. Apart from areas reserved for "Village Type Development", the land was designated as "Green Belt" and "Conservation Area". However, developer recently started to take over land at Wong Chuk Yeung, purchasing over 70% of the private property, four-fifths of which is within "Green Belt". Evidence showed that the developer is planning to build 150 luxury houses in the area, and the plan was introduced to the owners – who live overseas – in mid 2010. The approved uses of "Green Belt" are wide, including landuse that is damaging to the environment, such as golf course and housing projects. The freshwater wetland habitat in the "Green Belt" will face severe threats.

If Wong Chuk Yeung is developed into a luxury residential area, there will be irreversible ecological damage of the wetlands and woodlands inside the "Green Belt" and "Conservation Area". The incident highlights the problem that development in enclaves outside country park areas may not be compatible with nature conservation, as well as the fact that landuse planning under the existing policy fails to protect ecologically valuable areas. Green Power has written to the Planning Department and Lands Department to enquire about the plan and urge the government not to approve excessive development at Wong Chuk Yeung, particularly within the country park, "Green Belt" and "Conservation Area". To further protect the environment of Wong Chuk Yeung in the long term, we suggest that the government can follow the example of Tai Long Sai Wan, and include Wong Chuk Yeung and other valuable enclave sites facing developmental pressures within country parks, to safeguard the ecological, environmental and landscape values.

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