We welcome the Draft Pak Sha O Development Permission Area Plan (the draft DPA Plan) released by the Town Planning Board (TPB) on 7 December, 2012. This will provide preliminary planning guidelines for and regulation of illegal developments, to prevent further damage to the wetland and stream in the area.
We recently uncovered substantial damage to some 3,000 square metres of freshwater wetland at Pak Sha O, Sai Kung. After the discovery, we lodged complaints with several government departments and the case was rapidly followed up. A draft DPA plan was prepared. We commend the quick action of the government and are glad to see our ecological monitoring efforts proving useful.
The draft DPA plan covers 33 hectares, including 31.89 hectares of "Unspecified Use" area and 1.38 hectares of "Village Type Development". The former refers to natural wetlands, streams, forests and shrubland. According to the "Notes" of the draft plan, there shall be no diversion of streams, filling of land/ponds or excavation of land, including to effect a change to "Agricultural Use" or other uses that readily permit development under the covering Notes, without permission from the TPB; nor shall such work continue after the first publication in the Gazette of the notice of the draft DPA Plan in early December 2012. The measure will help prevent further damage to the wetland and stream ecology of Pak Sha O. But more stringent regulation and monitoring will be needed for effective and long term protection of the area's natural environment.
Typically, a draft DPA plan will be replaced by an Outline Zoning Plan within 3 years. Green Power urges the government to take into account the unique ecological value and natural landscape of Pak Sha O when making the Outline Zoning Plan. The area should be designated as Country Park and even as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for long term conservation.
Pak Sha O is near Hoi Ha and is surrounded by Sai Kung West Country Park. It is home to 75 butterfly species, about one-third of the Hong Kong total; 11 freshwater species including some that are vulnerable to local extinction; 8 amphibian species including locally endangered ones; 38 birds and 23 reptiles. In addition, Pak Sha O Village is an old Hakka village with a history spanning over a century. The Ho Residence is even listed as a Grade I historic building in Hong Kong.
Since late 2010, Green Power, Friends of Sai Kung and the Eco-Education and Resources Centre have been conducting surveys at 28 enclaves not included in country parks, to assess their ecological value and reveal possible threats from development. So far, we have discovered illegal development at Pak Lap, plans for luxury housing at Wong Chuk Yeung, Sai Kung, and large scale wetland destruction at Pak Sha O enclave.