WWF on Hoi Ha: The panda says no

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WWF operates The Jockey Club HSBC WWF Hong Kong Hoi Ha Marine Life Centre, an education centre for marine biodiversity and conservation. They have a dog in this fight.

Hopes have been shattered and discord is rising. Speaking to Harbour Times, Dr Michael Lau from WWF plainly expresses their disappointment to the draft outline zoning plans (OZPs) of Hoi Ha, So Lo Pun and Pak Lap. Dr Lau is an expert in conservation and currently the Senior Head of Local Biodiversity and Regional Wetlands Programme in WWF. The illegal development of Tai Long Sai  Wan in 2010 has pushed the Government to step up in conservation and apparently, wwf holds high expectations. “The draft OZPs show weak conservation effort” and Dr Lau fears this will give a greenlight for large scale developments in the rest of the enclaves once the current drafts are determined.

The 2.6 hectares of land zoned for “Village Type Development” in Hoi Ha are considered too large to WWF. The secondary forest in the area will be bulldozed and pollution will likely impact the marine park right in front of the land. WWF’s position on conservation and protecting wild life stands firm but they also respect the rights of indigenous villagers. “We are reasonable. If villagers need to build
houses for themselves to reside, we are fine with that. They have the right”, Dr Lau says. However, the location should be chosen for areas with less ecological values and WWF proposed to locate thearea for “Village Type Development” to the existing building lots in their submission to the Town Planning Board.

The outcry has been loud against the Hoi Ha draft OZP and WWF shares some of the public concern on the village development in the area. The fact that many private lands in Hoi Ha are owned by developers has cast doubt on the Government’s intention to secure the housing needs of the indigenous villagers. Dr Lau cites the numerous examples in the New Territories where many villagers were turned into residential neighbourhood for outsiders and worries Hoi Ha will fall into the same fate.

The large area for “Village Type Development” in Hoi Ha is based on the projection of residents but Dr Lau says in the past decade, only few “ding houses” are built and a sudden increase in housing demand in the village will make little sense.

Currently, enclaves can either be incorporated into country parks or using a planning approach as in this case for conservation. Though Dr Lau says the Government will adopt both approaches equally for the remaining 54 enclaves, WWF favours the country park approach more and sees it the best way for conservation. He hopes the draft OZPs for Hoi Ha, So Lo Pun and Pak Lap will be amended properly but ultimately, these three enclaves should be put into the country parks.

Hong Kong has signed the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2011 and established a committee to work out a Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan subsequently. WWF has been playing a part in drawing the Action Plan and Dr Lau reveals that results will be released by the end of next year and public consultation will be put forward in 2015. He envisions the remaining enclaves in Hong Kong will be protected better with this Action Plan.