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Chp 58, Mai Po Ramsar site – Forty years champion for the environment

Mai Po Ramsar site

In the wake of the Town Planning Appeal Board’s reversal of the Town Planning Board decision on the Nam Sang Wai case by Henderson Land Development, CA compiled a report on “Land Use and Environmental Quality in North West New Territories” and presented it at a seminar of the same name on 29 September 1994.

The report highlighted the unacceptable development pressure around Mai Po. Already the Town Planning Board has established guidelines for the Buffer Zones around Mai Po since 1992, but there were still plenty of applications for golf courses and residential developments, often accompanied with reports understating the ecological values of the fish ponds. CA believed that a limit must be determined for the ecological carrying capacity of the wetland and the applications must be assessed not only on their own, but with their cumulative impact evaluated. To give protection to Mai Po, CA proposed that it should be declared a Ramsar site, i.e. a wetlands designated by the Ramsar Convention for inclusion in the list of wetlands of international importance.

From then on the campaign for Mai Po picked up momentum. CA wrote to Governor Chris Patten after the Policy Address in October recommending, among other things, that Mai Po should be designated as a Ramsar site. In November it received a reply from the Planning Environment and Lands Branch saying that the area was being actively considered as a “Wetland of International Importance Especially s Waterfowl Habitat under the Ramsar Convention”. CA then held a press conference on wetland protection on 17 November 1994, reinforced by another public seminar on 24 November on the ecological importance of fishponds. Two days later saw the start of a signature campaign, with 10,000 signatures collected on the first day. A total of 50,000 were collected and submitted to the government on 14 January 1995.

On 6 March 1995, the government announced that Mai Po and the Inner Deep Bay Wetlands would be designated as a Ramsar site – a fitting time as a record-breaking 61,000 birds roosted there the previous year. The news was warmly welcomed by all the green groups. A few days before, on 3 March the government also launched a 17-month Fish Pond Study on their ecological value.

From 1997 onwards CA began to take part in the government’s Ramsar site education and management project. With funding from the Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department, it started a Ramsar Wetland Conservation Programme including talks, tours, exhibition, seminars and wetland newsletters. This has remained a popular environmental education programme in 2008.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment