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Chp 132, Sham Chung – Forty years champion for the environment

Sham Chung

Sham Chung is a valley surrounded by hills on three sides. It is blessed with a remarkable diversity of habitats, including freshwater marsh, abandoned wet agricultural land, mangrove stand, woodland, Fung Shui woods and natural stream course, which drains into the coastal mudflat at Sham Chung Wan. The area was noted for being rich in fish species, especially a large population of the rare Black Paradise Fish, and is one of the twelve priority sites under the government’s New Conservation Policy in November 2004.

However, over the years the marsh land has been progressively destroyed. From 1999, close to half of the mangrove forest was bulldozed and filled to create a lawn. In May 2004, news broke that a private developer had submitted a proposal directly to the Office of the Chief Executive in November 2003 proposing to develop the area into a golf resort. CA wrote to the Chief Executive expressing concern over any breach of due procedure.

The underlying issue was that Sham Chung was not part of the Country Park, nor was it governed by any land use plan, hence CA made a submission to the Town Planning Board in July 2004 requesting that a Development Permission Plan be drawn up for Sham Chung. The DPA zoning would comprise mostly Coastal Protection Area, Conservation Area, Agriculture and Village, with the primary aim to provide buffer and protection for the existing habitats and the surrounding Country Park and maintain the rural character, while allowing passive recreational uses.

CA’s request was agreed by the Town Planning Board which prepared and published a draft plan in February 2006. CA submitted a representation in April 2006 welcoming the draft DPA plan and proposing to tighten some of the zoning by designating the stream “Site of Special Scientific Interest”, rezoning “Agriculture” to “Green Belt”, expanding the “Coastal Protection Area” as well as reducing the area of “Village.” CA’s representation also noted, “At present the whole area has been razed and become what in all appearances is to be a golf course. However, such a ‘golf course’ would be illegal as it has not gone through the necessary statutory requirements such as EIA study and environmental license; legally, therefore, it can only be regarded as ‘grassland’. Such a strategy of ‘destroy first, develop later’, must not be condoned, and the DPA as a planning mechanism must not become a tool to legitimize such questionable and unethical destruction of our ecologically valuable sites.”

Besides its own submission, CA also objected to another representation by the developer to create a new Other Specified Uses (Recreation & Tourism-related Uses) zoning. The representations were considered by the Town Planning Board in July 2006. The more stringent controls proposed by CA were not accepted, but at least government’s original zonings were upheld and Sham Chung was subject to proper planning control.

But the DPA is temporary by nature. CA continued to engage with Planning Department on the preparation of the Outline Zoning Plan for Sham Chung, advocating a conservation-first approach although not ruling out some small-scale development.

Throughout 2007 and 2008, further meetings between CA and the government and occasionally with the developer gave further credence to press reports of plans to develop a resort in the area. In the summer of 2008, developer Sun Hung Kai submitted a rezoning request under Section 12A of the Town Planning Ordinance which would enable an eco-tourism project with 40% site coverage comprising 60 structures to be developed. CA submitted an objection to the rezoning, complaining that the nature and scale of the development would ruin the rural character of the site and that the application would set a disastrous precedent of condoning the act of “destroy first, develop later.”

Later the same developer submitted another Section 16 application for ecological restoration of the Coastal Protection Area. CA submitted a representation pointing out that although the application was moving in the right direction of restoration and recovery, the scale and scope was too limited and should have been extended to the core area of the valley which had been destroyed. CA also formulated a “roadmap” for Sham Chung’s future conservation and development, including the following steps:

  1. A conservation plan to re-instate and restore the stream and freshwater marsh of Sham Chung
  2. A monitoring programme, after concrete results were achieved from the conservation plan
  3. After the ecology of the freshwater ecosystems have been restored successfully, longer term management options under the New Nature Conservation Policy of the HK SAR Government may be considered.
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August 21, 2015 - Posted by | Dr WK Chan book

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