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2019-05-21 HKT 14:14
An alliance of Hong Kong green groups is calling on the government to push ahead with its plan to designate an area close to the border as a country park as soon as possible, and to more than double the proposed size from 500 hectares to 1,120.
The government announced in the 2017 Policy Address that work was to begin on turning an area near Shau Tau Kok, known as Robin's Nest, into the city's 25th country park.
In December, Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing said this work was ongoing.
But 16 green groups on Tuesday urged the government to speed up the process, warning that land in the formerly closed frontier area is already being damaged.
"Some lowland areas, especially land adjacent to village areas, has been seriously damaged. It may be rezoned to village development, car parks, or even so called ecological farms," said Roy Ng from the Conservancy Association.
"This kind of damage is quite serious, we have observed within these years, so the designation of a country park within the Robin's Nest area is very important."
Designing Hong Kong's Paul Zimmerman added that making Robin's Nest a country park would give it statutory protections.
"The wardens will walk around, they will take note of [any] destruction. They can take action. The other advantage is the AFCD [Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department] will have money to build footpaths, pagodas, sitting-out areas, they have an ability to put in infrastructure for recreational use," Zimmerman said.
He added that the AFCD will be able to choose the best sites for such infrastructure, away from the most ecologically sensitive areas.
The green groups also called for 1,120 hectares of land to be included in the country park, rather than the 500 hectares suggested by the government.
They said this would better protect rare and vulnerable animal species and grasslands, as well as cultural and historical landmarks, such as the Macintosh Forts at Pak Kung Au and Kong Shan, the Lin Ma Hang Lead Mine, and existing graves and burial sites.
The groups said this would also make a continuous ecological corridor to the Wutongshan National Forest Park in Shenzhen.
The added that it shouldn't be too difficult to more than double the size of the proposed country park, as the additional area they want included is 95 percent government land.