Pui O wetlands ‘close to unviable’ as govt fails to act

Lantau activists have slammed government officials over their failure to stop the continued destruction of the Pui O wetlands.

Ham Tin resident Martin Lerigo, who has led a campaign to save the vanishing wetlands for five years, has warned that they are “close to unviable.”

In a letter to the Sustainable Lantau Office (SLO), he said “vandalism continues unabated with seemingly little interest” from government officials.

Since officials last visited four months ago “there has been considerable further damage to the Pui O wetlands including multiple areas of fencing off, including across streams and mangroves,” he wrote.

“The wetlands are now close to being unviable as a home to the unique water buffaloes of Hong Kong, much loved by local people and visitors alike.”

The SLO was formed in 2017 as part of the government’s push to develop Lantau. Despite its name, it is a unit of the CEDD, staffed mostly by civil engineers.

It is responsible for carrying out the government’s conservation policies as well as development, but has few staff with environmental expertise.

More wetlands clearance (Photo: Lantau News)

Another resident, Tom Yam of Mui Wo, says the SLO’s conservation efforts have been “an abject failure, with more pristine wetland damaged and no damaged land recovered.”

The agency has set “no specific results or deliverables,” and has “no management plan that holds individuals and organisation accountable,” he said.

“It makes a mockery of your claim to ‘conserve the south and develop the north’ in Lantau. We only see development in the north and degradation in the south.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has vowed on multiple occasions to protect the Pui O wetlands, the city’s last major remaining buffalo habitat, but has yet to enact any new policies.

She has promised but not delivered a HK$1 billion Lantau Conservation Fund.

Lerigo asked if the office had taken any action to halt CLP’s connection of electricity supply to illegal structures. “This is a key driver of the environmental vandalism.”

He pointed out that a removal notice had been issued on an illegally-developed site seen by SLO officials on their most recent visit , yet “fencing is still there and has been expanded.”

Lerigo also asked:

  • If the SLO had taken any action to increase the level of conservation expertise. “Only four out of the SLO’s 111 staff have any professional expertise in conservation matters.”
  • If any progress had been made in setting up the Lantau Conservation Fund
  • The status of its proposal to use resumption or a managed scheme as a solution

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