Land swap preserves dragonfly haven

Top News | Amy Nip and Phoenix Un Jun 16, 2017
Sha Lo Tung - home to 76 species of dragonfly - will be preserved in a landmark land-exchange plan, based on a Chief Executive in Council decision.

The Executive Council consented in principle to a "non-in-situ land exchange" program that aims to conserve Sha Lo Tung in Tai Po.

The owner of the private land with high ecological value in Sha Lo Tung will surrender the plot to the government in exchange for a piece of land at the Shuen Wan Restored Landfill in Tai Po, where the Sha Lo Tung Development Co will be allowed to develop a golf course.

Secretary for Environment Wong Kam-sing said the ecological significance of the Sha Lo Tung site ranks behind only the internationally acclaimed Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site.

It has very high ecological value and requires active conservation management to avoid damage. It also has good potential for public enjoyment, a government spokesman said.

The site is one of the most important breeding grounds for dragonflies in Hong Kong, supporting over 60 percent of local species, including endangered ones, he said.

With its rich vegetation, streams, marshes and woodland, Sha Lo Tung is a prime habitat for butterflies, fireflies, freshwater fish, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds, the spokesman said. The non-in-situ land exchange for conservation purpose is an "exceptional" case, Wong said, and the exchange is feasible because ownership of the private land in Sha Lo Tung is largely unified under one entity.

Although many options were explored over the past 12 years, land exchange is the best by far, he said.

The piece of land at Shuen Wan Restored Landfill has been planned for a golf course development in the long term and the plan will stay after the land exchange.

Legislator Eddie Chu Hoi-dick supported the plan, saying it would stop "petty actions" from destroying it.

But he said the land plot substitution is not a cure-all, since there are simply not enough plots to substitute for every land with high ecological value.

The government should consider alternative measures, he said.

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June 2017