How Hong Kong fought to preserve its open spaces. By MARTIN WILLIAMS 香港為護保 郊野自然環境付出不少努力。撰:文 Martin Williams

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MARTIN WILLIAMS walks us through the history of Hong Kong’s country parks

THE IMAGE OF Hong Kong around the world is that of an urban jungle

– the famous skyline, the density of towerblocks, markets and neon-lit nightscapes. Yet passengers peeping out of the windows as they descend into Hong Kong International Airport will be greeted with quite different scenes – an island- dotted landscape of lumpy hills and forested, vertiginous mountains.

Remarkably for such a densely populated metropolis, around three quarters of all land is countryside and 40 per cent of Hong Kong’s total land area – 435 square kilometres – is protected within the boundaries of 24 country parks. Within them are forests, grasslands and hillside with 3,300 largely native plant varieties, and wildlife ranging from leopard and civet cats to wild boars and pythons. Globally endangered species such as pangolins and Romer’s tree frogs also roam freely, making the country parks important for conservation.

But they are also a wonderful resource for people. Last year, around 13 million Hongkongers and tourists visited the country parks. They’re the go-to choice for simple hikes like Dragon’s Back in Shek O Country Park; long, gruelling hikes like Sunset Peak (the territory’s third highest), which borders both Lantau North and Lantau South Country Parks; photography outings; and adrenalinespiking paragliding.

During the 1960s and early 1970s more and more Hongkongers saw the need to preserve the countryside as an escape for those living within a city swollen by rapid development. It helped that one of those Hongkongers was the then colony’s governor, Lord MacLehose – a keen outdoors enthusiast after whom the 100-kilometre MacLehose Trail is named.

He guided a programme that led to the Country Parks Ordinance in 1976. Within three years 21 country parks had been designated. Hong Kong Country Parks writer Stella Thrower referred to Lord Maclehose as one of the ‘ few clearsighted men’ who promoted the country parks against a background of apathy and vested interest.

However, the country parks system involved some compromises. Some villages and farmland were excluded, resulting in the creation of enclaves – patches of land surrounded by, but outside of, the country park system. At the time it may not have seemed too important, with cheaper rice imports making it harder to earn a living on the land and many villagers leaving rural areas for life in the city or overseas. Many of these abandoned farmlands accidentally became unofficial nature reserves, home to frogs, fish, dragonflies and other wildlife.

Yet it wasn’t long before the property developers started eyeing the enclaves up for golf courses and luxury residences. In 2010, there was a public outcry as news broke that a landowner had destroyed large swathes of vegetation at Sai Wan, an idyllic coastal site along a popular hiking trail on the Sai Kung peninsula, ostensibly to clear the legal path for development.

The enclave situation remains a thorny issue. And as debates continue over Hong Kong’s lack of affordable housing, some policymakers have floated the (largely unpopular) idea of ceding areas of protected land for the development of new stacks of high rises. But for now, the country parks remain intact, protected and ready for visitors to pull on a pair of hiking shoes and explore some of the territory’s wilder side after taking in the urban jungle.

See page 56 for more on Hong Kong’s famous trees

在世界各地的人心目中,香港就是一個混凝土森林,密密麻麻地滿高擠 了 樓大廈,形成一道國聞際 名的天際;線 此外還有攤販雲集的市場和入夜後五光十色霓的 虹招牌,構成繁華的都會氣息。可是當飛機在香港國機際 場上空準備降落時,乘客從機艙的窗口往外望,見到的卻是蒼翠的山峰,高低起伏的山巒和海上星羅棋佈的小島,跟他們心目中的香港完全不同。

香港雖然是人口稠密的大都會,卻有約四分之三的土地屬於郊野;而香港土地總面積中,有四成即( 435平方公里)的郊野分別位於24個受保護的郊野公園。內 郊野公園內的森林、草地和山坡有3,300種植物生長,大部分為本港原生物種;又有豹貓、小靈貓、野豬和巨蟒等野生動物棲息其中,更是全球瀕危物種如穿山甲和盧氏小樹蛙的家園,因此郊野公園是香港重要的保育。基地

郊野公園對大眾而言亦是寶貴的資源去, 年有共 1,300萬名本地人及遊客到訪。郊野公園輕遠既有 鬆的 足路線,如澳石郊野公園龍;的 脊 亦有漫長而艱辛的登山路段如,例 介乎北大嶼和南大嶼郊野公園之間的香港第三高峰大東山;更是攝影的好去處,還可以進行緊張刺激的滑翔傘活動。

1960年至代 1970年代初,由於城急市速發展,人口膨脹,愈來愈多香港人意識到有需要保育郊野的自然環,境 為市民提供遠離塵囂的休憩間空 。剛好年當 的港督麥理浩爵士熱愛遠足,在他大力支持下,香港開始設立郊野公園,而全長100公里的麥理浩徑就是以他命名。

由麥理浩爵士主持制定的《郊野公園條例》,於1976年實施,三年內已劃定21個郊野公園的範圍。《Hong Kong Country Parks》作者杜詩雅形容這位港督為「少數目光遠大的人」,即使在市民漠不關心和既得利益者反對情的 況下,仍然推動郊野公園計劃。

不過,郊野公園系統亦要作出一些妥協。部分鄉村及農地免豁 納入郊野公園範圍,形成被郊野公園環抱卻屬不 郊野公園範圍的「不括地土 」。,此外 由於當時進口白米較本地出產的白米少宜,令務難農以為生於, 是有很多鄉郊居民遷往市區居住,或到海外謀生。這些荒廢的農地因此無

意變中 成方正式的自然保護區,成為青蛙、魚類蜻、 蜓及其他野生動物的棲息地。

不過,郊野公園不括土地很快成為地發商覦產 展 覬 的目標,打算用來興建高爾夫球場及豪。宅 西貢西灣是恬而風光優美的沿海郊區,附近就是西貢半島的人氣行山徑。但在2010年,新聞披露西灣有地主破壞大片植被,顯然是想藉此成為日後發展土地的理據,事件引起公眾強烈抗議。

郊野公園不括土地目前仍然是個棘手的問題。隨著香港因土地問題導致價樓過高的爭議升溫,有政策制定者提出放棄部分受保護土用地, 作興建高樓大廈。不過,很多市民對這項建議並不認同。郊野公目仍園 前 然完好,未受破壞;歡迎訪客於市區暢遊之後,換上登山鞋,探索本港野趣盎然的一面。


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