Pui O’s wetlands made headlines again in August, when some 5,000 residents signed a Save Lantau Alliance petition demanding that an unauthorised campsite near Pui O Beach be removed. Bull Wave Camp Plus was built without approval last November in a government-designated Coastal Protection Area well known for its open wetlands and herds of water buffalo. It remains in place despite an order issued in May by the Lands Department demanding that it be taken down.
The controversy over Bull Wave Camp Plus is only the latest incident to reveal that the Pui O wetlands are under threat. Landowners need to gain Planning Board approval for all plans to build camping grounds or holiday camps within the protected zone, as well as for any landfilling or excavation, but they continue to put up illegal structures and try to introduce new uses for their property.
The government’s inability to prevent illegal construction, landfilling and excavation in the Coastal Protection Area stems from inadequacies in the law, something officials have long been probing. Meanwhile, local conservationists continue to campaign for ‘immediate’ action, and have suggested that the government could buy back the land, look into land swaps or implement a managed land leasing scheme in order to preserve the buffalos’ homeland.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department is responsible for managing the Lantau herds and while much good work has been done over the years, there is still a lack of any strategic plan for their future or any proper protection for their habitat. Loss of habitat is already having an effect, with buffalo having to wander further afield, including along the increasingly busy South Lantau Road, to find adequate pasture. Habitat loss also forces the buffalo into closer proximity with humans, both local people and visitors, increasing the likelihood of an incident.
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