Public policy think tank Civic Exchange today launched a new publication Protecting
Sites of Ecological Value: A Guide for Decision-makers (the Guide). This paper aims to assist decision-makers and administrators responsible for protecting Hong Kong’s biodiversity. It does so by setting out the purpose of the protected areas network, creating a simple framework that identifies the broader context and sets out the specific details needed to make informed decisions about conservation.
Hong Kong has an expansive protected areas network (PAN), which includes Country parks, SSSIs, Special Areas and Marine Parks, but there is no overall strategy or underlying goals for managing protected areas. This means that over 40% of Hong Kong’s land mass is not actively managed.
Despite the coverage of the PAN, a number of sites of ecological importance, such as Sha Lo Tung, are still not protected. As a result, many of Hong Kong’s habitats, species and ecological processes are not appropriately recognised, protected or managed.
Principal author Mike Kilburn has observed that the HKSAR Government has a tendency to be reactive to issues about protecting nature. Conservation actions are rarely forthcoming, and only with significant public pressure are the authorities forced to do so. “We saw this recently with the huge public uproar over at Tai Long Sai Wan, the SENT landfill incident that threatened to chip away part of the Clearwater Bay Country Park, and the Tai Tong Lychee Valley park that illegally occupied parts of Tai Lam Country Park, which took 18 years to resolve.” Mike added.
Government officials and advisory board members that are responsible for making decisions about conservation generally do not have formal training in biodiversity, and may not be clear about how their choices affect the wider landscape. The Guide, which includes a pull-out Decision Checklist, sets out a 5-step planning process that is designed to assist decision-makers to make better choices based on sound ecological principles.
These steps urge decision-makers to: (1) share and collect better biodiversity information; (2) develop HK-wide conservation goals, so we know what to protect; (3) locate important but unprotected sites; (4) Prioritise these sites for protection; and (5) determine the kind of management needed based on the site’s carrying capacity.
“We are also on a deadline!” Wilson Lau, Research & Project Coordinator explained. “As the Convention on
Biological Diversity was extended to Hong Kong back in 2011, we must deliver and commence implementing our very own Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan by 2015.” Making decisions with the right information is an essential part
of this process.