Environmentalist Paul Zimmerman has warned of increasing damage to country parks after hikers and campers left Sai Kung’s beaches and beauty spots strewn with trash during Tuesday’s Labour Day holiday.

Mainland companies arranged tour groups to Ham Tin Wan in Sai Kung during the break, bringing an influx of campers to the beach.

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The official Ham Tim campsite has a capacity of 10 tents, according to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

The department told HKFP that during its patrol of the Ham Tin Wan campsite, the staff observed that there were “a considerable number of campers” using the site’s facilities and that as of Wednesday noon they had received over 90 complaints.

But no illegal camping activities or occupation of the camping site for rental or profit was observed during the patrols, it added. The department said it had stepped up patrols to remind campers to care for the environment and had increased cleaning efforts.

The AFCD also said that a public consultation on the possibility of providing camping rental services at designated campsites and introducing a booking system will be launched within 2018.

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Tents at Ham Tin Wan, Sai Kung.

Meanwhile, Facebook user Paul Etherington also posted a picture of trash scattered all over the floor onto a marine conservation group on Wednesday.

He said it was taken in the “beautiful” and “remote” Long Ke Wan in Sai Kung Country Park, which has become popular with hiking groups and camping.

Etherington told HKFP that this was not an abnormal amount of trash, only that “there was a ‘mainlander’ spin on this holiday weekend.”

“On the whole HK people have no respect for the outdoors even though they are enjoying hiking or fishing… there has always been trash left on beaches, trails, hill tops and BBQ sites ever since I remember and that’s 40 years in HK,” he said. “This weekend is passing the buck onto the mainlanders.”

Etherington also said he believes the AFCD could do a better job in educating the public, and that there should be a zero tolerance attitude for trash in the countryside. “People are too used to the government cleaning up after them,” he added.

The pro-democracy Neo Democrats party held a protest outside the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department offices in Cheung Sha Wan on Wednesday afternoon, and submitted a petition letter urging the department to enforce the law.

Trend of ‘overuse’

District Councillor and environmentalist Paul Zimmerman told HKFP that a large influx of campers means the area will be overused in an unplanned manner, and leave the countryside at risk of damage.

Ham Tin Wan
Ham Tin Wan.

“This is a real issue that needs to be addressed,” he said. “The problem has been growing over the last number of years and seems to be a trend.”

Zimmerman added that camping outside of designated grounds and commercial tours of country parks are illegal, and the issue had “nothing to do with the fact that the people are mainlanders.” Rather, the site is a sensitive area with limited facilities, he said.

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Campers at Ham Tin Wan.

He added that, while he was in favour of more people visiting country parks, the issue was with their capacity. He said the government could introduce temporary facilities and camping grounds during holidays to limit damage and ensure that the usage is planned.

Zimmerman also said that the only way to stop such instances from happening in the future is if the government takes drastic steps, such as closing the beach starting Thursday through the weekend to send a message to tourists. Otherwise, more will turn up again next year.

Ham Tin Wan
Ham Tin Wan.

Overall, however, he said he believes the trash situation had improved and that the removal of bins from country parks had helped.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.