Long Valley Nature Park
When taking forward projects in new development areas, the Government will attach importance to environmental and nature conservation to provide a green and quality living space to people in these areas. The Kwu Tung North (KTN) and Fanling North (FLN) New Development Area (NDA) forms a core part of the multi-pronged land supply strategy in the medium and long term, and the construction of the Long Valley Nature Park is part and parcel of the KTN/FLN NDA project. Staff members from the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) will tell us about the project details regarding conserving and enhancing the ecological environment of Long Valley. A representative of the Conservancy Association, the advisor of the project, will also share her suggestions on conservation in Long Valley.
Project expected to be completed in 2023
Located between the Sheung Yue River and Shek Sheung River in Sheung Shui, Long Valley is currently the largest contiguous freshwater wetland of high ecological value in Hong Kong. The CEDD commenced the construction works in late 2019 with a view to developing some 37 hectares of land at the core area of Long Valley into a nature park for conserving and enhancing the ecologically important environment as well as for compensating the loss of wetland due to the NDA development. Meanwhile, the department is going to enhance the environment there through the works to make the park a major green space for the NDA. The project is making good progress and is expected to be completed in 2023.
Preservation and enhancement of the ecological value of Long Valley
While the construction of the Long Valley Nature Park is undertaken by the CEDD, its future management rests with the AFCD. Nature Park Officer of the AFCD, Dr Ho King-yan, Kevin, says Long Valley has various habitats including wet and dry agricultural land, pools, paddy fields, fishponds, swamps, etc. with rich biodiversity. The Government hopes to, through the construction of the Long Valley Nature Park, further conserve and enhance the ecological value of the Long Valley wetland to provide more areas for different species to forage, inhabit and reproduce. It also hopes to preserve traditional farming methods, thereby achieving agro-ecological symbiosis. During the construction period, the AFCD and the CEDD work closely to exchange views on conservation, restoration and management of habitats as well as on the planning and design of the park.
A park with three zones
Engineer of the CEDD, Mr Chau Ha-lo, Ryan, says the park will be divided into three zones, including the Biodiversity Zone of about 21 hectares, the Agriculture Zone of about 11 hectares and the Visitor Zone of about five hectares. The Biodiversity Zone is designated for maintaining the biodiversity of Long Valley through the cultivation of specified crops and habitat management. The Agriculture Zone will enable farmers to adopt eco-friendly farming practices while the Visitor Zone will provide visitors’ facilities to facilitate public understanding and appreciation of the wetland ecology of Long Valley and promote public awareness of nature conservation.
Restoration of dry and abandoned agricultural land
Furthermore, the wetland area of the whole Long Valley will increase by about eight hectares as the CEDD will convert some dry and abandoned agricultural land into wetland habitats. Paddy fields are an important stop-over site for yellow-breasted buntings during their migration. In the middle of last year, collaborating with the Conservancy Association, the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society and farmers in Long Valley, the CEDD successfully established about 10 patches of paddy fields before the bird migration season in October for serving as a rest stop for birds in Long Valley during their migration journey. Under the guidance of farmers in Long Valley, five water flea ponds were restored to breed water fleas and red worms for the birds to feed on; as a result, many birds particularly water birds were attracted to forage in the ponds.
Enhancing the agricultural environment of Long Valley
To meet the irrigation demand of the farmland in Long Valley in future, the CEDD will also enhance the irrigation channels in Long Valley and construct a water treatment wetland to improve the irrigation water quality at the park through sedimentation, plant filtration, and sterilisation by sunlight. Storage sheds will also be provided at various locations across the park for farmers to store basic farming tools and equipment.
Exploring the natural environment
Besides, to allow the public to explore the freshwater wetlands in a natural environment and have a better understanding of the close relationship between crops and living creatures, timber boardwalks, bird hide and outdoor classrooms will be built in the Visitor Zone of the park. The CEDD will also construct a visitor centre near the park to provide a comfortable space for the public to understand the importance of Long Valley in terms of ecology and agriculture.
Striving to protect the natural environment
Mr Ryan Chau points out that the CEDD needs to handle each process with special care and avoid using heavy machinery throughout the construction of the Long Valley Nature Park in order to protect the natural environment of Long Valley and reduce the impact on its ecology. Although these challenges pose difficulties to the project, the project team feels that it is well worth their effort when seeing the birds roost and feed in the restored wetlands. Mr Chau gives his special thanks to the Conservancy Association for acting as the advisor and giving a lot of valuable advice on the project.
Gratitude for the advice of Conservancy Association
Conservation Manager of the Conservancy Association, Ms Kami Hui, shares with us that a large piece of contiguous agricultural freshwater wetland in Long Valley is precious for farmers to continue farming. Therefore, it is hoped that the principle of conserving Long Valley will be adhered to when carrying out the project details so as to minimise the impact on ecology. During construction, they will remind the project team to pay particular attention to sites with a higher ecological value and avoid having works vehicles pass through the related road sections. Citing another example, when yellow-breasted buntings flew to Hong Kong between October and December last year, the Conservancy Association particularly reminded the project team to exclude the rice paddies from their scope of works so that the birds could forage in the rice paddies.
The Government has been committed to striking the right balance between development and conservation with a view to providing a large green space in a new town to create a quality living environment. There is no doubt that the works for Long Valley Nature Park need to be conducted in line with the conservation principle in order to minimise the impact on the wetlands.
(The video is in Cantonese)
(The video is provided by Development Bureau)