Thursday, 5 February 2015

a blot on the landscape

When we moved to the eastern outskirts of Fanling in 2008, the first thing we did was to find out how to cross the open area between the Ng Tung River (‘River Indus’) and Ma Sik Road, an area that I used to describe as ‘fields’. However, our first attempt ended in failure when we missed a left turn off the path we were following, and we ended up at an estate of low-rise residential blocks surrounded by security fences and protected by CCTV cameras.

The following photograph, which was taken from Ma Sik Road looking towards 1 on the map, shows part of this complex. Every block is empty and has been since we moved here. I don’t know when this ‘estate’ was built, but it must be reasonable to assume that it has never been occupied, which begs an obvious question: why was it built in the first place?

It turns out that the land is owned by a leading property developer, the identity of which I’ve been unable to discover, and that it was required to ‘develop’ the land by the Hong Kong government to avoid being compelled to return it to that same government, which had sold the land to the developer in the first place. It would seem that the government is now satisfied with the situation, because nothing has happened here in the last seven years to hurry along the site’s development. Given all that I hear about the shortage of housing in Hong Kong, this arrangement is nothing short of iniquitous.

Meanwhile, further east, the impact of Henderson Land on the area has not been pretty. In Turf Wars, I documented how opportunist farmers were being driven off its land by this company, which seems reasonable until you see the results. Compare the following photograph, taken in 2008/09 from 2 on the map, with the second photo, which was taken just a few days ago but which reflects the situation that has existed here for the past three years.

A lot of the area in question is heavily overgrown, but the first photo shows what hard work and diligence can achieve in such conditions. However, not content with merely planting a few ‘keep off’ notices, the henchmen of the notorious Uncle Four were clearly instructed to erect wire-mesh fences around all such cultivated areas and to demolish any structure that could conceivably be made habitable.

At the time, I noted that gates were provided in these fences wherever cultivation was taking place, which seemed like a reasonable idea until I realized that within a very short time of enclosure, the cultivated land within had been abandoned. In retrospect, it would seem that the farmers were being allowed access only until their current crops had been harvested, and the land has now been overtaken by weeds, as shown in the next photo, which was taken at 3 on the map. The literal translation of the sign behind the fence is as follows:
private home important land, ordinary person no entrance

I have no doubt that the land between Ma Sik Road and the river will eventually be filled by high-rise blocks, and the land has little amenity value for the general public, so there will not be an outcry over the way this situation is being managed, but if my assumption that the land is merely being held as part of a portfolio, to be developed only when it is economically advantageous to do so, then I believe that it is morally and ethically wrong to allow the land to degenerate into a wilderness of weeds when it could be producing food until it is required for development.

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