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  Channel NewsAsia 15 Apr 05
Residents of popular HK island concerned over threat to ecology
By Channel NewsAsia's Hong Kong Correspondent Roland Lim

HONG KONG : Peng Chau island, just one hour by ferry from Hong Kong, is becoming a popular weekend getaway for those attracted by its green heritage.

With its ecology now under threat, islanders are out in full force to highlight the message of conservation, with the help of a US$200 million grant from the Hong Kong government.

It is with great excitement that these pupils head out to the beach - their first stop. The students, aged eight to 10, are there to learn about the coastline and the sandy shore. One student said: "I have learnt how to protect the environment and how to protect trees from being cut. "

Sannie Chan, Chairwoman of Green Peng Chau Association, said: "The main purpose of this training is to let them experience nature because many of the children that are brought up in the city, they disconnect with nature."

Sannie is a member of the Green Peng Chau Association, founded by a group of fiercely dedicated islanders. She spends her weekends educating the public on the need to conserve the island's natural and cultural heritage. The association is particularly proud of its active role in saving a rare, gigantic "Eurphorbia" from the axe. The members aim to build a sustainable island economy based on Peng Chau's unique culture and environment.
To achieve this, they have introduced guided tours, talks going back to nature.

Disneyland Hong Kong is set to open in September to much fanfare. But reclamation works around Penny's Bay where it is located, has been a contentious issue for nearby Peng Chau island as well. Sannie claims the ocean ecology around the island is being destroyed, and the livelihood of its fishing communities has been affected.

"We also have the negative aspects of the Disneyland project, such as pollution. By building a promenade, the government is destroying the natural coastline," she said.

Shaped like a tiny horse-shoe, Peng Chau is just under one square kilometre in size. There are no cars there, and walking around the entire island takes just under an hour.

Nowadays, it is weekend tourists who contribute to the Peng Chau's coffers. Many visitors from Hong Kong head straight for the seafood restaurants, spending a small fortune on banquet-sized meals.

For the islanders themselves, many say they cannot imagine living anywhere else. Indeed, for many residents, life on the island is close to idyllic.

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