Local media are reporting scenes of chaos at many of the camping sites in the Sai Kung Country Parks. As many residents of the CPs know, the stream of people over the past week, since the beginning of the long holiday week, has been relentless. Now it is getting dangerous, according to Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).
One of the worst sites is Wan Chai South Camp, on the peninsular north of Hoi Ha. This usually caters for 10 tents, but over 100 have been reported this week. Many campers are from the mainland and can be seen walking from the #7 bus stop in Hoi Ha dragging large suitcases along the narrow and hilly paths leading to the camp.
Many of the worries relate to lax and sometimes illegal camp fires, as well as the sanitary conditions in the overwhelmed toilet facilities. Not only does this pose a health risk to the campers, it also poses a big strain on the Marine Park environment, with raw sewage as well as other items flushed down the toilets, reaching the sensitive parts of the conservation areas.
One, unnamed, AFCD warden has even described the area as a “veritable concentration camp”. Safety is also being compromised, with tent pegs and stay lines randomly placed, so that people are easily tripping over them and injuring themselves. Usually tents are pitched in designated areas which are well marked, allowing others to safely walk around.
Another camp site affected by overcrowding is the one at Wong Shek. on.cc reported that there were over 20 tents at a site that should only have eight. Many campers were from the mainland, the reporter said. In addition, the reporter noted that in a number of the camps a lot of campers exhibited lazy management, with tents too close together and even some people lighting fires inside tents.
One expert is quoted as saying that because the tent materials are too light and easy to carry – the tents are made with nylon – their ability to withstand fire is far inferior to old fashioned canvas, and if the tents are too close, the use of liquid gas for lighting and cooking gives the opportunity to produce a major fire emergency.
AFCD told on.cc that the Wan Chai South Camp was the most popular and therefore used by more campers, but there were still sufficient vacancies for the public to set up camps, while the designated camps could actually accommodate more than the stated numbers, and that they operated on the “first come first served” principle.