Controversy surrounds government’s HK$7 million development of Po Pin Chau observation deck in Sai Kung

Po Pin Chau

23rd May 2024 – (Hong Kong) Sai Kung’s Po Pin Chau, has become a topic of heated debate as construction of an observation deck on the summit of Fan Shan has raised concerns among hikers and environmental groups. Worries persist that the development may disrupt the natural harmony of the surrounding environment and lead to an overwhelming influx of visitors, putting excessive strain on the area. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has confirmed that the project is scheduled for completion by the end of the year, with an estimated budget of approximately HK$7 million. The AFCD emphasised that the iconic concrete structures, including the cross-shaped cement construction and triangulation station, known for their “Instagrammable” appeal, will not be removed or concealed.

Situated within the boundaries of the Geopark, Po Pin Chau boasts hexagonal rock columns and the distinctive cross-shaped cement structures, attracting both locals and tourists as a popular photo spot. Moreover, the eastern cape of Fan Shan offers a panoramic view of Po Pin Chau, further enticing visitors. Recently, an online circulation of AFCD notices revealed that construction of the observation deck on Po Pin Chau began on 6th May. Certain sections of the pathway leading to the viewpoint will be temporarily closed in stages, urging the public to avoid entering these restricted areas for safety reasons.

In response to media inquiries, the AFCD explained that Fan Shan’s eastern cape has gained popularity in recent years as a vantage point to admire the scenic beauty of Po Pin Chau. However, unauthorised trailblazing by hikers has caused noticeable damage to the vegetation and accelerated soil erosion in the area. In 2021, the AFCD organised a design competition to enhance the hiking experience, resulting in a winning entry that incorporated minimalist design principles. Based on the winning design concept and on-site considerations, the AFCD engaged the Architectural Services Department to develop the current architectural plan for the observation deck and related trail facilities. The project, estimated to cost around HK$7 million, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The spokesperson further stated that while constructing the hiking trails, the AFCD intends to install fenced observation decks, viewpoints, and information boards at suitable locations. These measures aim to control soil erosion, protect vegetation, enhance visitor safety, and improve the overall hiking experience. Information boards placed at the trail entrance will provide details such as the difficulty level of the trail and nearby hiking routes, serving as a valuable resource for hikers.

However, Vivien Cheng, Director of Community Partnership, The Green Earth, expressed concerns that certain sections of the hiking trail leading to the viewpoint are steep and situated on the edge of cliffs, posing a certain level of difficulty. Currently, the site does not attract an overwhelming number of visitors. Nevertheless, she worries that upon completion of the observation deck, it may attract a significant influx of tourists and even organised tour groups seeking a “must-visit” spot, thereby increasing safety risks. Cheng emphasised that this particular trail segment has inherent limitations, compounded by severe weathering of the hexagonal rock columns, which may compromise its load-bearing capacity. In her view, the construction project does not adequately address the safety concerns associated with this trail.