Hong Kong’s Last Fishing Village Faces Climate Threats After Pushing Back Mass Tourism | News | Eco-Enterprise


Sitting among his refrigerator, television, and stacks of bowls, Ng Kei-hung sat outside the family home in Tai O village in Hong Kong waiting for his furniture to dry after a recent flood.

With stilt houses lining the river running through the village, Tai O is a world away from the skyscrapers of downtown Hong Kong, and is popular with locals and tourists alike looking to escape the concrete jungle.

Scientists say it is also the unlikely frontline of Hong Kong’s battle against climate change, with global warming and rising sea levels leading to increasingly powerful storms and flooding. more frequent.

“We have never seen so much flooding develop here in the village,” said Ng, 74, sitting expressionless and shirtless in front of his stilt house, just days after Super Typhoon Mangkhut hit in September. .

A resident of Tai O Village in Hong Kong, China waits for his furniture to dry after a recent flood on September 18, 2018. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION / Beh Lih Yi

It was just the last serious flood to hit the village in recent years. In August 2017, another typhoon caused waist-deep flooding and extensive damage to Tai O.

“What else can we do? We’re not leaving,” said the retiree.

The Asian financial center is largely adept at dealing with typhoons, which occur regularly in southern China.

Yet September’s super typhoon caused unprecedented flooding and damage across the city, chopping down trees, smashing windows in commercial towers and crippling transportation networks.

Environmentalists say coastal cities like Hong Kong, with its many low lying areas, are vulnerable to climate change – but there is often complacency about preparations for extreme weather conditions.

The people of Hong Kong are very accommodating in the face of this type of disaster… but it really is something people have to start thinking about.

Johnny Chan, Professor, Hong Kong City University

“Sponge cities” model

Located about two hours from downtown Hong Kong, rural Tai O is the territory’s last fishing village and is home to over 2,000 people.

Fishing, the region’s traditional industry, is being phased out after a 2012 government ban on trawling that was introduced for environmental reasons, but many here still rely on the production of salt, shrimp paste and d other seafood for a living.

An influx of tourists in recent years to visit the quaint village dubbed the “Venice of Hong Kong” has prompted the government to come up with a plan to improve access by extending a cable car connection and building recreational facilities nearby.

These efforts met with opposition from residents. They largely resisted attempts to over-develop the village, saying it would change their traditional way of life which gives a taste of Hong Kong’s past.

Resisting the floods of tourists is one thing. Scientists are now warning that climate change poses a greater threat to Tai-O and have said extreme weather conditions could make the village uninhabitable decades away.

“If global warming, melting arctic sea ice and sea level rise continue at a faster rate, flooding in low-lying coastal areas would increase much more and faster than expected,” said the atmosphere expert Johnny Chan, professor at City University of Hong Kong.

“It’s possible that in places like Tai O, if the sea level continues to rise and if we have more of these typhoons, it could become uninhabitable in the future.”

“Hong Kong people are very complacent about these types of disasters… but it’s really something people have to start thinking about,” he said.

The city government said it has taken steps to mitigate the risk of flooding.

Last year, she completed work on a huge stormwater storage tank under the city’s famous racetrack near central Hong Kong, which can hold as much water as 24 swimming pools.

The reservoir acts like a huge sponge, absorbing rainwater during storms and releasing it later for cleaning toilets and streets, as well as irrigation in parks and playgrounds.

“Hong Kong is on the common path of tropical cyclones and sometimes experiences very heavy torrential rains,” Simon Lai, senior engineer in the Hong Kong Drainage Services Department, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We do a lot of public education to tell the public that if we don’t do anything about climate change, we will face serious flooding.”

Dried fish sold in Tai O village in Hong Kong, China on September 18, 2018. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION / Beh Lih Yi

River wall, early warning

Tai O has an early warning system for flooding, and several years ago the government built a 220-meter-long (722-foot) dike along the river to prevent flooding.

But that still doesn’t stop water from flowing into homes along the waterway, prompting activists to call on city officials to do more.

Eddie Tse of the Tai O Sustainable Development Education Workshop, a nonprofit, said Hong Kong should look to cities like Amsterdam to bolster its flood defenses.

“Tai O is like a living museum, showcasing our unique heritage like the fishing village and the stilt houses,” Tse said.

“Most people here don’t want to move and we would kill the whole culture here if we did,” he added.

Resident Wong Ah-siu, 85, echoed the sentiment.

Wong, who lives with her daughter and husband, was evacuated to a shelter just before the typhoon hit, but still caused her family about HK $ 10,000 ($ 1,275) in damage.

Despite Tai O’s uncertain future, she vowed to stay.

“We’ve lived here our whole life, where can I go? “

This story was published with permission from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT + rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change . Visit http://news.trust.org.

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