Geopark added to the global list

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SCMP, Joyce Ng, 19.09.2011

Hong Kong’s eastern countryside has been added to the Unesco-sponsored global geopark list.

The designation was made by the Bureau of the Global Geopark Network after a three-day conference in Norway. A total of 10 sites were chosen out of 16 applications from around the world this year.

“The new status will encourage us to further promote the work on environmental protection,” said Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah, who attended the conference. He said the government would protect the newly designated area from damage, including an offshore wind farm in Sai Kung proposed by CLP Power that would be outside the park but could spoil the landscape.

“We will require the project to go through an environmental impact assessment,” Yau said.

The global geopark network now has 87 sites from 27 countries. The local geopark straddles Sai Kung and the northeastern New Territories. It is known for its hexagonal rock columns, which are rare not just in Hong Kong but globally.

It covers about 50 square kilometres of sea and land and is largely within country parks and marine parks. Equipped with four education centres and 10 geo-trails, it was recognised as China’s national geopark in 2009. Dr Yeung Ka-ming, senior geopark officer from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said exhibitions to introduce rocks in the parks would open at a museum in the Bank of China building in Central in October, and in the science and history museums in December.

The Travel Industry Council will launch an accreditation scheme for specialist tour guides to the geopark at the end of the year. Council chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng said the new recognition would hopefully attract tourists from America and Europe, who tend to be interested in natural scenery, and encourage tour guides to receive training