This is how they do it: Take a thicket in sleepy backwater Pui O and cut down all the trees. Then fill the empty space with building rubble from all the village houses that have been stripped bare to the very concrete skeleton, to emerge, Phoenix-like, as a smart, large-windowed Bondi Beach retreat. Leave to fester for two years; then start construction in a big way.
Poor Pui O. Nothing much has happened for the last couple of years, until last month when at least three massive building projects suddenly and simultaneously kicked off in various thickets. First came all the trees marked for cutting with a red ribbon:
Out of the sixty trees I counted in this particular spot, forty were marked as ‘for the chop’. That was just in one place, next to the sports ground. Let me take a wild guess and predict it will turn into another gated community with high walls and metal gates complete with secret passcode, probably something like ‘Keep The Riff-raff Out’ Southern Comfort:
I wonder what they will call the new one. Chivas Regal?
The morning walks around my neighbourhood have turned into a dodge-the-bulldozer nightmare, and I fear; nay, know, that worse is to come. It’s the knock-on effect. Let’s say that the three large construction sites will each turn into something the size of Southern Comfort. That means at least another sixty SUVs on the already over-crowded South Lantau road. For make no mistake; although the law says that only one car per household is allowed on Lantau, new house-owners are advised how to get around this pesky hindrance to their middle-class rights by registering their cars as belonging to different floors of their village houses; traditionally housing one family per floor.
And only SUVs will do here on Lantau even for people without children (the usual excuse for clogging up the road with vehicles taller than a man and twice as wide): It’s the countryside! It’s rugged and impenetrable terrain! I need a car the size of a small bus to drive the one minute down to the beach and walk my dogs up and down it, not picking up the poo!
As I walk my dog in the morning, looking at the destruction of the formerly pleasant semi-rural environment, I struggle with my beliefs versus my other beliefs.
I strongly believe that a person has the right to do whatever he jolly well wants with his own land. And I will defend to, maybe not the death but at least the last breath in my body until I draw another breath, his right to do so.
On the other hand, I also strongly believe that I as an individual have the right to breathe fresh air and to take photographs. Now I see one formerly beautiful and photogenic background after another going the way of the bulldozer.
A little bit here, a little bit there; soon I will have to walk for an hour to get a beautiful shot of uninterrupted nature. To say nothing of the water buffaloes of Pui O: Where will they go when every open space is taken up by people who want to get “away from it all”?
It’s a funny thing: People who want to get away from it all tend to bring “it all” with them wherever they go.