THE LAMMA FOREST - A brief
first seedlings were planted, in the area now known as the Lamma
Forest, on the barren northern hills of the island in April
1997. The initiative was undertaken by a handful of volunteers
working with ABLE Charity, a Lamma-based grassroots organization
set up to make an ecological difference on this small island.
first, the idea was to just plant trees to combat the extensive
deforestation on the island, as well as be part of the greening
of Hong Kong. Soon after the first seedlings were embedded in
the dry soil of the hills the idea of planting a forest that
covered the entire northern parts of the island was born. It was
a “Eureka!” moment, an idea whose time had come. Why not a
forest? Why not work towards creating a mass of land that can
one day become eligible for conservation status, Lamma had none
anyways. Why not create a beautiful green and pleasant land for
future generations to appreciate?
with great enthusiasm the local community was motivated to
partake in the next tree planting the following year, where
2,000 seedlings were planted over an entire weekend in the same
area. The results of the first plantings had by now started to
appear somewhat and that gave hope and further inspiration, as
well as confirming that we were planting in the right area.
Other members wanted to plant in different parts by now, but I
reasoned that if we stick to one area we can start seeing
results and make a noticeable difference.
Planting 2,000 trees in one weekend is no easy task. Looking
back at the photos taken I can see the fatigue on the faces of
the three main organizers, but I can also see the passion and
exercise was a success thanks to our enthusiastic local
community that came out in big numbers to support. We had spent
the previous weekend and the ensuing evenings leading up to the
event camped out in Yung Shue Wan Main Street raising awareness
and drumming up support.
weeks later - as if to support our efforts - the
government-hired contractors came and planted thousands of trees
up on the same hills over a period of a week or so and suddenly
the beginnings of a forest was starting to appear as if by
magic. That was a huge bonus that felt like a gift from the
heavens. I no longer had any doubt that we were on to the right
following October during the Chung Yeung Festival disaster
struck our island. There were over 20 fires that day, started by
careless people who had come to clear and clean their ancestral
Lamma Forest did not escape, one particular grave site started a
huge fire that swept across the dry hills all the way down to
Pak Kok Village, burning most of the trees we and the government
had planted earlier in April and May. Gone up in the blink of an
eye. That was very painful indeed.
day we were combating fire with our beating sticks and taking
big risks getting in close to the burning bush and trees. We
were up there helping the firemen and the odd police officer
covered in black soot, dehydrated and over-heating as we watched
the folly of humans unwittingly destroying the source of that
which nourishes them.
Luckily, the wisdom of nature has her ways and since then many
trees have regenerated back at a more evenly spaced distance,
and today there is a remarkable difference between both sides of
the same slope which is noticeable from the ferry as it goes
round and past Pak Kok. In fact one of the best places to see
the extent of the Lamma Forest is from the ferry by looking up
at the hills between Po Wah Yuen and Pak Kok Tsuen.
Charity has since planted trees most years with the help of
corporations, schools (notably KG5) and the local community. Our
efforts have been funded by the generous green fund from our
local HK Electric company and in recent years the generous
support of the KFBG who supply the expertise as well as the
local indigenous seedlings to plant.
forward to May 2007 and this year’s tree planting weekend. The
mission was 500 indigenous trees specifically selected for this
stage of the forest. The seedlings included two endangered
species listed under class 2 act of China & Hong Kong. (for
example, the Panda Bear is class 1).
way we normally work is on the Saturday all the 500 holes are
dug, the trees are transported up to the site and from there
taken up to the base camp which is then readied for the next
day’s planting. Out of both days perhaps Saturday is more
physically challenging, but the Sunday is always more mentally
challenging as it involves dealing with a lot more people, jobs
tiring of all is the clean-up afterwards, when you have already
done two days of intense work and everybody just wants to go
home, but all the tools have to be put away, the rubbish
cleared, the base camp dismantled and the task completed.
weather this year seemed to be testing us. Saturday we had the
hottest day of the year so far at a scorching 35 degrees Celsius
and Sunday we had the wettest day so far with wild thunder and
lightning storms and heavy monsoon rains.
were not deterred, in fact we found it quite amusing and just
enjoyed the ride. Once you are wet to the bone there is just no
way to get any wetter, so you just plough on and get on with the
job at hand. Although, I must admit I was a little apprehensive
when those lightning bolts were exploding above and all around
all, approximately 60 people showed up to help plant trees and
the vibes were good. People genuinely seemed to be excited and
eager to make a difference. Every tree planting event there are
always a handful of knights in shining armour who just seem to
show up and make all the difference.
is always a pleasant surprise to me as I never know who is going
to turn up on the day. Often, the people you depend on the most
never seem to make it for one reason or the other. These people
know who they are and to them future generations will be
after 10 years of tree-planting, the hills of North Lamma have
transformed from slopes with trees sticking out of them into a
transformation I only really noticed in the last few months.
Suddenly, there is water running down, various edible berries -
including an abundance of the medicinal Chinese gooseberry (amla)
- colourful flowers that are attracting an increasing number of
butterflies and bees, diverse bird species, over 20 different
species of trees and just a vibrancy and a healthy energy that
somehow wasn’t there until recently.
is truly a revelation to me, to see such a transformation in my
lifetime, in just 10 years to witness life return to the land
has filled me with hope that, yes, we can change the world.