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LCQ11: Safety of hikers
     Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (January 24):


     Quite a number of members of the public enjoy hiking in the mountains in the fine autumn weather. However, a number of fatal accidents in which hikers fell from a height after losing their footing have occurred one after another recently. Such accidents have aroused concerns about whether the safety awareness of hikers is adequate, and whether hiking trails are well-maintained. A mountaineering expert has pointed out that the large number of hikers during holidays has speeded up the wear and tear of some popular hiking trails, but such trails are left unrepaired over a long period of time. In addition, some hikers veer off the existing trails for shortcuts, resulting in soil erosion in the intertwining breakaway tracks on both sides of quite a number of trails, thereby aggravating the wear and tear of the trails. Regarding the safety of hikers, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has compiled statistics on the respective numbers of trails within and outside the ambit of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) at present; of the name (if any), the starting point and end point of each trail, as well as the government department(s) responsible for its maintenance;

(2) of the number of activities (e.g. "Trail Maintenance Workshop") organised by AFCD to recruit hikers as volunteers to help repair trails in each of the past five years; the details of such activities (including (i) the numbers of participating volunteers, (ii) the dates on which such activities took place, (iii) the names (if any) of the trails concerned, (iv) the problems addressed by the repair works, and (v) the difficulties encountered in the repair process);

(3) whether the AFCD has designated staff members dedicated to repairing hiking trails; if not, of the reasons for that; if so, the current staffing establishment, and the details of the repair works undertaken by such staff members in the past five years (including (i) the dates on which such works were undertaken, (ii) the names (if any) of the trails concerned, (iii) the problems addressed by the repair works, and (iv) the difficulties encountered in the repair process);

(4) given that all of the several recent fatal accidents which involved hikers falling from a height happened at spots far away from existing trails, how the authorities will step up public education and publicity, so that hikers will put primary emphasis on their personal safety, and refrain from taking risks in order to flaunt their ability; and

(5) whether the AFCD will step up publicity so that members of the public are aware of the availability of information on accident black spots in country parks on its website?



     My reply to the Hon Kenneth Lau's question is as follows:

(1) There are about 80 hiking trails, with a total length of about 500 kilometres, under the management and maintenance of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) within country parks and special areas. These trails mainly include four long-distanced trails, a number of Country Trails of various lengths, Nature Trails that educate on ecology and cultural history, and Family Walks that provide for family enjoyment. The names, starting and end points of these hiking trails are listed in the Annex.

     Apart from the above trails under the management of the AFCD, there are a number of other trails in Hong Kong, but the Government does not keep the information of all these trails. Relevant departments will construct and maintain trail sections under their jurisdiction according to the site conditions and specific needs.

(2) Hiking activities in country parks have become increasingly popular in recent years. With a view to promoting public awareness of trail protection, the AFCD has organised nine trail maintenance workshops for volunteers to participate since 2016. Through participating in the trails maintenance works, the members of the public gained more understanding of the causes of trail degradation and the difficulties of trail repairing works. About 200 volunteers joined these trail maintenance activities. Details of the activities are as follows:
Activity date Name of hiking trail
November 26, 2016 MacLehose Trail Section 8 (Sze Fong Shan Section)
January 21, 2017
February 11,2017
February 4, 2017 MacLehose Trail Section 3 (Kai Kung Shan Section)
February 5, 2017
November 11, 2017 Ma On Shan Country Trail
November 12, 2017
December 9 ,2017
December 10, 2017
(3) Trail maintenance works in country parks are subject to various environmental constraints. The work sites are mostly located in the remote countryside where access and delivery of materials are difficult. Moreover, the use of large machineries should be avoided in order to minimise the disturbance to the natural environment. Therefore, most of the trail maintenance works have to be carried out bit by bit manually and carefully, leading to prolonged works period. The AFCD does not have dedicated staff only responsible for trail maintenance. Currently, trail maintenance works in country parks and special areas are carried out by the frontline staff of the 20 management centres of the AFCD. They are multi-tasked to cover a wide variety of duties such as afforestation, hill-fire prevention and fighting, facilities construction and maintenance, etc. for which they have received prior technical training. As a large number of trail maintenance works of various scales had been carried out during the last five years, we have difficulty in providing the detailed information such as the manpower involved, dates and name of the trail sections repaired. However, it was noted that most of these trail maintenance works covered the repairing of trail surface, construction of steps and providing drainage to reduce soil erosion.

(4) A number of government departments are involved in publicising and promoting hiking safety. The AFCD regularly organises promotional activities to raise awareness on hiking safety, including exhibitions and game booths at shopping malls and Country Parks Visitor Centres, and disseminates safety message through television announcements, website and pamphlets. The AFCD all along encourages hikers to use trails that are managed and maintained by the Department while hikers should not explore new routes on their own or hike on unmaintained paths to prevent accidents. The AFCD promotes Long Distance Trails, Country Trails, Family Walks and Nature Trails through the "Enjoy Hiking" website and mobile application. The mobile application provide information of hiking routes, including the level of difficulty of the routes, for the reference of hikers by taking into account the length, gradient, surface condition and time required for completing the journey. Individual hikers and hiking groups could make use of the information to plan for a suitable hiking route according to their physical fitness and experience. The AFCD also sets up information boards and directory signs at suitable locations in country parks to provide trail information and to remind visitors of hiking safety. Warning signs have also been erected in areas which are more dangerous, in particular those with previous record of severe accidents, to alert hikers not to go there. The AFCD will also review the measures from time to time, modify the existing warning signs and install additional ones where needed.

     In addition, the Fire Services Department (FSD) has posted safety hints on mountain activities, including information on hiking routes, weather conditions, clothing and gears, on the Department's website for public information. The FSD would publicise such messages through various safety activities. The Civil Aid Service (CAS) held the Launching Ceremony of the Hiking Safety Promotion Campaign with several government departments and mountaineering organisations at Pak Tam Chung P.H.A.B. (Physically Handicapped and Able-Bodied) Site in Sai Kung in May 2017 and have launched a series of promotional activities on hiking safety. These include distributing "Hiking Safety Checklists" and promotional materials at the starting points of popular hiking trails, organising talks and promoting through multimedia such as the Security Bureau's mobile application "Safeguard HK" on hiking safety and accident handling procedures. The CAS also held the Mountaineering Safety Promotion Day with various government departments and mountaineering organisations in October 2017 at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai to enhance the public's awareness of hiking safety at mountaineering activities. The Police from time to time publicise messages on safety issues, which the public should pay attention to when going on hiking, through the Police Magazine programme and the Police's Facebook page. A total of three episodes of the Police Magazine programme related to hiking safety were broadcast in 2017, while five posts on hiking safety were also uploaded to the Police's Facebook.

(5) After consulting the CAS, the AFCD has listed a number of high risk locations in country parks to remind hikers that these locations are more dangerous and with previous record of serious and fatal accidents. Hikers should avoid going to these high risk locations which are tabulated below:
Country park Name of high risk locations
Shing Mun Tai Shing Stream
Lion Rock Lion Rock Peak
Sai Kung East Sharp Peak
Quadruplex Pool
Yin Tsz Ngam
Plover Cove Bride's Pool Waterfall
Lantau South Kau Nga Ling area
Shui Lo Cho
Lantau North Wong Lung Stream
Nei San Stream (near Nei Lak Shan Country Trail)
Pat Sin Leng Hsien Ku Fung
Ping Nam Stream
Tai Mo Shan Tai Shek Stream
Ma On Shan Tiu Shau Ngam area
The cliff at Fei Ngo Shan (also known as Suicide Cliff)
Lantau North (Extension) Nei San Stream (also known as Mo Tin Ngai)
     The relevant information of high risk locations has been uploaded onto the "Enjoy Hiking" website for the reference of hikers in planning their hiking routes. The information will be updated from time to time as necessary. Details of the locations can be found at www.hiking.gov.hk/fatal_and_accident_case/index_en.htm. The AFCD will continue to keep the public informed of such high risk locations and the potential risk through various media and channels.
Ends/Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Issued at HKT 18:55
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