An ethnic minority colleague from the Water Supplies Department–an electrical expert, Mr Swindar SINGH
There are many captivating, little stories in a big city. I would like to use “My Blog” as a platform to share the different stories of my colleagues from time to time and let you know more about the work of the various departments under the Development Bureau. I have recently learned of a colleague of Indian descent and that three generations of his family have worked at the Water Supplies Department (WSD). Electric pumps and motors have virtually become part of his life. He is Mr Swindar SINGH, currently the Chief Technical Officer of the Electrical Workshop in the WSD. This will be his fortieth year in the civil service. He describes the WSD as a big family to him and colleagues are like brothers, united as one, regardless of colour and race. I have invited Mr SINGH to tell us his story.
Three generations serving in the WSD
Mr Swindar SINGH was born and raised in Hong Kong and speaks fluent Cantonese. He followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and joined the WSD back then. His grandfather was a watchman in the WSD before the war, while his father was a technician in the mechanical division and had advanced to Chief Technical Officer before retirement. He continued their legacy. As a Form 5 graduate with average results, he did not want to be a clerk but had a particular interest in mechanics. He, therefore, decided to be an electrical apprentice after discussing with his father. He was later assigned to the WSD for job placement where he been working most of his life and moved up the career ladder.
Water is pumped by the WSD’s electric pump motors to various pumping stations and water treatment works, from which water is distributed to every district across the territory. These electric pump motors are similar to a person’s heart pumping blood to every part of the body. Mr SINGH’s daily work is to supervise colleagues in the repair and maintenance of these electric pump motors and monitor whether they are working normally, so as to ensure that water from Dongjiang and reservoirs can be pumped to water treatment works. From there filtered fresh water is pumped to service reservoirs for distribution to the households, providing a stable supply of fresh water to the public. As the motors are closely connected like links in a chain, each one of them is extremely important and requires regular inspections and timely repair or replacement.
Unforgettable all-night emergency repair
Looking back on his 40 years in the civil service, Mr SINGH reminisced that the most unforgettable experience was that when the construction of the new airport at Chek Lap Kok was in full swing in 1996, one day a colleague found that one of the main electric pump motors supplying water to the airport and the North Lantau construction projects had suddenly broken down. Mr SINGH and many colleagues including senior engineers had to race against time and work through the night to deliver a large temporary electric pump to the Cheung Sha Pumping Station for installation. He remembered that back then the Tsing Ma Bridge had not opened yet, so they had to make arrangements in a short time to transport the large unit by sea to the site and install it properly very quickly. Colleagues from different departments also had to stand by all night at the temporary pump room, as there was concern that if by any chance the water supply stopped, progress of the construction works would be greatly affected. In the end, with the concerted efforts of everybody, this emergency incident was successfully resolved.
Colleagues are like brothers supporting each other
On the question of how he feels about serving in the Government for so many years as an ethnic minority working in Hong Kong, Mr SINGH said that throughout his long years of service in the Government, colleagues had never been prejudiced against him on account of colour and race. The WSD was just like one big family with colleagues mutually supporting each other in the spirit of brotherhood. He half-jokingly said that many people were not too familiar with the electrical and mechanical (E & M) trades, thinking that the work of the WSD must be about repairing pipework. In fact, there were different types of work in the department.
Seize the opportunities regardless of social background
Mr SINGH started out as an apprentice and has now advanced to Chief Technical Officer. His advice to potential young entrants is that opportunity presents itself if you are willing to work hard. Students with good academic results will of course find it easier to become engineers but those with average results can still carve a niche for themselves by taking other routes, though additional effort will certainly be a must. According to him, repair work means rolling up your sleeves and doing things yourself. You will smell of lubricating oil all over, not to mention getting yourself dirty. This is the exact process you have to go through during repairs.
Mr SINGH especially took us on a trip to the place where both he and his father had worked previously – the Sha Tin Water Treatment Works, the largest of its kind in Hong Kong at present. As newly completed public and private housing developments will increase the demand for fresh water, the Sha Tin Water Treatment Works (South Works) is currently undergoing in-situ reprovisioning that is to be carried out in two stages, i.e. advance works and main works. This will increase treatment capacity from 364 000 cubic metres to 550 000 cubic metres per day. The advance works, including site formation for the administration building, construction of a logistics centre, a hydro-turbine house, access roads, and reprovisioning of the power house, have already commenced. The main works are currently at the design stage.
Young people interested in the E & M trades are cordially invited to enroll in courses organised by the Vocational Training Council and participate in apprenticeship and other training programmes. By joining the WSD or other departments, you can bring your talent into full play, build your own career ladder, contribute to society and serve the public.
28 January, 2018