The Director of Drainage Services, Mr TONG Ka-hung, Edwin, will retire this month. Looking back, despite having served in various policy bureaux and departments in his 37 years of government service, Edwin says that his most memorable and satisfying work experiences all come from the Drainage Services Department (DSD). This time, I have invited him to share with us how he feels about his imminent retirement and talk about people and works projects that he still has vivid memories of, and give us a glimpse of the future priority work of the DSD.
Edwin joined the Government as Assistant Engineer in 1982, was promoted to Principal Government Engineer in 2012 and appointed as the Director of Drainage Services in June 2015. He will retire this month. The policy bureaux and departments he has served include the former Environment, Transport and Works Bureau, the Development Bureau, the former Engineering Development Department, the Highways Department, the Transport Department, the Civil Engineering and Development Department and the DSD. He has a lot of experience in the implementation of works projects.
Unforgettable experience: participating in the HATS
Edwin’s journey in the DSD started many years ago in 1993. He has worked as Senior Engineer for more than nine years in the DSD, the longest position he has held in his years of government service. In retrospect, he says that his most memorable experience is his participation in the construction works of Stage 1 of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) to oversee the building of a deep sewage conveyance tunnel over 23 kilometres long (Note). He recalls that in the construction period, they came across quite a number of difficulties and the works progress was questioned by both the Legislative Council and the general public. Nevertheless, the project team remained level-headed and finally solved the problems one by one. To this day, he still remembers very well the steadfastness, conscientiousness and dedication of his colleagues.
The largest environmentally-friendly infrastructure project ever
Stage 1 of the HATS was successfully commissioned at the end of 2001. When Edwin was appointed as the Director of Drainage Services and started working again in the DSD in 2015, it happened that construction works of Stage 2A of the HATS were near completion, giving him the opportunity to supervise its completion and coming into service.
According to Edwin, the project is the largest environmental infrastructure project in Hong Kong's history. Its treatment capacity, scale and coverage are also the largest among other similar projects in Hong Kong. He says he is really fortunate to have participated in the project. With the two stages of the HATS coming into operation, sewage collection and treatment services can be provided to as many as 5.7 million people on both sides of the Victoria Harbour, giving us significantly improved water quality in the harbour. In 2017, the Harbour Race resumed to its original race course of 40 years ago. Although the project took more than 20 years to construct, it was well worth the wait.
Unforgettable experience: high alert when Typhoon Mangkhut hit Hong Kong
Besides sewage treatment, flood prevention is another priority work of the DSD. Edwin finds it unforgettable that when Typhoon Mangkhut hit Hong Kong last year, the DSD maintained high alert and was fully mobilised to deal with the situation. For example, before the typhoon’s arrival, contingency teams were deployed to low-lying villages prone to storm surges to take appropriate precautions. In addition, frontline staff conducted pre-typhoon inspections and cleared the drains at locations vulnerable to blockages caused by refuse or leaves.
Edwin recalls that he and his colleagues stayed at the DSD Emergency Control Centre to take note of the outdoor situation during the typhoon. He is grateful that his colleagues all worked as a team and remained on call around the clock to deal with emergencies. After the passage of Typhoon Mangkhut, Edwin had to quickly deal with matters relating to the seriously damaged Sai Kung Sewage Treatment Works. As you can see, vigilance is a must whenever a typhoon strikes Hong Kong.
Unforgettable experience: bringing art to a stormwater storage tank
Another project that gives Edwin satisfaction is the opening of the Tai Hang Tung Stormwater Storage Tank as a venue for the first time in early 2018 to hold a media art exhibition titled “After the Deluge”. The unprecedented mixture of large-scale infrastructure and work of art offered the general public a very interesting opportunity to gain a new perspective of hydraulic engineering, characteristics of water, and flood prevention works in Hong Kong.
Besides the Tai Hang Tung Stormwater Storage Tank, the Happy Valley Underground Stormwater Storage Tank, which has enhanced flood prevention and greatly alleviated flood risks for the public, was in fact also completed during Edwin’s tenure.
Encouraging colleagues to be bold in innovation
To mark the 30th anniversary of the DSD's establishment this year, the department specially held open days at the Sha Tin Sewage Treatment Works. According to Edwin, the department has adopted a three-pronged strategy in flood prevention, i.e. stormwater interception at upstream, flood storage at mid-stream and drainage improvement at downstream, and has eliminated 125 flooding blackspots over the years with this strategy. Only six flooding blackspots remain in Hong Kong at present.
Looking forward, Edwin says that, faced with severe challenges brought by climate change, the DSD will continue to enhance drainage facilities and vigorously promote Blue-Green Infrastructure such as the revitalisation of river channels. In planning drainage improvement works, the DSD will take into account the importance of beautification and promotion of biodiversity, and will foster a water-friendly culture. Moreover, one of the department’s future priority work is the relocation of the Sha Tin Sewage Treatment Works to the nearby caverns at Nui Po Shan of A Kung Kok. The existing site of about 28 hectares will be released for uses that will benefit the community.
In recent years, the DSD has been working hard to introduce new technology into its facilities and has conducted quite a number of researches. Edwin encourages his colleagues to stay open-minded, embrace new technology and thinking and make use of them to improve drainage services, achieving greater efficiency to benefit the general public. Here, I also wish Edwin a happy and healthy retirement filled with brilliance every day.
Note: The Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS), formerly known as the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS), is a major Government initiative to improve the water quality in the Victoria Harbour. Construction of the Stage 1 works commenced in 1994 and involved the construction of a deep sewage conveyance tunnel over 23 km long. Sewage is transferred from Kowloon and the northeastern part of Hong Kong Island to the Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works, the construction of which is completed at the same time, for treatment and dispersion.
17 February, 2019Back