LCQ22: Provision of utilities for remote villages

Following is a question by the Hon Tang Ka-piu and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Ms Bernadette Linn, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):
Some members of the public have relayed that some recognised villages located on remote outlying islands and on the List of Recognized Villages of the Lands Department (e.g. Tung Ping Chau and Po Toi Island) still do not have utilities of tap water, electricity as well as fixed line and mobile communication networks. This has caused great inconvenience to the daily lives of the residents, and also affected tourists' experience. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of recognised villages which currently have inhabitants but do not have the following utilities: (i) tap water, (ii) grid electricity, (iii) broadband internet service networks, and (iv) mobile communication service networks (set out in a table);
(2) among the recognised villages with no grid electricity mentioned in (1), of the respective numbers of those villages which have the three facilities set out in the table below that use renewable energy (set out in the following table);
Renewable energy facilities Number of recognised villages
(i) installed (ii) to be installed soon
(a) Solar lamp posts    
(b) Solar power generation facilities    
(c) Wind power generation facilities    
(3) as outlying islands such as Tung Ping Chau and Po Toi Island are local tourist attractions, whether the authorities have considered taking into account the number of tourists when assessing the demand for utilities of remote villages, and expeditiously implementing the provision of utilities such as water, electricity and communication networks, so as to better cater for tourists' needs for meals and accommodations;
(4) whether works for installing utilities such as water, electricity and communication networks in recognised villages located within the areas of country parks or marine parks are subject to the restrictions under the Country Parks Ordinance (Cap. 208) or the Marine Parks Ordinance (Cap. 476); if so, of the details; and
(5) as the Government has mentioned in the Northern Metropolis Development Strategy Report released in October last year that it will study the feasibility of Shenzhen's supplying water and electricity to Tung Ping Chau, whether there is any progress in that study; if so, of the details and the implementation timetable; if not, the reasons for that?
The Government has always been committed to improving the infrastructure in remote rural areas and outlying islands, and will also review and improve various public facilities in a timely manner according to the actual conditions of the areas concerned.
As the Hon Tang Ka-piu's written question covers a number of policy areas, the Development Bureau, in consultation with the relevant bureaux and departments, provides the following coordinated reply:
(1) According to the information provided by the Home Affairs Department (HAD) and the Water Supplies Department (WSD), there are currently 15 remote villages which have inhabitants but do not have the tap water supply (see Annex). These villages are equipped with facilities for supplying stream water, well water or for collecting rainwater which have been used for many years. Most of these facilities are under the maintenance of the HAD while the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department regularly monitors the water quality to ensure the water is suitable for potable consumption after boiling. In the event of depletion or insufficiency of the above water sources, the Government will provide timely assistance, including delivering potable water to meet the need of the villagers.
Regarding the supply of electricity, the Government has been encouraging the two power companies, having regard to the actual needs of the community, to put in place corresponding supply facilities with a view to providing reliable, stable and safe electricity supply services. According to the information provided by the two power companies, except for Tung Ping Chau and Po Toi Island, they have not encountered any difficulty in supplying electricity to remote villages.
Regarding the broadband internet service and the mobile communication network, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) does not maintain the information concerned.
(2) The respective numbers of those villages which have the three renewable energy facilities set out in the table below are as follows:
Renewable energy facilities Number of recognised villages
(i) installed (ii) to be installed
(a) Solar lamp posts 14 (Note 1) 3 (Note 2)
(b) Solar power generation facilities The power companies do not maintain information (Note 3) concerned.
(c) Wind power generation facilities
Note 1: The HAD installed solar lamp posts for four remote villages on outlying islands via the District Minor Works programme and the Highways Department (HyD) installed such lamp posts in ten remote villages on outlying islands via the Village Lighting Programme (VLP).
Note 2: The HyD also plans to install solar lamp posts in three remote villages on outlying islands via the VLP.
Note 3: According to the Environment and Ecology Bureau (EEB), based on the information provided by the two power companies, as of Q3 2022, the Feed-in Tariff Scheme has received a total of 940 applications involving the installation of renewable energy systems in village houses or detached houses on outlying islands, of which 864 applications have been approved. The remaining 76 are still being processed. In addition, relevant people can also install renewable energy systems for their own use. In this regard, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department and the two power companies have set up hotlines to answer inquiries about renewable energy and provide technical advice. At present, the power companies do not maintain information on the installation of renewable energy systems on outlying islands or in recognised villages that are not covered by the grid.
(3) In considering the provision of water supply facilities, the WSD would base on the actual situation of the remote villages to consider factors including the number of inhabitants (including the tourists), the water demand, cost effectiveness and technical feasibility, etc.
Regarding the supply of electricity, according to the EEB, the two power companies have always been committed to enhancing their electricity supply facilities, with a view to supporting the needs of various districts. The Government welcomes the two power companies to conduct feasibility studies and submit supply proposals in response to individual applications for electricity supply. The Government will conduct comprehensive assessment on the proposals taking account of the factors including the supply method, cost effectiveness and the impact on the environment, etc. with a view to achieving the balance of the four objectives of the energy policy, namely, safety, stability, reasonable prices and environmentally friendliness. The Government has approved the two power companies' proposals to supply electricity from solar energy systems for Tung Ping Chau and Po Toi Island respectively. 
In addition, the CEDB has been monitoring the provision of broadband services in remote villages and implementing a series of measures to enhance the communications network and facilitates in the remote villages:
(i) The Subsidy Scheme to Extend Fibre-based Networks to Villages in Remote Areas (Subsidy Scheme) was launched in 2018 with a view to encouraging fixed network operators (FNOs) through provision of financial incentives to extend fibre-based networks to a total of 235 villages in remote areas. Under the Subsidy Scheme, fibre-based network has already reached 88 villages. It is expected that around 120 villages will be covered by fibre-based network by the end of this year and the rest is expected to complete by 2026;
(ii) Under the Subsidy Scheme, subsidised FNOs are required to roll out three submarine cables running respectively from Hong Kong Island to Lamma Island, from Lantau Island to Cheung Chau and from Lantau Island to Peng Chau, as well as fibre-based lead-in connections to villages covered by the Subsidy Scheme on these islands. The related works, which are expected to be completed by the end of this year, will further extend the backbone infrastructure for telecommunications with a view to supporting various communications services in these areas (including 5G services);
(iii) A pilot scheme was launched in 2019 to open up about 1 500 suitable government premises for mobile network operators to install radio base stations at a nominal rent ($1 per year) through streamlined application procedure to improve coverage of their mobile network, including that in remote areas, and
(iv) The Telecommunications Ordinance (Cap. 106) and relevant guidelines will be amended to ensure that appropriate space is made available in new buildings for installation of mobile communications facilities by mobile network operators, with a view to enhancing coverage of 5G networks and improving mobile network coverage in specific locations, including new development and remote areas. 
(4) Country parks and marine parks are regulated by the Country Parks Ordinance (Cap. 208) and the Marine Parks Ordinance (Cap. 476) respectively. When the Lands Department receives an application for excavation and laying of public facilities on government land within the country park area, it will seek advice from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and process the application in accordance with the established procedures. Besides, if it is necessary to carry out new development works within the marine park area or the works concerned involve activities such as mooring or anchoring of vessels, prior approval or permission must be obtained from the Country and Marine Parks Authority (i.e. the Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation). The above requirements apply to laying facilities of water, electricity, communication network, etc. in villages located within the country park or marine park area.
(5) In connection with the water supply proposal for Tung Ping Chau as suggested in the Northern Metropolis Development Strategy Report, the WSD has already had initial contact with the relevant authority of the Mainland and exchanged views on the technical aspects. As for electricity supply, according to the EEB, it is understood that the CLP Power Hong Kong Limited has been liaising with the residents of Tung Ping Chau on the implementation of the proposal of using a solar energy system for power supply.
Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Issued at HKT 17:57