Private sector joins cleaning up of harbour (Eng.only)

The following is the speech by the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands, Mr Gordon Siu, at the launching ceremony of the floating refuse collection trial organised by the Private Sector Committee on the Environment in Causeway Bay today (Friday):

Mr Lau, Mr Eldon, Distinguished guests,

It gives me great pleasure to officiate at today's ceremony which marks the kick-off of a six-month trial on refuse collection by the "Trashcat", sponsored by the Private Sector Committee on the Environment.

Victoria Harbour is one of Hong Kong's most valuable assets. It brought Hong Kong life and is a major contribution to our success today. It is a unique attraction for residents as well as tourists. The Town Planning Board's Vision Statement for the Harbour sums up public aspirations well - "... make our Harbour attractive, vibrant, accessible and symbolic of Hong Kong - a harbour for the people and a harbour of life."

Our Harbour must be a safe and efficient thoroughfare for the transport of people and goods so as to retain Hong Kong's status as an international hub port. But beyond that our objective is to enhance its scenic views and its potential for recreation and leisure. Innovative urban planning and building design can bring us closer to the Harbour. We will, for example, plan for low-rise developments along the shore so as to provide greater visual access to the harbour. At the same time, through an integrated network of open space and pedestrian links, there will be increased opportunities for activities along the waterfront promenades.

These objectives need to be matched with continued improvement of the water quality of the Harbour. Who can enjoy a harbour crusted with cans, plastic bags and other refuse? The unsightly foreground detracts from the spectacular backdrop of world class buildings and dramatic green hills ringing the water.

Rubbish in the harbour is not just bad for appearances. It reflects poor hygiene standards and habits by those living on land as well as on vessels. These are a threat to the health of the community as well as an eyesore.

Changing these habits is one of the main objectives of the campaign promoting Health Living for the 21st Century. That public education campaign is being backed up by the planned reforms to the system for handling municipal cleansing and waste collection and overseeing environmental hygiene. Most of the refuse in the sea comes from the land, and the long term success of programmes to clear floating refuse depend on permanent improvements in hygiene practices on land.

But for today we have the refuse that is already in the harbour to deal with. So far, the Marine Department has been taking the lead to collect floating refuse. Their staff and contractors have picked up over 8,000 tonnes already this year. Their efforts will continue.

I am delighted today to be able to welcome the private sector into the partnership to help clean up the harbour. There is already a double benefit to Hong Kong. First, the sense of responsibility and commitment towards the quality of life here being demonstrated by the Private Sector Committee is an example to others in the community. Second, the new technology being introduced in this trial scheme shows the value of the private sector in driving innovation and experimentation to improve performance. I very much hope that to these two benefits will be added a third - a cleaner harbour. I wish the trial every success, and you have my pledge to build on this partnership in the years ahead. Together I am confident that we can give back to Hong Kong a clean and healthy harbour that everyone can delight in.

Thank you.

End/Friday, November 5, 1999