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Legislative Council Question 1 : "Fire prevention equipment and supporting hardware in rural areas" by the Hon Daniel Lam and a reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council

Following is a question by the Hon Daniel Lam and a reply by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (April 26):

Question:

Some village representatives in the New Territories have complained to me that the Government, on the grounds that the population densities in the majority of the rural areas in the New Territories are on the low side, does not provide resources for constructing rural roads and providing infrastructures such as standard-compliant fire prevention equipment and supporting hardware in these areas, thus impeding the provision of fire and ambulance services to these areas. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) it will expeditiously review its policy on the provision of vehicular accesses to the rural areas in the New Territories, lower the minimum population density required thereunder, and expeditiously construct roads for small vehicles in the villages in the New Territories currently not provided with vehicular accesses, to enable small rescue vehicles' access to the villages;

(b) it plans to provide the fire stations in the rural areas in the New Territories with sufficient numbers of and suitable small fire engines, fire motorcycles and ambulances; if so, of the details of such plans; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) it will install supporting hardware, such as standard pedestal hydrants or fire hose reels, within individual villages in the New Territories?

Reply:

Madam President,

(a) Currently, there is no standard under which the provision of rural roads is based on population density. Minor works projects to improve the infrastructural facilities and the living environment of rural areas are carried out by the Home Affairs Department (HAD) under the Rural Public Works Programme. According to the existing mechanism, District Working Groups, comprising members from the relevant District Councils, representatives of rural and local organisations and Government departments, are in charge of drawing up and considering proposals on road projects and other projects in rural areas, in light of the circumstances of individual villages. Taking into account the actual need and technical feasibility of the proposed projects as well as appropriate allocation of resources, the District Working Groups will decide whether to take forward individual projects, and if so, their implementation priorities. Once a view has been made, the projects will be submitted to the Central Steering Committee of HAD for its consideration and approval. If villagers have any suggestions on road improvement works or other related works projects in their villages, they are welcome to raise their suggestions with HAD or the relevant District Working Group.

(b) At present, the Fire Services Department (FSD) has already provided suitable small fire engines, fire motorcycles and ambulances to meet the needs of individual rural areas in the New Territories. However, due to size constraint, these vehicles can only be equipped with simple tools and equipment, thus limiting the services provided. FSD does not intend to procure additional small fire engines and ambulances at the current stage, but will reconsider whether additional provision should be made in accordance with the actual need.

(c) FSD carries out frequent inspection in rural areas and, having regard to the local situation and actual need of the individual areas, provides suggestions to the Water Supplies Department (WSD) on the installation of additional fire hydrants to improve the water supply for fire-fighting. FSD and WSD also receive requests from individuals on the installation of additional fire hydrants from time to time.

WSD has been positive and pro-active in responding to requests concerning the installation of fire hydrants and swan-neck fire hydrants in villages in the New Territories. It is the current practice of WSD that once requests for the installation of such facilities are received from villagers, WSD will inform, co-ordinate with and seek advice from FSD. Having consulted FSD and confirming the technical feasibility of the proposed installation, WSD will plan for and install the necessary fire service equipment and carry out the associated pipework, having regard to the priority accorded by FSD and the financial position of WSD of the year. Villagers are welcome to put forth suggestions on the location of additional fire hydrants to be installed.

Fire service installations such as fire hose reels are equipment to be installed within buildings, and not public areas. Such equipment is intended for indoor use and hence it is the responsibility of the owners rather than the Government to install and maintain such fire service installations.

Ends/Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Issued at HKT 13:05

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