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LCQ4 : Discussion on drawing up of new water supply agreement

Following is a question by the Hon Fred Li and an oral reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Dr Sarah Liao, in the Legislative Council meeting today (January 11) :


Question:

The Government is discussing with the Guangdong provincial authorities the drawing up of a new water supply agreement.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  whether Guangdong and Hong Kong authorities have reached a preliminary agreement; if so, of the details of the progress and course of discussions, as well as the contents of the agreement; if not, when an agreement is expected to be reached;

(b)  whether it will consult this Council prior to the signing of the new water supply agreement, and whether the new agreement necessitates legislation and seeking funding approval from the Finance Committee of this Council; and

(c)  given that the Songhua River and the Beijiang in Guangdong Province have recently been polluted by chemical compounds and the Pearl River Delta region has also seen serious salty tides, whether it has held discussions with the Guangdong provincial authorities the formulation of contingency measures to cope with emergencies where the water supply to Hong Kong is affected by various kinds of pollution to Dongjiang, as well as stipulating relevant provisions in the new water supply agreement; if such discussions have been held, of the details of the relevant measures; if not, the reasons for that?


Reply:

Madam President,

(a)  Water resources have a direct and significant bearing on human survival.  For many years, the world has been faced with the problem of decreasing water resources, with demand exceeding supply.  With industrial and economic development, water consumption has increased, while clean and potable water has kept decreasing due to the pollution of rivers.  The Hong Kong Government has secured long-term water supply from the Guangdong (GD) provincial authorities since the 60's and has been holding regular discussions on water supply arrangements and entering into relevant agreements with the GD side on issues like water price, supply quantity and quality control on a need basis.  According to the current agreements* between the Hong Kong Government and the GD provincial authorities, the long-term supply of Dongjiang water has been guaranteed.  Nevertheless, both sides have to work out a mutually acceptable water price and supply quantity through regular consultations.  Both sides are seeking to finalize the specific details on the new water supply arrangements in a short time.

(b)  We can only report the details concerned to this Council after reaching agreement with the GD side.  As mentioned above, we are holding discussions on the water supply arrangements and the relevant agreements with the GD side in respect of water price, supply quantity and quality control without involving legislative issues.  The expenditure for the purchase of Dongjiang water falls under the recurrent expenditure of the Water Supplies Department (WSD) and is set out in the Budget endorsed by the Legislative Council annually.

(c)  Since the commissioning of the Dongshen closed aqueduct in June 2003, there has been remarkable improvement in the quality of Dongjiang water supplied to Hong Kong in every respect.  To strengthen cooperation and coordination, we and the GD provincial authorities have agreed to set up an emergency notification system, under which we will inform each other of any major incidents likely to affect the quality of Dongjiang water, by phone or by fax, as soon as possible.  Appropriate control measures and corresponding actions can then be taken immediately to ensure the safety of our water supply.

In addition, the WSD has drawn up a series of contingency measures to cope with the situation where the quality of Dongjiang water has deteriorated.  Major measures include:

1.  Promptly enhancing the various measures for monitoring water quality if the quality of Dongjiang water received at Muk Wu Pumping Station is found to have deteriorated.

2.  Discharging at Muk Wu Pumping Station the Dongjiang water received, if necessary.

3.  Liasing with the GD side to reduce or suspend the supply of Dongjiang water to Hong Kong and requesting detailed information from the GD side about the deterioration in water quality so that further contingency measures can be formulated.

4.  Replacing raw water supplied to water treatment works in the territory with local water sources.


*  The current agreements comprise the 1989 Water Supply Agreement and the 1998 Loan Agreement.


End/Wednesday, January 11, 2006
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