Development Bureau closely observes HKSAR's work in support of reconstruction in Sichuan earthquake-stricken areas

A spokesman for the Development Bureau said today (July 7) that in view of the heavy downpours in Sichuan in the past few days that triggered large-scale mudslides, the Development Bureau has enhanced communication with the Sichuan authorities through the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Chengdu to closely observe the HKSAR's work in support of reconstruction in the Sichuan earthquake-stricken areas and to make corresponding arrangements.

Serious flooding and large-scale mudslides also occurred in Sichuan in August last year, affecting individual Hong Kong reconstruction projects and severely damaging Provincial Road 303. The authorities of Hong Kong and Sichuan, after assessing the situation, agreed to revise the design proposal of the road to enhance its resistance to natural disasters. Procedures for seeking the necessary approvals for the revised design have been completed following expert discussions. Experts from both sides will consider the latest situation of the rainstorms in deciding on the commencement date for the project.

Regarding Wolong, a total of 23 projects at the Wolong Nature Reserve, including infrastructure projects concerning people's livelihood and conservation research facilities, are supported by the HKSAR with funding commitment of HK$1.584 billion. Although the rainstorms have not caused damage to the works projects in Wolong, taking into account the disruption to traffic caused by damage to the Provincial Road 303 project, the progress of the Wolong reconstruction projects will inevitably be affected.

The spokesman said the impact of the serious flooding and large-scale mudslides that occurred in August last year on the reconstruction works had been stated in detail in the "Progress Report on the HKSAR's Work in Support of Reconstruction in the Sichuan Earthquake Stricken Areas" (the Progress Report) submitted by the Government to the Development Panel of the Legislative Council on June 16.

The spokesman clarified that newspaper reports published thereafter that alleged that 60% of Hong Kong's reconstruction projects in Sichuan had failed in terms of quality, are totally inaccurate. Such false allegations are believed to have been generated out of a lack of understanding of the process of supervision for the construction projects.

Of the 184 reconstruction projects funded by the HKSAR Government in the Sichuan earthquake-stricken areas, 151 are led by the Government, while non-governmental organisations are responsible for the remaining 33. Among the 151 projects under the Government's purview, 36 have completed. The Development Bureau has clearly stated in the Progress Report that there is no substantial problem in the overall quality of construction works. Also, there have been no major accidents in connection with the construction safety of the projects.

"It is very common to encounter some quality problems during the construction phase of projects. However, we have to consider the nature and severity of these problems and whether they will affect the normal and safe operation of the facilities after completion," the spokesman said.   

"The problems in construction quality and safety listed in the Appendix of the Progress Report are basically about defects in workmanship and site management. The normal and safe usage of facilities should not be affected after rectifications. In fact, among the 36 completed projects that passed the completion inspections, similar defect rectifications and re-inspections were required during their construction phase and this did not imply that the facilities were not up to the required standards. A co-ordination mechanism has been established between Hong Kong and Sichuan to enhance monitoring of the quality of construction works and to follow closely every reported case that requires rectification. The Hong Kong and Sichuan authorities will ensure that all safety and operation problems have been resolved before the facilities are handed over to users," the spokesman said.

The Development Bureau has been implementing the following three measures to monitor the quality of the HKSAR's reconstruction projects in Sichuan:

(1) Depending on the progress and needs of individual projects, the Sichuan Reconstruction Team under the Development Bureau will arrange regular or spot inspections in Sichuan on the implementation of projects. This includes on-site checks and working group meetings with relevant authorities or units.

(2) Engagement of independent professional consultants to carry out on-site technical audits. The scope of technical audits covers the overall implementation progress, the use of funds and quality management of the projects. The Development Bureau will refer the observations of independent professional consultants to Sichuan authorities and relevant policy bureaus in Hong Kong for follow-up actions.  

(3) Organising the professional volunteers from the Hong Kong Construction Sector 5.12 Reconstruction Joint Conference, formed by the construction industry, to visit Sichuan and assist in the monitoring of reconstruction works. The volunteers will act as observers in the completion inspections of project works to ensure that the responsible parties can obtain independent professional advice.

The Sichuan Provincial Government attaches great importance to the HKSAR's work in support of reconstruction in the province. A co-ordination mechanism has been set up at provincial, city and county levels for building up a comprehensive monitoring system. Project management rules and procedures are formulated jointly by the Hong Kong and Sichuan authorities with a view to monitoring closely project implementation. Regarding problems found by the Development Bureau during technical audits, Sichuan authorities are actively following up the rectification work and are taking corresponding measures to optimise the mechanism. A dedicated inspection team has been set up under the co-ordination mechanism at the provincial level to carry out joint inspections, spot inspections and inspections on specific items for enhancing monitoring of reconstruction projects. Under joint efforts by the Hong Kong and Sichuan authorities, the HKSAR's post-quake reconstruction work in Sichuan has been proceeding smoothly.

The spokesman said that apart from the hardware projects, the Development Bureau has been attaching great importance to the long-term development of the Wolong Nature Reserve. To assist in formulating a strategy for the sustainable development of Wolong, the Development Bureau and the Sichuan Provincial Forestry Department jointly organised a workshop entitled "Wolong Nature Reserve - Sustainable Development" on June 24. Experts from Hong Kong and Sichuan exchanged valuable views and experience on operation and management strategies for the sustainable development of Wolong. This was the sixth exchange for experts from both sides since the start of Hong Kong's participation in the reconstruction of Wolong.

Following the completion of the workshop, the Development Bureau and the Hong Kong Ocean Park Conservation Foundation jointly organised a study mission for representatives of the Provincial Development and Reform Committee of Sichuan, the Sichuan Provincial Forestry Department and the Wolong Administration to Hong Kong to enhance their understanding of the HKSAR's work in ecological conservation as well as tourism management and operation.

The Development Bureau will continue to work closely with the Sichuan Provincial Government to ensure that all reconstruction projects will be successfully completed to the required quality standard.

Ends/Thursday, July 7, 2011
Issued at HKT 18:11