Speech by Secretary for Development (English only)

Following is the speech delivered by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, today (November 6) at the opening of the Hong Kong Academy of Engineering Sciences Second Distinguished Lecture:

Professor (Joseph) Lee, Professor Wang (Hao), distinguished engineers and guests,

I am delighted to be here to join you in the opening ceremony of this forum on water and environment.  Water crisis is one of the most important challenges the world is facing.  In 2002, the World Health Organization estimated that 1.1 billion people in the world lacked access to clean water supply, nearly two-thirds of them in Asia.  The United Nations Environment Programme forecast in 2000 that if current trends of water consumption continue, two-thirds of the world population will live in areas with moderate to high water stress by 2025.  Climate changes due to global warming will make the situation worse.

The effect of climate change to Hong Kong has been becoming more apparent.  In the past 50 years, the temperature of Hong Kong's sea water has risen by half a degree Celsius.  Scientists have predicted that droughts and floods will be more frequent due to climate change and erratic rainfall.  Either we have too little or too many.  We need a resilient water supply infrastructure adaptable to climatic uncertainties to provide a reliable continuous supply of water to the public.  The distinguished speakers, Professor Lee and Professor Wang, are renowned experts in the field of water resources management.  I am sure they will later share with you their expertise in addressing the shortage of water resources issues.

From the Hong Kong perspective, our potable water consumption stands at about 950 million cubic metres per year.  Water resources collected locally cannot satisfy our consumption.  Through the support of the Guangdong authorities in the supply of Dongjiang water to Hong Kong and decades of continuous efforts in the building of resilient water supply systems in Hong Kong, people of Hong Kong are spared from the distress and inconvenience of water rationing since 1982.  At the moment, 70% to 80% of water consumption comes from Dongjiang. 

However, the continuous growth in demand for water resources in the Pearl River Delta region will cause pressure in ensuring adequate supply of water to cope with the need of the region as a whole.  Whilst we predict our water resources and infrastructure will be able to meet our demand beyond 2030, there is no room for complacency or else, we may also face water crisis in extreme weather conditions.  In aspiring for sustainable development and enhancing our role as a good partner to other municipalities in the Pearl River Delta, the HKSAR Government has pressed ahead for the implementation of a Total Water Management (TWM) Strategy for Hong Kong since October 2008.  The Strategy aims to proactively manage water demand and supply in an integrated, multi-sectoral and sustainable manner.

In implementing the initiatives under the TWM Strategy, we are aware that the average daily water consumption per capita in Hong Kong on both potable water stands at a relatively high level of around 130 litres per capita per day respectively.  We well recognised the importance of improving water use efficiency by saving water, therefore the Strategy puts emphasis on containing growth of water demand by conservation through public education, promotion of using water saving devices, expansion of sea water system for flushing and active leakage control.  As a key element in active leakage control, our water mains Replacement and Rehabilitation (R&R) programme to replace and rehabilitate 3,000 km, i.e. about 38% of our water distribution network, is proceeding with an average rate of replacing and rehabilitating over 30 km of water mains per month heading towards its target completion by 2015.  Since the commencement of the R&R works in late 2000, the leakage rate has been reduced from 25% to 21% in 2009, which will further decrease to 15% upon completion of the R&R programme.

On the management of water supply, we are taking measures on strengthening protection of water resources, promotion of water recycling and investigation for development of alternative water resources.  Actions are being taken to further capitalise on the existing and future raw water transfer facilities, e.g. to connect Kowloon Byewash Reservoir with Lower Shing Mun Reservoir by means of a drainage tunnel, to minimise overflow risk and enhance the rainwater collection efficiency.  Besides, we have completed two pilot schemes on the recycling of treated effluent in Ngong Ping and Shek Wu Hui and formed an inter-departmental working group to explore ways and means to cut down the cost of reclaimed water supply for provision to residents in Sheung Shui and Fanling for toilet flushing and other non-potable uses.  Through pilot plant study, we have also tested seawater desalination using reverse osmosis.  We will closely monitor the development of the technology overseas for economically viable application in Hong Kong.  In addition, we are strengthening our ability on the monitoring and control of the quality of water from source to consumers' tap with our enhanced water safety planning.

Water is a precious resource in Hong Kong.  With the Total Water Management Strategy in place, the HKSAR Government is well prepared to meet the challenges on the provision of reliable water supply for Hong Kong in a sustainable manner. To succeed, the Government will need the support of the members of the public and the valuable contributions from renowned academia and distinguished engineers.  As a group of distinguished engineers in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Academy of Engineering Sciences will no doubt provide the government with the needed advice in our pursuit of engineering excellence and in rising to the global climate change challenge.

Ends/Saturday, November 6, 2010
Issued at HKT 17:28