Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2012, 12:00am


The disgusting and dissipating source of HK's miraculous drinking water

Civic Exchange yesterday provided a disturbing account of a recent expedition along the Dongjiang, or East River, the source of some 70-80 per cent of Hong Kong's fresh water. Hong Kong's water supply is secure at least for the moment but, as explained in Tom Holland's column above, demands on the river are increasing from rising urbanisation in its environs, and this, along with mining, waste water outflows, sewage and garbage is degrading the quality of the water. And there is less water being produced at the source in Jiangxi province.

At some point in the not so distant future Hong Kong will have to stop taking its water supply for granted, reduce the colossal wastage that occurs and the government will have to develop a water strategy.

For a pictorial account of the expedition along the river, go to the Civic Exchange website. See the various activities along the length of the river. This includes huge piles of garbage dumped in the river, numerous waste water outflows and sewage outlets. In many areas the report notes water quality has for many years been lower than class five, which means 'unfit for agricultural or industrial use'. It shows a huge open air garbage dump 200-300 metres from one of the main tributaries of the Dongjiang. Garbage separators living in filthy conditions on the dump keep chickens, pigs and cows that live off the garbage and are sold to urban centres at premium prices labelled as 'free range' and 'ecologically raised'.

At Baipanzhu reservoir there is a large poster prohibiting swimming and fishing. There is a picture of three men swimming and fishing and the report notes that they arrived in a truck labelled 'sanitation supervision', and were supposed to be enforcing the rules.

Although real estate development is prohibited near Wanlu Lake, there is a picture of the sales office of Wanlu Lake International Club featuring a model layout of luxury villas.

Perhaps the most extraordinary series of pictures describes the illegal rare earth mining in Longchuan county. There is a picture of what the report says is one of many temporary roadside stores on national route 205 north of Dongyuan county's Xiantang Town Industrial Park where sellers 'advertise homemade hunting rifles, air pistols, authentic, low-priced electric batons and illegal blades'. It adds: 'Recent gunfights in Dutianne village, Longchuan county, arising from conflicts over illegal rare earth metal mining involved similar firearms.' There are also pictures of primitive rare earth processing areas which are holes in the ground into which toxic chemicals are poured, ending up in the river.

This is the water which, by some miraculous process, we are able to drink.

10 years to a tobacco-free HK?

Today is World No Tobacco Day. The World Health Organisation says on its website: 'Tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death. The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly six million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke. Unless we act it will kill up to eight million people by 2030.'

Closer to home, Jim Middleton, chairman of Clear the Air, says: 'More than 7,000 people die each year in Hong Kong from tobacco-related illnesses, of which 1,400 die from the effects of passive smoking.' He adds that there are a number of measures which the government should adopt.

These include making licensees responsible for the prevention of smoking on their premises at the risk of losing their licences, and banning smoking in all areas of licensed premises, including patio areas, and within 15 metres of the venue. Tobacco should be sold in plain packages, from under the counter.

And he challenges Hong Kong's new government to make Hong Kong tobacco-free by 02-02-2022.

HSBC little help on Greek euros risk

Our recent items on the risk of holding euro notes printed in Greece has led to questions from readers about the value of the euros in their foreign currency accounts with local banks. Greek notes can be identified by the Y prefix in front of the banknote's serial number. The potential problem occurs when we withdraw euros from the bank. If we are given Ys by the bank will it underwrite their value? Can we refuse to accept Y-prefix euros? We put these questions to HSBC. Alas, its response was less than helpful. 'As with all banks, HSBC has been working with its regulators to undertake preparatory work at multiple levels in the event of a sovereign default, an exit from the euro or any other eventuality.'

If that's the best the bank can do perhaps we should just refuse to accept Y-prefix euros.