I refer to the articles headlined, 'Village battles for safe water' and 'Tests find contaminated water on tap' which were published in the Sunday Morning Post on March 7 and 21 respectively.
The information provided in your articles does not reflect the whole situation on this issue.
Early in 1980, we drew up, in consultation with the Heung Yee Kuk and the City and New Territories Administration (now Home Affairs Department), a list of 750 villages in the New Territories for the purpose of stage-by-stage provision of mains water supply to the villages. Over the years, some of these remote villages were cleared or found to be deserted and some villages previously not identified were added to the list. Mains water supply has been provided to 672 villages.
Of the remaining 72 villages, mains water supply for 51 villages is under various stages of planning, design and construction. The remaining 21 villages with a total population of 600 have been under periodic review since they are located far away from the existing water supply network and are very sparsely populated.
We have just commenced another review to investigate the feasibility of providing mains water supply to these villages taking into account the changes in population over the past three years and any proposed development in the vicinity of these villages.
The priority list of villages for mains water supply is drawn up based on the per capita cost of providing supply, the per capita recurrent cost of maintaining the waterworks installations, the availability of local water supply to the villages such as stream water or well water and the hygienic condition of the local water supply resources. The Regional Services Department and the Urban Services Department monitor the quality of local water resources regularly. They inform the villagers of the results and give advice on measures needed to ensure that the water is suitable for use. They will also recommend that the villagers boil the water for drinking if necessary.
For those villages which have not been supplied with mains water, we are pleased to offer assistance when necessary, for example, in cases of drought, we arrange water wagons to provide temporary water supply for the villagers.
The time required for implementing a village water supply project depends on its complexity. As the water mains have to be laid along hilly terrain and problems of fung shui and land have also to be resolved before the project can proceed, generally it takes about five to seven years to implement a village water supply project.
Regarding the villages mentioned in the March 21 article, mains water supply for Sha Kok Mei by our department has been available for a number of years. However, only a few of the villagers have applied for mains supply. It is purely the villagers' own choice to use the stream water.
The water supply system for Tai Tan was also completed recently and we are now awaiting applications from villagers. The information about government works programmes providing village supply had already been given to your reporter by fax before the publication of these articles.
ROGER LAM Senior Engineer/Customer Relations Officer Water Supplies Department