'Truth hidden' in water claim

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2000, 12:00am

A senior official was yesterday accused of 'hiding the truth' when he said the water drunk by the people in the SAR was among the world's cleanest.

Lee Shing-see, Secretary for Works, said at a lunch meeting yesterday that water from the Dongjiang was perfectly safe to drink after treatment.

'Many people have naturally expressed concern, while some have withheld their judgment until they get the full story,' he said. 'The fundamental question is: is it safe to drink Hong Kong water? Our test results are very clear. Hong Kong's water is as good as the best anywhere else in the world.'

More than 150,000 samples were taken for tests by the Water Supplies Department last year, and the water quality was found to be in line with the World Health Organisation standard, he said.

But Dr Howard Liu Hung-to, a Greenpeace campaigner, said Mr Lee was 'hiding the truth' and avoiding fundamental problems of water quality.

'What we are doing is adding toxic [chemicals] to remove the toxins in the water transferred from the Dongjiang,' said Dr Liu. 'If our treatment plant is so efficient to do the cleaning up, we don't have to import water from the mainland as we could recycle our waste water.'

Dr Liu was referring to the increasing reliance on chlorine to clean up drinking water.

'We pay for the Dongjiang water, and therefore we're entitled to demand clean water, not heavily polluted water from the source,' he said.

Dr Liu attacked the SAR Government for being irresponsible in turning a blind eye to the increasing competition for a shrinking clean water resource in the Pearl River Delta region.

Mr Lee tried to defuse fears over pollution in the Dongjiang, saying it had only a negligible impact on water transferred to the SAR and there was no need to shift the water tapping point to cleaner areas upstream.

'If everyone tapped the water upstream, there would be much lower quantity of water downstream and it would affect the environment, the hydro-power plant, navigation and irrigation downstream,' Mr Lee said.

The SAR currently taps its water mid-stream in the Dongjiang, but Shenzhen taps from a cleaner source more than 100km upstream of the SAR's.