Farmer seeks aid to sue over damage from burst mains
Cynthia Wan and Martin Wong
A man whose fish farm and fields were washed away after two water mains burst near the border 18 months ago is applying for legal aid to sue the Government for up to $1 million.
On June 15 last year, two mains bringing Dongjiang water into the territory broke, sending mud and water cascading on to Tse Chun-wah's farm in Nan Hang, Man Kam To.
About 59,000 fish with an estimated market value of almost $850,000 were washed away, Mr Tse says. His compensation claim adds up to nearly $1 million when $39,000 worth of worms and farming equipment and $30,000 worth of ruined lotus roots are taken into account.
The Water Services Department gave no definitive cause for the burst, but a senior engineer from the department said that part of Mr Tse's fish farm was built on unauthorised land which might have undermined concrete supports.
In September, the Department of Justice found no negligence by the department, saying it had taken reasonable care in carrying out routine maintenance. That meant Mr Tse would not be entitled to compensation, although help on compassionate grounds would be given. Last month $5,000 was granted under the General Chinese Charities Special Aid Fund.
Mr Tse, 40, has been operating his farm of 30,000 square metres for about 20 years. He was only able to resume breeding worms and lotus roots on the fields six months after the flood, cutting his family's income in half.
'The livelihood of all six of us is depending totally on this [fish farm]. I don't know what I can do,' a tearful Mr Tse said yesterday.
'My youngest son is only three and the eldest is 11. I don't know what to say,' he said. 'I'm relying on borrowing from relatives, I wouldn't apply for the dole.'
He pays rent of $10,000 a year for the site, but has stopped since the accident with the consent of his landlords.
Mr Tse said that in April the Government helped him to fix one of the three dams for his fish farm but it burst again in September.
Department senior engineer Roger Lam Man-pang said the two mains - installed more than 30 years ago - were still in good condition and had no history of bursting.