Greens call for one-off steep rise in sewage fees

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 January, 2007, 12:00am

A one-off, steep rise in sewage charges would be more effective than a 'gradual and affordable' approach in cleaning up the harbour, says a green group.

The environment minister said last week sewage charges for the public would increase by 9.3 per cent in each of the next 10 years. This would reduce the government subsidy of sewage treatment costs from 46 per cent to 20 per cent.

Deputy Director of Environmental Protection Raymond Fan Wai-ming said by increasing the charges in this way, the government would recover 80 per cent of the total cost by 2016/17.

However, Conservancy Association chief executive Lister Cheung Lai-ping said the gradual increase might have little effect in the long run.

'People may accept the increases after a while but then stop limiting sewage discharge in the long run.

'Because of this, a one-off, harsh increase might be better.'

The idea is not popular with many small restaurants, which use a lot of water. They must shoulder extra costs if the scheme is approved by the Legislative Council.

Chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades Simon Wong Ka-wo said although sewage charges comprised only a small portion of restaurants' expenses, it was an added burden as they already faced rises in electricity charges and Mandatory Provident Fund contributions in 2007.

The extra money the government receives will be used to finance the operating costs of the first phase of a HK$8 billion sewage disinfection system. It will be another four years before the administration considers a biological sewage treatment plan which will lead to water purification.

Mr Fan said: 'This is why it is fundamentally important that our proposal be endorsed so our progress will not be slowed.'