'Substantial' rise planned in Dongjiang water rates

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2007, 12:00am

Guangdong plans to increase water prices for users along the Dongjiang, or East River, to encourage conservation, according to the provincial Water Resources Department.

The department hopes to ensure abundant and clean water supplies to the 45 million residents of south China's major cities, including Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Dongguan and Shenzhen. The draft would soon be submitted to the provincial government for approval, it said.

The department intends to work with provincial pricing and finance authorities to set the new charges.

Similar plans are also expected by 2010 for Guangdong's Xijiang (West River), Beijiang (North River) and Hanjiang to make better use of the province's water resources.

But the department did not detail the scale of the price rise, which it says will be 'substantial', or whether it would affect water rates in Hong Kong, which relies on the Dongjiang.

A Guangdong Pricing Bureau spokeswoman said that only the leaders of Hong Kong and Guangdong could decide water prices in the special administrative region.

'Many departments are involved in the project and it is just being prepared,' she said, adding that no details would be revealed before the provincial decision was made.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong's Water Supplies Department said yesterday he did not expect any impact because the city and Guangdong had signed a water agreement.

Beijing has been pushing for energy conservation and pollution reduction this year.

But Cheng Jiansan , an economist with the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, said price rises were not central to water conservation and might simply be for the department's benefit.

Mr Cheng said that to protect the Dongjiang it would be essential to make good use of the extra revenue by setting up waste processing plants near the Xinfeng River reservoir in Heyuan . Heyuan, in the upper reaches of the Dongjiang, is one of the province's least developed areas.

He said that for many years agriculture was the only commercial activity allowed in the area, but some manufacturing industries had started up in towns close to the reservoir without establishing sewage treatment or waste processing plants.

'If Guangdong does not use some of the water charges to help those regions build environmental protection, I am afraid all of the Dongjiang will become polluted,' he warned.

Li Yuet Leong, chairman of the Hong Kong Electroplating Merchants' Association, said despite adding to his business costs, he would support the price rise if quality improved.

'But I will definitely oppose it if it is just a new way of collecting money,' he said.

Liquid assets

In a deal for water from the Dongjiang signed last year, Hong Kong pays an annual lump sum, in HK dollars, of $2.49b