A million dollars down the toilet

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 November, 2009, 12:00am

When a group of Ma Wan island villagers were moved to new homes to make way for a housing development, their public toilet went with them. But now they don't want it - so the structure, costing almost a million dollars, has sat unused since it was completed six years ago.

Residents of Tin Liu New Village and Ma Wan Main Street Village say it has been placed too close to their homes and apart from the smell, they cannot see the need for it when they can use their own.

The HK$960,000, 105 sq ft convenience was built as part of the relocation of the villages when they were demolished to make way for Sun Hung Kai Properties' Park Island development. It is now being used as a storeroom and resting place for workers at a nearby refuse collection point - who use a toilet at a nearby restaurant when they need one.

About 2,000 people live in three-storey houses in the villages on northern Ma Wan.

Ma Wan Main Street Village resident Li Wai-ying said she objected to the building of a toilet near her home.

'The toilet would cause hygiene problems. It would also have a bad smell which would affect our lives,' she said. 'Before it was built, there should have been consultation with the residents nearby. It would be better if it was located a bit further away from the residential area.'

Agreeing, Michael Cheung, 50, who rents a flat a few blocks away, said it was a waste of money and land.

The work was part of the process under which Ma Wan villages affected by the development on the island - landing point for the Tsing Ma Bridge - were moved and new ones built. Under the process, Sun Hung Kai was also required to construct Ma Wan Park.

The one-storey toilet in Ma Wan Rural Committee Road was built in 2003 and should have been taken over and run by the government.

But the Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing District Lands Office said this had not happened because of subsequent objections from the villagers. A spokesman said the location of the toilet had been shown on the master layout plan prepared by Sun Hung Kai Real Estate Agency and approved by the Planning Department. The district office had also consulted representatives of the two villages and had received no adverse comments.

Sun Hung Kai Properties said it was required to build the village houses and public facilities, including the toilet, under the Ma Wan development agreement. The location of the toilet was clearly stated in the master layout plan, which was approved by government departments before work began.

The government said relevant departments were liaising closely with the villagers and the Ma Wan Rural Committee and hoped to achieve an amicable solution.

Ma Wan Rural Committee chairman Chan Sung-ip said there had not been enough consultation.

'If enough consultation had been done and the toilet had been located away from the residential area, I think villagers would have welcomed it,' he said.

'Last month the Home Affairs Department asked me to consult villagers on whether it should be turned into a tourism information centre or rented out for commercial uses.'

A visitor, Ng Man-wah, a tutor in her 40s passing by the village for the first time, said there was a need for a toilet there. 'I wouldn't know where to find a toilet. I would have a problem if I suddenly have nature's call.'

A village restaurant owner, Chan Ching-chow, said cleaning workers used his toilet. 'About two cleaning workers borrow our toilet daily.'