New town going down the tubes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 January, 2012, 12:00am


This time last year, they were busy preparing for Lunar New Year - steaming turnip cakes and getting ready for a big village dinner with family and neighbours. But this year, Choi Yuen Tsuen villagers will be spending the new year in flimsy temporary housing with a botched sewage system that leaks and overflows.

Villagers say the MTR Corporation had promised to build workable temporary housing and other necessities like water, electricity and sewage systems for the villagers last year, when they agreed to vacate their old community so the MTR Corp could continue its construction of the cross-border express link, which runs through their old village site.

The villagers purchased the land in their new location, in hopes of recreating the home they were forced to leave. However, problems with the temporary facilities have been spoiling that plan.

Villagers also say that the defective temporary sewage and waste-collection system built by the MTR Corp has been costing them money.

The manager of sewage treatment for the new Choi Yuen Tsuen, Daniel Tang Siu-ki, said the system was not built to standard and its capacity was too small to accommodate sewage from the whole village.

Tang said he had tried communicating with the MTR Corp regarding the issues, but said their officials had stopped answering his phone calls in August.

'They replied to e-mails that they are too busy with the railway link construction and cannot do anything about our situation,' Tang said.

A spokesperson for the MTR Corp said it had built sewage facilities according to villagers' requests and the designs recommended by the villagers' advisers. She said the villagers had been responsible for cleaning and maintaining the temporary facilities since moving in last year.

According to villagers, the underground waste-storage system also has leakage problems. Ground water seeps into the cement tanks built to store waste, causing sewage water to overflow constantly.

Villagers have to send for a truck every two days to pump up the waste just to keep the tanks from overflowing. They say they have spent about HK$14,000 in total for these trucks.

'I need to think twice before going to the toilet - sometimes I go to a public toilet or restaurant before coming home,' said 80-year-old Ko Hin. Ko said that many villagers would be going to a restaurant for New Year's Eve dinner, not wanting to put more strain on the already stretched sewage system with extra cooking.

Villagers protested against the MTR Corp yesterday and demanded it rebuild the temporary sewage and waste-storage units.