The hidden secrets that save lives

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 February, 2012, 12:00am


Under a Mid-Levels hill where a landslide killed 67 three decades ago is an intricate network of pipes and tunnels.

The elaborate set-up drains away water to prevent the hillside from giving way while ensuring enough water pressure within the mountains to stop surrounding buildings from sinking into the ground.

In a densely populated city that is hemmed in by mountains and sees more than 300 landslides a year, the drainage system is crucial to avoid a repeat of the twin disasters that took down buildings and killed about 140 people in 1972.

In the face of the dark day, the city learned to tame its hillsides using technology that has become a model for hilly nations such as South Korea, the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers says.

These tactics and other feats of engineering will be on show at the Science Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui East from February 18 to March 28 as part of the Technology for Quality Living exhibition.

On display are technologies that work behind the scenes to make lives better.

'We'll be showing a video re-creation of what happened here at Po Shan,' geotechnical engineer Philip Chung Wai-keung said, pointing to an image of a slope scarred red where the waterlogged underlying mud slipped away and swirled around residential blocks.

'Actually on that day, June 18, 1972, there were two major landslides, one here at Po Shan and another in Sau Mau Ping.

'We call that the blackest day for Hong Kong in landslide history. Rich or poor, we're all affected by this kind of disaster.'

The exhibition will also feature solar backpacks, 'smart houses' that respond to a tap of your iPad, swimsuits that help athletes break world records, and special features on food, housing and transport, with a focus on sustainable technology.

Visitors who attend lectures at the exhibition will be invited to take part in trips to the Sha Tin Water Treatment Works, MTR Kowloon Bay Depot, the Tsing Ma and Tsing Sha control areas, and the Po Shan landslide prevention works.

Lecture topics include: Water: from source to Drain; Road Network Development; Electrical and Mechanical Engineering in the Modern City; IT and Hazard Control.

The exhibition is organised by the Institution of Engineers in collaboration with the Science Museum and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and aims to increase interest in the engineering profession.