Letters to the Editor, February 4, 2014
Containing growth of water demand
I refer to the article by Su Liu ("Ideas to tap", January 9) and Tom Holland's Monitor column ("HK needs a fresh policy on water before the taps run dry", January 9).
Water resources in different places are subject to different challenges and require tailor-made management plans/strategies that need to take into account climate change challenges and local environment and conditions.
Singapore, for example, imports water from its neighbour Malaysia while Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, imports water from its motherland.
Both share similarities in many ways. Yet, they are exposed to different unique circumstances which set them apart.
To ensure water security and sustainability, we promulgated the Total Water Management strategy in 2008 that emphasises containing the growth of water demand and strengthening water supply management.
According to the "Asian Water Development Outlook 2013" jointly prepared by the Asian Development Bank and the Asia-Pacific Water Forum, Hong Kong has achieved the "capable" national water security stage.
We have implemented various initiatives including the launching of the Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme and subsequent public education and publicity to promote water conservation, replacement and rehabilitation of aged water mains and expanding the seawater supply system for flushing.
We will also kick off the "Let's Save 10L Water" campaign" this year to solicit public support in reducing the daily per capita domestic fresh water consumption (excluding flushing water) from 130 litres to 120 litres.
In terms of water supply management, we have actively explored new water sources that are less sensitive to the impact of climate change.
In 2012, we commenced a study for constructing a desalination plant in Tseung Kwan O by 2020 to cater for 5 per cent (expandable to 10 per cent) of total freshwater supply.
We will also commence detailed studies this year on converting the tertiary treated effluent from the Shek Wu Hui sewage treatment works to reclaimed water for non-potable applications after further expansion of the plant.
For grey water reuse and rainwater harvesting, we have developed technical and water quality standards for their non-potable applications and will consider the implementation of these systems in suitable government projects. We are now preparing for a comprehensive review of the total water management strategy with an aim to a timely introduction of new initiatives to strengthen our resilience and preparedness for the sustainable development of Hong Kong.
David Wong, Water Supplies Department
Live chicken trade must be ended in HK
I refer to the article ("DNA profile of plague points to new peril", January 29).
Whilst it is a good report, it doesn't tell the full story.
The third plague pandemic referred to began in the mid-19th century in Yunnan province, but what is not mentioned is that it spread globally via marine shipping from Hong Kong in 1894.
This is similar to what happened with the severe acute respiratory syndrome and is the reason for the current concern with H7N9 and other bird flu strains.
The combination of Hong Kong's close proximity to the mainland, where animal husbandry practices put people and livestock together, and Hong Kong's status as a global transport hub is what gives health professionals the world over nightmares.
Hong Kong's contingency plans to control pandemics include ensuring proper environmental hygiene, but this is precisely what is being ignored now.
Yet again, despite the best science available, the government is struggling to do the right thing and stop the live chicken trade in Hong Kong because it is a tradition and some people might be unhappy.
This is not the way governments are supposed to work. In this case, the benefits of the many easily outweigh the objections of the few and the live chicken trade should be stopped immediately.
Hong Kong has a global responsibility to put a stop to this dangerous and unacceptable practice.
Kevin Laurie, Discovery Bay
Boost revenue with landing fee for tourists
Following the chief executive's policy address, opinions are divided about the government's proactive approach to the working poor.
This revolves around the budget and how much it will cost taxpayers, especially the middle class, to support these initiatives.
People from the middle class argue there is little to support them, especially in housing, education and household expenditure. This burden is accentuated by projections Hong Kong will have a greater number of visitors in the coming years, taxing our infrastructure.
Most middle-class citizens will not benefit from the increased numbers of visitors.
The government will definitely need new revenue streams without forcing the middle class to pay higher taxes to pay for these new initiatives for the working poor, minorities and education.
Those who will benefit from more tourists are large businesses, the tourist sector and shopkeepers selling produce which is in demand, such as milk powder.
The government should consider levying a landing fee. There would be exemptions for permanent residents, people with valid work visas and domestic helpers. Mainland transport firms ferrying goods several times a day would have to pay for each trip.
Some might argue this would hurt our competitiveness, with fewer tourists. Yet China charges for visas and its tourist numbers are growing. And in Hong Kong this would not a visa charge but rather a landing fee.
It would support future government expenditure without the need to raise taxes or implement a goods and services tax.
James Wang, Ma On Shan
Abe chose wrong location to say sorry
Japan's consul general in Hong Kong Hitoshi Noda said the visit to the Yasukuni Shrine by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was to remember the pain of war and affirm Japan's remorse ("Pain of the past", January 20).
Before and during the second world war, the treatment by the Japanese forces of many people in East Asia was often appalling.
If Mr Abe genuinely wanted to affirm Japan's remorse, he should have gone to the memorial for the 1937 Nanking Massacre rather than the shrine in Tokyo.
Kent Wang, Potomac Falls, Virginia, US
Ensure that helpers have abuse hotline
It may not have occurred to Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung kin-chung that the systemic abuse of domestic helpers in Hong Kong is not limited to beatings as seen by the alleged abuse of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih by her Hong Kong employer.
The employment contract for a domestic helper recruited from abroad clearly states the accommodation and facilities to be provided to the helper as "providing suitable accommodation and reasonable privacy".
It is a well-known fact that a great many of Hong Kong's foreign domestic helpers have no such accommodation provided to them in Hong Kong's shoebox-sized apartments and are therefore forced to sleep on kitchen and hallway floors, in cupboards, or in a child's or teenager's bed with them.
Can Mr Cheung perhaps include in his proposed half-day course for newly arrived helpers and for all those existing domestic helpers residing in Hong Kong a hotline number?
This will enable them to report slave-like living conditions and other rampant abuse cases of under-feeding, overworking, denial of rest days, under/non-payment, and restriction of movement, so that he and his colleagues have a clearer picture of the true abuse of domestic helpers in Hong Kong rather than just the headline-grabbing sickening cases of physical violence.
Marcus H. Langston, Lamma
Improvements are clearly long overdue
I only realised how bad the treatment of Hong Kong's foreign domestic helpers must be when I read that even the helpers lately recruited from Bangladesh are finding it all too much to bear and some have returned home.
Having spent two years in Bangladesh in the 1970s, I saw treatment of domestic servants in that country that beggared belief.
If Hong Kong resembles Bangladesh all those years ago, then something needs to be done, and fast.
We used to see people who had bamboo sticks in their homes for having handy to beat up the odd perpetrator.
Servants were kept at work till all hours, the pay was lamentable and the sack could be given at a moment's notice.
It was similar to 19th century England where human rights were never heard of in the home. However, this is the 21st century. Surely we don't have to wait for another 150 years for things to right themselves.
Hong Kong likes to think of itself as a modern society. But it would seem that, as long as there are people around who treat other people as if they were in a concentration camp from the second world war, we still have a long way to go.
Helen Heron, Sai Kung