Mainland officials ‘decline’ changes to water deal for Hong Kong
Local lawmakers want charges pegged to actual usage, but were warned prices could go up even more
Mainland officials overseeing water supply issues have declined calls for changes in the current water arrangement for Hong Kong, saying that it could drive up prices further, according to lawmakers who completed a tour of the Dongjiang basin on Saturday.
Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan said mainland officials indicated that the prices would go up if Hong Kong did not buy a guaranteed amount of water from them each year.
“I asked if Hong Kong could pay according to how much we used, but they said this would cost us even more,” Wong said.
Past records show the city rarely hit the import ceiling set in the contracts. Last year Hong Kong imported about 600 million cubic metres, against a total consumption of 935 million cubic metres.
Under a three-year deal with Guangdong – which supplies 80 per cent of the Hong Kong’s water – set to expire this year, the import price climbed from HK$11.2 billion to HK$13.4 billion between 2015 and this year.
Development secretary Eric Ma Siu-cheung, who accompanied the lawmakers, said that they found the water quality to be generally satisfactory.
As for the next water agreement with the mainland, Ma said the local government would relay lawmakers’ views to Guangdong authorities “in order to reach the best deal”.
Apart from the pricing issue, the tour attracted widespread media attention as it was radical lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung’s first successful entry to the mainland in a decade.
“The schedule was too tight and it was mainly Guangdong’s side speaking,” Leung said. “I asked them how they monitored water quality along Dongjiang, but they told me they would not show us the working guidelines.”
As to whether he would join future trips to the mainland, Leung said that would depend on time and if those trips would provide answers to the questions of Hongkongers.