THE Government is to go ahead with plans to award more contracts for its sewage plan. The decision came in spite of an increase in Beijing's attacks on the multi-billion dollar scheme. Officials said the remaining contracts, estimated at more than $4 billion, would have to be granted this year if Stage One of the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme was to be completed before 1997. 'Instead of wasting more time, we have to stick to our schedule. Why can't we go ahead with the plan if it is not going to waste our money no matter what we adopt in Stage Two?' an official asked. In a lengthy commentary, the semi-official China News Service (CNS) accused the Government of 'putting the cart before the horse' by going ahead with the scheme before an overall assessment on the environmental impact on neighbouring waters. 'This is totally in contradiction with international standards, unscientific and irresponsible.' The news agency accused the Government of misleading the public and side-stepping the issues. Under Stage One of the scheme, sewage would be collected through an underground tunnel network across the territory and sent to a plant on Stonecutters Island where it would be discharged after primary treatment. Under the Stage Two plan, sewage would be discharged into the South China Sea through a long pipe. It is this part of the plan that has triggered Beijing criticism. The Government has recently indicated, however, that it would discharge the sewage near Lamma Island. The CNS said the change indicated that the original plan had weaknesses and it was not irrevocable. It said that even though the destination of sewage discharge had been changed, the Government should still discuss with China its obligation to fulfil standards, its legal responsibility in international treaties and the relevant Chinese laws. In another CNS despatch, deputy president of the Chinese Academy of Environmental Science Xia Qing cast doubts on the worth of spending more than $8 billion under the Stage One plan. Citing government information, he said the actual amount of the total spending on treatment was less than 10 per cent. The remainder was on the construction of collection facilities and the sewage treatment plant at Stonecutters Island. 'This is a huge engineering project, not an environmental protection project,' he said. He argued that money should be spent to treat toxic chemicals in the sewage and the building of more collection points for sewage. An official of the State Environmental Protection Bureau, said Hong Kong waters could not be separated from those of the Pearl River Delta and South China. Wherever the sewage was discharged it would affect the water quality of the whole region, he said, adding prior consultation with China was needed. He said Hong Kong and China had different standards for water quality, which would have a bearing on selection of methods to treat sewage.