Modern vessel launches new assault on pollution

THE Environmental Protection Department (EPD) took delivery of a new monitoring vessel yesterday, giving it the means to gather accurate information on pollution levels in Hongkong waters.

Principal environmental protection officer Mr Paul Holmes described the launch of the $12-million boat, Dr Catherine Lam, as the beginning of a new phase in the cleaning up of the environment.

The vessel was launched by the Governor's wife, Mrs Lavender Patten, who reflected on how Hongkong's so-called fragrant harbour no longer earned that description.

''We rightly hear much about the pollution of our coastal waters. About the discharge of 1.5 million cubic metres of partially treated sewage into Victoria Harbour each day.

''About the death of thousands of fish. About the effect of dredging and marine dumping on fishing and coral communities. We cannot pretend all is well,'' she said to the EPD staff gathered at the Cheoy Lee shipyard in Penny Bay.

''The job of the EPD is to restore and protect the quality of our marine environment.'' Data collected by the boat was considered vital by the EPD to press for necessary changes and also to monitor the success of pollution control measures and whether water quality objectives were being met, senior environmental protection officer Dr Yeung Hung-yiu said.

The monitoring vessel, which is replacing the 33-year-old Chop Yat, will do water quality tests at more than 100 sites and marine sediment tests at 65 sites. More than 74,000 measurements are made each year.

Tests will include monitoring of red tides and shellfish, and surveys on the amount of floating refuse.

''It will be a breath of fresh air after time on the water in the Chop Yat, Mr Mark Smith-Evans, the environmental protection officer who runs the tests, said.

''It will be just like getting a new car.'' The monitoring equipment on board the new boat is state of the art and the use of computers means the sample points are more accurate.

The vessel is named after Dr Catherine Lam, a former officer in the Water Policy Group who died in 1990 from liver cancer.

after campaigning for a new boat.