If you are using the toilet at home before going on a junk trip, flush hard. Otherwise you may find that you have not bid adieu to your, er, deposits, but merely au revoir. You'll be leaning over the railing of the junk when certain objects will float by, saying, 'Hello, remember me?' It is becoming clear that the sewage scheme that was going to rescue Victoria Harbour (which should more accurately be called Victoria Toilet) has stalled. You remember how Hong Kong's two most environmentally friendly governors, Sir David Wilson and Chris Patten, enthused endlessly about the 'Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme'. (How does one know whether one has emitted a piece of Strategic Sewage or a non-strategic one? This question has never been satisfactorily answered.) Today, the new sewage system, like democracy, has been given an unspecified arrival date sometime in the next millennium. While we wait, let us examine the fascinating history of that distasteful but important item of everyday life which doctors call 'poop'. A copralite, as you know, is a fossiled piece of dinosaur poop. Paleontologists treat them with the worshipful adoration a Hong Kong tai-tai lavishes on her gold toothpick collection. There have been no significant copralite discoveries in Hong Kong, suggesting that natural recycling was working well for the first few 100 million years. The first fisherfolk inhabitants of Hong Kong used the same toilet we do: the harbour. But they dispensed with the middlemen. They would simply position their bottoms over the edge of the boat. Foreign sailors used much the same system, except they were rather more shy. There was an enclosed little room (called a jardine - I have no idea why) at the end of each ship with a hole in the floor. The first flushing toilet had actually been invented way back in 1596 by Sir John Harington, an Englishman. It was refined and patented in 1778 by inventor Joseph Brahma. But their names were forgotten. It was widely marketed by a man named Thomas Crapper. The colloquial English phrase 'going for a crap' is sometimes considered vulgar, but is actually a tribute to Mr Crapper. I'm sure his immortal spirit is delighted. The device was called the water closet, and the initials WC are still seen around the world. However, I note that at the Dingling Restaurant just outside Beijing, the women's toilet is marked WC and the men's one is MC. Hmm. Flushable toilets were imported to Hong Kong soon after the British arrival, and by the late 1870s, there were dozens of them. Unfortunately, one man was violently opposed to the new invention: the governor. Sir John Pope Hennessey fumed that '182 water closets have unfortunately been constructed' and demanded that they be removed and replaced with buckets or earth privies. An inspector named Osbert Chadwick entered the homes of ordinary citizens in 1881 and found the toilets were just holes in the corner of each room. He called for the creation of sewers. To the rescue came Hong Kong's famous entrepreneurial instinct. Private businessmen opened public lavatories. You had to pay to enter, and what you deposited was then resold. In financial terms, this was a better money-generator than anything dreamt up at Harvard Business School. You didn't have to buy raw materials; on the contrary, you received cash to take them. In the early hours of every day, the Night Soil Fleet would glide stinkily up to the waterfront. Passers-by on the shore would run away, hands clamped over noses and mouths. Coolies would tip endless buckets of human excreta into the 11 boats, which would sail off to Guangzhou, where the stuff was sold to farmers as fertiliser. Other shipping in the harbour would make way for them - never mind the order-of-precedence rules. Seven years after Chadwick's report, the government started work on improving sanitation. Bit by bit over the following decades, sewage systems were installed to take the muck to the waterfront and drop it in. In the 1950s, after the great influxes from China, residents lived in huge government tenements. Each family would have one room and there was one toilet section on each floor. In many Hong Kong homes in the 1960s and later, the toilet and kitchen were a single room (this system still survives in a few flats). Why? Well, flats were divided into the dry rooms and the wet room, and toilets and kitchens were both considered water-related activities. In 1977, a team of consultants published a report calling for urgent action to halt sewage pollution to the main harbour. Moving like greased lightning, the Government took only 11 years to form the Environmental Protection Department, which did much good work to fix Hong Kong's sewage systems. In 1994, Governor Chris Patten announced a scheme specifically to divert sewage from Victoria Harbour. Meanwhile, Ronald Leung Ding-bong, an Urban Councillor nicknamed Doctor Toilet, presided over the spending of millions of dollars on swanky new public toilet facilities all over Hong Kong. But to the dismay of many, the new facilities were found to contain old-fashioned squat toilets. Today, the harbour sewage scheme is in trouble. If you stick your bottom over the edge of the Lamma ferry and do it the old-fashioned way, you will be arrested and fined. But if you do it in Dr Toilet's multi-million-dollar public facilities near the harbour, you will have done your civic duty. From the pink dolphin's point of view, the end result, unfortunately, is exactly the same.