Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng once likened Hong Kong to a 25-year-old adult who had stopped growing, in contrast to Shanghai, a 15-year-old who would grow up a little every year. Mr Han, the youngest mayor of Shanghai at the age of 49, was referring to the different stages of economic development of the two cities. Hong Kong may be only as old as it feels. But the two ageing water pipes that burst close to Admiralty last week raise serious questions about whether the city is facing a mid-life crisis in its basic, largely unseen infrastructure. Traffic near the heart of Central was disrupted and supplies to shops, hotels and restaurants cut for 14 hours after the first water pipe burst on Tuesday. Another pipe burst on Wednesday. Water supply officials said repair work was complicated by confusion over the ownership of a piece of road-monitoring equipment attached to a concrete slab at a site. Sarah Liao Sau-tung, the minister in charge of works, said the government had no full records of devices underground. 'It's a problem left over from history that we need to resolve,' she said. 'Although everyone has followed procedure, I hope [the various departments] can strengthen their culture of communication to improve efficiency.' She has instructed departments to speed up the replacement of 30-year-old water pipes. 'I hope it can be completed in 12 to 15 years.' Another case of infrastructure woes was the collapse of three balconies of an industrial building in Tsing Yi this month, which resulted in a temporary closure order for the entire 22-storey warehouse. The Buildings Department will make a citywide inspection of all buildings with similar balconies this year. About 28,000 private buildings will be affected. Normally, reports of burst water pipes and falling concrete from old buildings are not likely to cause much of a stir. A broken pipe at Ngau Tau Kok and the fact that no one was killed by a falling piece of masonry would probably go unreported in the media. But taken together, they may be the tip of the iceberg of a list of structural deficiencies for a city in middle age. Water pipes built decades ago can no longer meet the surge in demand created by an increase in population and commercial activities. Ageing buildings - both residential and industrial - without regular maintenance and renovation have become city slums at their best and death traps at their worst. Mounting waste, estimated to fill all landfills in 11 years, has prompted the high-powered Council for Sustainable Development to suggest introducing advanced treatment technology and charging for waste disposal. Signs of structural deficiencies and ageing contrast sharply with glittering lights, towering skyscrapers and advanced infrastructure. In about 18 months, Hong Kong will be home to the second Disneyland in Asia. Plans are well advanced to build a multibillion-dollar cultural complex on the West Kowloon reclamation area. Cross-border traffic will be given a big boost with the completion of high-speed rail links in the next decade. There is no suggestion that these projects are not worth spending huge sums on. But major infrastructure projects should be built to meet the changing needs of society. Together, they give a city character, vigour and source of growth. The recent spate of collapsed balconies and broken water pipes has raised concern over whether society - and its basic infrastructure and living environment - are ageing. The sustainable development body has floated a number of big questions for people to think about in making Hong Kong home. For many, home is a place you feel safe, comfortable and proud of.