Following is the speech by the Permanent Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works (Works), Mr Lo Yiu-ching, at Kam Tin River Tree Planting Day today (November 20):
Chairman Tang, distinguished guests, principals, teachers and students,
I am delighted to be invited to participate in this "Tree Planting Day at Kam Tin River". As Mr Cheung, Director of Drainage Services, has just said, Kam Tin has been under the duress of flooding for a long time. We had seen major flooding incidents repeatedly in the 80s' and 90s'. Many villages along the river, including Tai Kong Po Village where we are today, have been seriously affected.
Since late 1993, the Government has implemented river training works at Kam Tin River and Shan Pui River. With the completion of these improvement works in recent years, the flooding situation at the Kam Tin River catchment has been substantially resolved. Now the scene in this area is completely different with no more waist-deep floods.
Apart from technical issues, the Government also places much emphasis on the environmental aspect during implementation of river training works. To tie in with the Government's greening policy, we will strive to uplift the quality of our living environment through active planting in works projects, proper maintenance and preservation of vegetation. Our target is to bring about noticeable improvements in urban greenery, enhancement of existing greened areas, and maximise greening opportunities during the planning and development of public works projects. Every year we will formulate a greening programme for the territory in order to facilitate planning and monitoring of progress. Works covered by the greening programme include:
(a) carry out planting in association with works projects, amenity areas and along expressways;
(b) undertake beautification of priority sites in the urban areas (e.g. key waterfront sites, public housing estates, footbridges and pedestrian zones);
(c) provide vegetation on man-made slopes; and
(d) plant tree seedlings in the countryside.
In the financial year 2003/04, we planted 16 million plants, including trees, shrubs and annuals. We will plant another 10 million plants in 2004/05.
Furthermore, the Government has set up a new working committee under the Steering Committee on Greening in August 2004. This new "Greening Master Plan Committee" will co-ordinate the preparation of Greening Master Plans for selected urban districts, and implementation of related planting and streetscape enhancement work.
We will continue to enlist community support for greening, and provide information for civic education in schools to help children understand the benefits of greening. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Home Affairs Department will step up their respective publicity programmes to promote greening and encourage community participation through tree planting activities. We will also continue to collaborate with the private sector to promote greening for Hong Kong.
From 1997 to 2004, the Government has planted 100,000 trees and 170,000 shrubs along the 5-km section downstream of Kam Tin River. In addition, 120,000 mangroves have been planted along the newly constructed 3-km river channel in the vicinity of Deep Bay and Mai Po. The mangroves are now growing very well. Generally speaking, the new river channel appears identical to a natural one. During winter time, numerous migratory birds swarm the whole channel for food and habitat. The river channel has virtually become an integral part of the wetland at Mai Po.
Today, I am very pleased to note that teachers and students from three schools are participating in this tree planting activity. I hope you will continually support every greening and environmental initiatives launched by the Government. In the coming months, we will plant 10,000 trees and 200,000 shrubs along this new channel of Kam Tin River. I believe this $4 million greening project will bring vigour and vitality to the environment along both sides of the channel and enhance the appearance of the entire area. I am sure that when trees along Kam Tin River have matured, this neighbourhood will become a pleasant amenity area for your enjoyment.
Ends/Saturday, November 20, 2004