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LCQ4: Improvement works in rural areas

    Following is a question by the Hon Daniel Lam and a reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing, in the Legislative Council today (January 9):


     The Government allocated $4 billion in the nineties to implement projects under the Rural Planning and Improvement Strategy, including river training and local environment beautification projects, so as to improve the living environment for the residents in the New Territories.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether, given its current strong financial position, the Government will allocate fresh funds to implement strategic projects to improve the rural environment, in order to address the aspirations of the residents in the New Territories; if it will, whether it will work with the Heung Yee Kuk and various rural committees in drawing up the specific arrangements for implementing the projects concerned; if it will not allocate funds to implement the projects concerned, of the reasons for that, and the alternative plans to improve the living environment for the residents in the rural areas?


Madam President,

     The Government attaches great importance to enhance the infrastructure and facilities in the rural areas for improving the living environment there.  After the implementation of the Rural Planning and Improvement Strategy, which was launched in the 1990s and concluded in 1999-2000, the Administration continued to plan and carry out improvement works in the rural areas in the New Territories, including a number of major works projects.  For instance, the Drainage Services Department has carried out a number of drainage improvement programmes in the northern New Territories to address the flooding problem and constructed sewer systems to improve the environment.  The Highways Department has carried out road improvement or construction works.  The Water Supplies Department is implementing a project to provide sea water flushing systems in the north-western New Territories and Yuen Long, thereby extending the water supply network to the rural areas in the region between Tuen Mun and Yuen Long.  In addition, the work under the Greening Master Plan carried out by the relevant works departments will also be extended to the New Territories.  Priority will be given to the beautification works along the Tuen Mun River and the development of a strategy for the improvement of the Yuen Long Town Nullah to enhance the local environment quality and the ecological value of the nullah.

    The ten major infrastructure projects mentioned by the Chief Executive in his Policy Address announced in last October will enhance the overall infrastructure facilities in Hong Kong and will definitely bring improvement to rural areas in the New Territories as well.  The Policy Address mentioned to resume the planning and engineering studies and draw up implementation strategy on the "Three-in-One" new development area scheme at Kwu Tung North, Fanling North, Ping Che and Ta Kwu Ling, as well as the Hung Shui Kiu new development area.  These construction projects are highly strategic and it is believed that the launching of new developments will certainly improve the living environment in rural areas nearby.

     In addition to the implementation of major works, the Home Affairs Department introduced the Rural Public Works (RPW) Programme in 1999.  The expenditure of each project under the Programme is capped at $21 million.  The objective of the RPW Programme is to improve the local environment and solve related problems in a more expeditious and flexible manner, and therefore it does not cover projects involving land resumption.

     Since the introduction of the RPW Programme, the Government has completed more than 1,140 RPW projects with a total cost of about $890 million to meet the needs of the local community.  The types of works include construction/improvement of footpaths, access roads, drainage facilities, rain shelters and pavilions.  The living environment and infrastructure of many rural areas have been improved under this Programme.  

     Moreover, different kinds of recreational facilities, including basketball courts, mini-soccer pitches, playgrounds and sitting-out areas, have been planned.  Since 2006, the Tourism Commission has also co-ordinated the efforts of the relevant departments in providing and enhancing the basic facilities at various green tourist attractions in the north-eastern New Territories to enable visitors to appreciate the green attractions in a more convenient and user-friendly environment.  The majority of the works will be completed in the first quarter of this year.

     Regarding the above rural issues, the Government and the Heung Yee Kuk have established good communication channels, including the Home Affairs Bureau - Heung Yee Kuk Liaison Committee, the Development Bureau - Heung Yee Kuk Liaison Committee and the Planning Department - Heung Yee Kuk Liaison Meeting.  When projects are to be implemented, the Government will also consult local residents to better understand and respond to the needs of the local community.

     The Government attaches great importance to the improvement of facilities in the rural areas and will continue to communicate closely with the Heung Yee Kuk and the local community to further improve the living environment of rural residents.

Ends/Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Issued at HKT 12:38


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