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LCQ3: Tackling odour problem of waterfront tourist attractions

     Following is a question by the Hon Raymond Ho Chung-tai and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (February 1):


     There are many restaurants at the tourist attractions (e.g. Lei Yue Mun and Cheung Chau, etc.) which are famous for seafood in Hong Kong, and foul odour can be smelled from time to time at the seashore near these restaurants. Such a situation has persisted for many years and it is not hard to notice the situation, but the authorities still have not properly tackled the problem. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the reason for not properly tackling the aforesaid problem over the past years by the authorities is that tourists' interest in the aforesaid attractions has not dropped, and that the authorities are pleased with the present situation; if not, whether the authorities are not fully aware of the problem;

(b) whether the authorities know the source of the odour; if so, whether they have adopted any corresponding improvement measure; if they have, of the details and effectiveness of the measure; and

(c) whether the authorities have any specific plan to improve the environmental hygiene of the tourist attractions which offer culinary delights as a selling point, so as to avoid tourists having a negative impression on Hong Kong's environmental hygiene and to reinforce the image of Hong Kong as a culinary paradise?



     The Administration has always attached great importance to maintain the advantage of famous tourist attractions in Hong Kong. The question mentions that the many seafood restaurants at the seafront of Lei Yue Mun and Cheung Chau have been popular with local citizens and tourists alike.  While the departments concerned, including the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), the Drainage Services Department (DSD) and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) have not received any odour complaints associated with sea water in the waterfront areas over the past three years (2009-2011), the Tourism Commission (TC) did receive an expression of concern by an organisation in October 2009 over the sewage disposal arrangements in Lei Yue Mun. Subsequently, the District Management Committee of the Kwun Tong District Office discussed the issue and closely monitored the progress of the implementation of improvement measures by concerned departments at its meetings in April and June 2010.

     We would reply to the question in detail as follows:

(a) The sources of odour at waterfront areas vary according to the actual conditions at different locations. These would generally include rubbish piles on waterfront streets and decomposing organic matters (such as residual food or drinks) that accumulated inside storm water drains or catch pits in the vicinity of waterfront shops and food premises. Other sources include decomposing organic matters, such as dead fish and algae, accumulated in waters near piers, shallow banks and places with slow water flow. These may also give off odour if they are not removed promptly. The odour may be aggravated by hot weather or under strong sun light. Depending on the actual circumstances, the departments concerned, including EPD, DSD and FEHD, will work closely to identify the causes of odour and take follow-up actions.

     The Government has always adopted measures to prevent pollutants originating from their land-based sources from affecting marine water quality. EPD diligently inspects the Lei Yue Mun (Sam Ka Tsuen) and Cheung Chau areas to check whether the food premises in these areas have caused pollution to the surrounding areas or illegally discharged effluent into storm water drains. As for the regulation of food premises, FEHD conducts regular inspection of the food premises in Lei Yue Mun and Cheung Chau to ensure their compliance with the hygiene standards as stipulated under the law and in the relevant licensing conditions. In case of breaches, the departments concerned will take enforcement action, such as issuing verbal or written warnings and instituting prosecution. According to EPD, all the food premises in Cheung Chau and Lei Yue Mun are required to install grease traps to remove oil and grease from effluent to minimise pollution. The staff of EPD and FEHD also conduct inspection from time to time and remind operators of these food premises to regularly remove waste from their sewage treatment facilities (grease traps/septic tanks) and conduct checks to ensure that their treatment facilities function properly to prevent discharge of untreated or excessively greasy effluent. EPD's records also show that the sewage treatment facilities of the food premises in Cheung Chau and Lei Yue Mun are in good order. Moreover, FEHD always keeps a close watch on the provision of street cleansing services at tourist attractions and, when necessary, increases the frequency of street sweeping and washing. DSD meanwhile is responsible for regular desilting of contaminated sediments at public storm water outfalls to prevent their discharge into the waterfront and, when appropriate, will increase the frequency of desilting works.

     In addition, to improve the marine water quality of Lei Yue Mun (Sam Ka Tsuen) typhoon shelter, the Government had begun diverting trunk storm water drains from the typhoon shelter to reduce direct pollutant discharge into the typhoon shelter in the early years. Bio-remediation works for facilitating decomposition of organic pollutants in sediments were also carried out in the typhoon shelter at the end of 2004.

(b) As mentioned above, we have not received any complaints concerning odour in the typhoon shelters at Cheung Chau and Lei Yue Mun over the past three years. In fact, the marine water quality in the Cheung Chau and Lei Yue Mun typhoon shelter areas continues to improve with the conduct of enforcement, educational promotion and improvement works. Monitoring results show that the water quality of Cheung Chau Typhoon Shelter was good over the past three years (2009 -2011) and the 1986 to 2011 results of Sam Ka Tsuen Typhoon Shelter showed that the level of dissolved oxygen has steadily risen while the E. coli counts dropped.

(c) Renowned as the culinary capital of Asia, Hong Kong offers a wide selection of cuisine, which has attracted many visitors to come to enjoy. The Government has all along closely monitored the environment and supporting facilities of the city's dining districts. Whenever necessary, TC would co-ordinate the relevant departments including FEHD, EPD, the District Offices of the Home Affairs Department, etc., for suitable improvement, so as to maintain Hong Kong's reputation as Asia's culinary capital.

     Overall speaking, the environmental hygiene conditions of tourist attractions which offer culinary delights as a selling point are satisfactory. Nevertheless, the hygienic conditions of some individual attractions have been a subject of concern as a result of various factors such as their geographic environment, the mode of operations of the food establishments, local culture, and pedestrian flows in the vicinity, etc.

     For example, the SoHo in Central District of Hong Kong Island is located in an old residential area where the streets are narrow and steep, and many pubs and restaurants there are opening into the streets. As a result, the area has a greater demand for regular street cleansing and refuse management, as compared to other dining areas in Hong Kong. To address the situation, TC, in conjunction with the Hong Kong Tourism Board, FEHD and other relevant departments, have liaised with the operators of food establishments in SoHo earlier on to explore environmental hygiene improvement measures. FEHD has since enhanced street cleansing and street washing for the area, and stepped up warning and enforcement against illegal littering by business operators and other parties.

     As another example, to further enhance the attractiveness of Lei Yue Mun as a popular tourist spot, TC is planning to take forth the Lei Yue Mun Waterfront Enhancement Project. The scope of works includes the construction of a public landing facility and a waterfront promenade, as well as other streetscape improvement works. The relevant works departments are currently arranging for the gazettal of works for the project. We expect that upon completion of the project works, the number of visitors to Lei Yue Mun would increase significantly. To address the demand for improved sewerage facilities arising from the acute increase in visitors, EPD commissioned a study in November 2010 to examine the feasibility of providing interim and long term sewerage improvement works for the whole Lei Yue Mun area. Taking into account the topographical constraints and narrow alleys in Lei Yue Mun Village, the Administration needs to conduct further detailed investigation on the preferred options. The local communities will be consulted on the feasible options in due course to expedite the sewerage improvement works in the area.

     TC will continue to monitor and review the environment and supporting facilities of individual tourist attractions from time to time, and co-ordinate with relevant departments for improvement where necessary.

Ends/Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:45


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