Water pollution has increased with urban development and population growth,
and Hong Kong now produces about 2.8 million cubic metres of sewage every day.
In the past, the lack of proper treatment for most of the sewage from older urban
areas around Victoria Harbour resulted in poor water quality there but, after the first
stage of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) opened at the end of 2001,
there has been a marked improvement. The Government plans to implement the
second stage of the scheme soon, to ensure that the improvement is sustained.
In addition, pollution control at source has yielded positive effects, and river
quality has also improved. The percentage of rivers in the 'good' and 'excellent'
categories increased from 34 per cent in 1986 to 81 per cent in 2006, and the
percentage in the 'bad' and 'very bad' categories fell from 45 per cent in 1986 to 14
per cent in 2006.
Sewage Treatment and Disposal
At present, the public sewerage system covers 93 per cent of the population and
collects about 2.6 million cubic metres of waste water every day. About 70 per cent
of the collected sewage receives chemical or higher levels of treatment before being
During the first stage of the HATS, sewage was collected from the urban areas
of Kowloon, Tsuen Wan, Kwai Tsing, Tseung Kwan O and the northeastern part of
Hong Kong Island and transported through a network of deep tunnels to
Stonecutters Island for treatment.
The Government intends to implement the second stage in two phases. The first
phase (HATS Stage 2A) involves extending the deep tunnel system to bring the
untreated sewage from the remaining parts of Hong Kong Island to the Stonecutters
Island Sewage Treatment Works. The treatment works is to be expanded to provide
centralised chemical treatment for all sewage from the whole of the HATS catchment
with fast-track provision of disinfection. The target year for completion of this phase
is 2014. Under the second phase (HATS Stage 2B), new biological treatment facilities
on a site adjacent to the existing Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works will be
built. The timing for this depends on a review in 2010-11. Both phases, however, are
subject to the legislature endorsing proposals for the recovery of operating costs
through charges for sewage services, in accordance with the polluter pays principle.
More details of the HATS are available on the 'A Clean Harbour for Hong Kong'
Apart from HATS, the Government has spent a further $14.5 billion on other
sewerage schemes since 1991 and it will spend another $5 billion on schemes over
the next five years. This includes sewerage for rural villages. Under the Water
Pollution Control (Sewerage) Regulation, the EPD is empowered to direct house
owners to connect their waste water pipes to new public sewers. In 2006, public
sewers were laid to serve an estimated population of 5 200 people. Since the
regulation came into force at the end of 1995, public sewers have been put in place
to serve 145 200 people.
All water users who discharge their sewage to public sewers have to pay a basic
sewage charge in accordance with the polluter pays principle. Also, 30 trades and
industries whose effluent strength well exceeds that of domestic sewage need to pay
a trade effluent surcharge to reflect the additional cost of treating their stronger
effluent. These charges aim to recover the operation and maintenance costs of
sewage collection, treatment, and disposal facilities, while the Government provides
funds for construction. The Government's capital investment in this sector is
projected to amount to about $20 billion over the next 10 years to build HATS Stage
2A and other new sewage collection and treatment systems, but this is contingent
upon the community being willing to share the operating cost in accordance with the
polluter pays principle. In December 2006, the Government announced proposals to
increase the sewage charge for handling domestic waste water in a step-wise manner
over a 10-year time frame. Under these proposals the average bill for domestic
accounts would rise from $11 per month now, to $12 per month in 2007, and
gradually to $27 per month in 10 years' time. Even after the projected increase Hong
Kong's sewage charge will remain among the lowest of the major cities of developed
Livestock Waste Pollution
The Waste Disposal Ordinance bans livestock-keeping in new towns and
environmentally sensitive areas. Where they are allowed, livestock farms must have
proper waste treatment systems. The Government provides a free livestock waste
collection service which collected about a monthly average of 4 694 tonnes of waste
during the year.
From the public health and environmental protection points of views, livestock
farming in urbanised Hong Kong is not sustainable in the long term. To address the
problem, the Government has introduced licence surrender schemes to encourage
poultry and pig farmers to cease poultry and pig keeping permanently. Livestock
farmers are given ex-gratia payments and the schemes are entirely voluntary. The
poultry scheme was introduced in mid-2005 and poultry farmers have up to one year
to decide whether or not to join the scheme. The licence surrender scheme for pig
farmers was introduced in 2006 and the scheme was open for one year also.
The Government has adopted strict standards for water quality control to protect
the health of swimmers at bathing beaches. These standards indicate the pollution
level measured in terms of E.coli (the bacterium that can indicate the presence of
sewage). The following table shows how beaches were classified in 2006. Beaches in
the 'good' and 'fair' categories meet the Government's water quality objective for
bathing. In 2006, over 80 per cent of the bathing beaches met the water quality
|Beach water quality ranking
| Bathing season geometric mean of E. coli count per 100ml of beach water
| Minor health risk cases per 1 000 swimmers
| Number of beaches in 2006
| Up to 24
| 25 to 180
| 10 or less
|181 to 610
|11 to 15
|More than 610
| More than 15
Beach water quality gradings for open beaches are available on the EPD's home page,
hotline and weekly press releases.