Law proposed to strengthen polluter-pays principle in cleaning up harbour
The Environmental Protection Department set out the details of the legislative changes in a briefing paper submitted to the Legislative Council today (March 21) following consultation with the EA Panel and other major stakeholders concerning proposals for the sharing of sewage treatment costs through applying the "polluter-pays principle".
"It is encouraging that LegCo and the community-at-large have reaffirmed their support for the application of the polluter-pays principle in the provision of sewage services. The proposed gradual and modest adjustments of the sewage charge (SC) in the coming 10 years will put us on a firm footing to enable the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) Stage 2A and other major sewerage projects to move ahead," a department spokesman said.
"Under the Sewage Services (Sewage Charge)(Amendment) Regulation 2007, which will be gazetted this Friday (March 23), the first SC increment will take effect on July 1, 2007," he said.
"The formal adjustments to the SC follow the same scheme as announced in December, 2006. At present, the average household sewage charge account is about $11 per month. Under the revised scheme, it will become about $12 starting from July 1, 2007 and $13 the year after. In 10 years, it will rise to about $27, which will remain at the lower end of the global scale amongst developed economies and represent extraordinarily good value for money. Recipients of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme will continue to receive an allowance to cover the SC," he said.
"The 10-year adjustment period is needed to ensure that the increases will be modest, gradual and predictable. The operating cost of the sewage treatment services, including those arising from major new sewage treatment projects in the pipeline, will be shared in an equitable manner amongst the different sectors of the community while the Government will continue to shoulder the substantial costs of building new sewage treatment networks and facilities, including the $8 billion for HATS Stage 2A." the spokesman said.
Under the Sewage Services Charging Scheme, an additional charge - the trade effluent surcharge (TES) - applies to 30 trades to reflect the additional cost incurred in treating effluents of strength higher than domestic sewage. The Government has taken into account views of the trades and proposed measures to reduce the costs relating to reassessment of the TES rates for individual accounts. These measures will come into effect on July 1, 2007, under the Sewage Services (Trade Effluent Surcharge)(Amendment) Regulation 2007 and the revised Technical Memorandum for the TES scheme presented to LegCo.
The legislative proposals will be tabled in LegCo at its meeting on March 28 and go through the negative vetting process thereafter.
"We look forward to LegCo and the community's support for the legislative proposals. This will clearly demonstrate our long-term commitment to sustained improvement of the water environment in Hong Kong," the spokesman said.
"Once the regulations are endorsed by LegCo, the Government will seek funding for the next HATS Stage 2A-related project before the summer break," he said.
The Government also published today a booklet entitled "A Brighter Future for Our Harbour" to enhance the public's understanding of HATS and its future development. People are welcome to visit the department's Clean Harbour website at http://www.cleanharbour.gov.hk/english/brighter_future.html to gain access to the HATS booklet.
End/Wednesday, March 21, 2007