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Cleaning up Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour is important for the protection of public health, for the marine environment, and to help realize the vision of Hong Kong as one of the world's great cities. The harbour is the heart of the city, with more than half of the population living on both sides of the harbour. The Government is committed to protecting this unique marine environment.

Victoria Harbour is not only a dramatic and beautiful feature of Hong Kong's cityscape, it is arguably our most precious natural asset. It is a major symbol of Hong Kong, our natural and historical heritage. Tourists are attracted to our spectacular harbour. It has brought, and continues to bring, to our economy benefits beyond measure. It adds to the character and charm of our hectic city life, and is a source of pride to the people of Hong Kong.

While industrial activities around the harbour did decline, more people have been coming to work in the urban centre, and major restaurants and entertainments can be found here, and our harbour remains one of the world's busiest centres of shipping activities. However the natural capacity of the harbour to absorb the wastes put into it had long been exceeded.

To address this, the Government has been implementing the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) in the past two decades in order to restore the water quality of Victoria Harbour. HATS involves the implementation of an integrated sewerage system for collecting and treating sewage generated around the harbour in an efficient, effective and environmentally sustainable manner. Construction of HATS has been carried out in phases.

HATS Stage 1 construction commenced in early 1995 and was completed at the end of 2001. The sewage catchment areas of HATS Stage 1 cover Tsuen Wan, Kwai Tsing, Tseung Kwan O, the urban areas of Kowloon and the northeastern part of Hong Kong Island. HATS Stage 1 now collects 1.4 million m3 of sewage every day, representing about 75% of the total sewage generated from the harbour catchment, via deep tunnels to the Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works (SCISTW) for treatment before disposal. Sewage generated from the northern and south-western parts of Hong Kong Island (from North Point to Ap Lei Chau) that is currently not handled by Stage 1 of HATS will be collected and transferred to the expanded SCISTW for centralized treatment under HATS Stage 2A. Upon the commissioning of HATS Stage 2A, the water quality in the Victoria Harbour will further improve.

The Advance Disinfection Facilities under HATS Stage 2A meanwhile was commissioned in March 2010. As a result, the bacteria concentration in the western waters of Victoria Harbour has been substantially reduced. The water quality in the seven closed beaches in Tsuen Wan has met the Water Quality Objective since 2010. This has led to the re-opening of four beaches – Approach, Casam, Hoi Mei Wan and Lido – in June 2011 and Anglers’ Beach in September 2013 and the other two beaches, Gemini and Ting Kau in April 2014.

Implementation of HATS Stage 2A will bring further improvement to the water quality of Victoria Harbour. However, due to the residual pollution discharges into the urban coastal waters, i.e. those not collected by our sewerage system due to various factors such as drain misconnections, and polluted surface run-offs from streets etc., the odour and visual impacts caused by near shore pollution to our urban coastal waters are still under frequent complaints, in particular at areas that are easily accessible by the public and close to population and business centres. As such, the Government will carry out a consultancy study to work out practical options and a programme, to improve the environment of our popular waterfront areas by tackling near shore pollution.

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