CY dives in with Central swimming vision

Top News | Flora Chung 9 Mar 2016

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying wants office workers to enjoy time out, so he is proposing a swimming platform on the Central waterfront.

His idea was given an immediate thumbs down by experts because of the harbor's filthy water, though writing in his blog yesterday Leung had claimed local waters have "leisure and athletic values" and the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme means the sea can be used for water-friendly activities.

In pointing to a modern facility on the waterfront near the International Finance Centre in Central, Leung said "one would be able to swim for 20 minutes after lunch" - apparently forgetting swimming on a full stomach is dangerous.

But swimming would be a good alternative to going to the gym, he said.

Apart from swimming, Leung also suggested people could go fishing, following on from the idea of three angling zones that he mentioned in his 2016 policy address.

He said the Leisure and Cultural Services Department will have the three angling zones set up as early as next year, taking in Tsing Yi, Tai Po and the Central waterfront. The zones will have shelters and chairs and other facilities.

Harbourfront Commission member Paul Zimmerman thought Leung's idea about swimming is creative but not feasible, and harbor traffic and poor water quality would make it doubly unsafe off Central.

He added that Victoria Harbour's waters are so poor it could take 10 to 20 years to improve conditions and make it safe for swimming.

That would also require much hard work, Zimmerman added, such as stopping people from pouring sewage into the harbor.

Zimmerman was also put out that such ideas were being floated without the Harbourfront Commission being informed.

There was more gloomy readings on Leung's thinking from Chan King- ming, director of the environmental science program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong's School of Life Sciences.

Victoria Harbour's water quality "is not suitable for swimming," he said. The water near Western is cleaner, he added, "but the current is strong there."

He added that water quality required for swimming is high, with hazards such as E.coli and salmonella to be faced.

To attain the required water quality, Chan said, Victoria Harbour would have to be designated a water control zone, with discharges involving a licensing system.

But Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association secretary David Chiu Chin-hung looked on the bright side.

If the level of E.coli could be reduced by 80-90 percent as promised by the Environmental Protection Department, he said, the swimming facility on the Central waterfront could be a winner.

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