Yesterday afternoon, the water supply for the entire Sai Kung area was suspended due to a system fault at the Pak Kong Au reservoir. At the time of this writing, there is still no running water in the Sai Kung area although it is supposed to return during the course of the afternoon.
That is the bad news. The good news is that this is one of those instances (or areas) where Hong Kong still functions well. Within an hour or so of the suspension, truckloads of water had been ferried to Sai Kung and residents, shop owners and restaurateurs eagerly lined up to fill their buckets. In fact, the lines were fairly short as quite a few of these mobile water tanks were positioned around town.
I wondered why it is that Hong Kong still manages to function well in this type of situation, when so much else is falling apart in front of our eyes. My first thought was that water supply is not a particularly political issue, so things have probably been left fairly untouched over the past 17 years, with the old structures and arrangements still in place. By this I mean the way the Water Supplies Department is run, manned, organised and so on. So the excellent response and contingency measures put in place seem to be down to the fact that there is a tried and tested, robust system in place for dealing with such matters and eventualities.
But why can the same not be said for, say, the MTR, which is constantly in the news these days, for overcrowding, broken trains, faulty lines, cost overruns, poor management etc. One difference would seem to be that the MTR is far more subject to political considerations, for instance through its many real estate ventures, its role in the highly controversial high-speed rail link to China, or even the fact that so much of the overcrowding is due to people using the MTR to carry goods. Somehow, possibly due to the political sensitivity of banning the transport of bulky items on the MTR (or at least charging people for it), the MTR is paralysed and the old structures put in place 35 years ago are no longer adequate. The government’s latest response is to place a high level government official on the MTR’s board – something that is sure to make matters worse.
Just like the Water Services Department, the MTR should be left to do what it was meant to do from the outset, transport commuters around town, and it will do just fine.