A practical approach to water quality

Water quality will always be a priority consideration where water sports are concerned, although standards can be different for primary and secondary contact water sports. The health of participants is paramount and, in promoting water sports as a means to a healthy lifestyle, the quality of the water should ensure participants have an enjoyable, but safe experience.

Water sports in themselves can, and should, be a major driver to improve water quality. There is a need to fully recognise the value of water sports and the parallel benefits that clean water will bring to the community and to sport.

As is the case in most major cities around the world, Hong Kong waterways have suffered over many years from the crowded urban environment and the pressure of development priorities, to the extent that many were highly polluted. Things have improved in recent years and there is a growing awareness within government (and also among the population) that clean water is important in a modern society. This becomes even more important when water sports have the potential to provide a substantial number of opportunities.

Organisers of water sports should not wait for government to declare water clean enough to
use, particularly for secondary contact sports. They should be pushing as hard as possible to have access to suitable water areas. Where water quality in such areas is currently marginal, or even below standards, the sports should be pressing authorities to put in place clear, structured and timely plans for improvement.

It is no longer acceptable to say that water quality is poor and therefore water sports must forego access to areas that could provide sports opportunities for large numbers of people. There is an opportunity cost to the whole community if potential water sports venues are not
available due to a lack of clean water.

The Shing Mun River (left) in Sha Tin provides a good example of how water quality improvement facilitates water sports. In 1982, when the Hong Kong, China Rowing Association established its first permanent rowing base in Sha Tin with the support of government and the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the water quality was very poor, perhaps only marginally acceptable for secondary water sports. Government took action to clean the river. Today, the river’s growing recreational use has meant that rowing, dragon boating and canoeing take place daily and the Shing Mun River is now one of Hong Kong’s major water sports venues.

Other areas offer the same potential, the most important of which, in terms of accessibility and community involvement, are the Kai Tak Approach Channel and Kwun Tong Typhoon Shelter. Even ignoring their potential as key water sports venues, there must be strong motivation to create a clean environment for this iconic central harbour area. The Hong Kong Water Sports Council will soon introduce regular activities at Kai Tak for its associated sports and water quality should not be allowed to prevent use of these major sports venues by the community.

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