Hong Kong’s bacteria are too much for Batman

He has locked horns with Gotham City’s darkest criminals, including the Joker, the Riddler, Catwoman and Penguin. But now Batman has crumbled in the face of an even deadlier foe: the polluted water of Hong Kong.

The Dark Knight, a sequel to the 2005 movie Batman Begins, is filming in Hong Kong in and around Victoria Harbour. But a scene where the caped crusader jumps out of a Hercules C130 cargo plane into the sea between Hong Kong island and Kowloon has apparently been scrapped after the water was found to contain such high levels of life-threatening bacteria that the actor, Christian Bale, would have been at risk of catching much more than a cold.

“The plan was for Batman to be seen jumping into the water and then climbing up some bamboo, or something similar, on to a pier. But when they checked a water sample, they found all sorts of things, salmonella and tuberculosis, so it was cancelled. Now the action will cut to inside a building,” the South China Morning Post quoted a production team source as saying.

In colonial times between the two world wars, businessmen swam in the harbour to cool down. They would enjoy a quick dip at lunchtime before retiring to the Hong Kong Club for a drink with a view over the cricket ground. But decades of intense shipping and the emptying of raw sewage into the harbour has changed all that.

The only people usually seen diving into Hong Kong’s harbour these days are a few die-hard political activists — precisely because everyone knows what a sacrifice is involved in braving the waters.

Hong Kong has one of the worst marine environments in the world, said Bill Ballantine, a renowned marine biologist who recently visited from New Zealand. “Everybody tells me if you can remember what it was like in 1960, there’s hardly anything left in terms of fisheries and the habitat also is very degraded,” he said.

The government has begun cutting the levels of effluent in the harbour, with stage one of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme, but officials admit the water is not yet ready for swimmers. They say Stage Two, beginning in 2009, will improve matters considerably.

In the meantime, Batman will have to confine his derring-do to Hong Kong’s dry land. He is due to be filmed travelling up Victoria Peak and catching a helicopter from the roof of the Peninsula hotel — a pastime limited to the very rich. – Guardian

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