Islanders ready to welcome waste incinerator

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2008, 12:00am

Facility expected to bring jobs, better infrastructure, free electricity

While Tuen Mun residents have threatened action to prevent a HK$4 billion waste incinerator from being built on their doorsteps, the few inhabitants of Shek Kwu Chau are ready to embrace it.

Peter Pi Wing-lee, who manages a drug treatment centre on the island - one of two proposed sites for the waste facility - said the project would be welcomed if it would bring jobs, better infrastructure and perhaps free electricity.

But conservationists are worried the scheme could affect animal and plant life on the island, including a rare burrowing lizard.

Mr Pi, executive director of the Society for the Aid and Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers, said the island was an ideal location as most of the 200 residents were there for treatment and stayed only for an average of six months.

His welcome was in stark contrast to strong opposition from residents of Tsang Tsui in Tuen Mun, the other proposed site for the waste-burning power station that government official say is essential to lengthening life of the city's landfills. Residents say they are prepared to block access to the site.

'I fully understand the feelings of the Tuen Mun residents. 'If I were them, I might take drastic action too,' Mr Pi said, adding the Nimby - not in my back yard - syndrome did not exist on the island.

Some believed residents of nearby Cheung Chau would not like the idea, he said.

'But in fact, they would not be able to see the incinerator from their island.'

He is confident that air pollution from the incinerator could be kept at a safe level while the open environment there could help disperse any pollutants easily.

Mr Pi saw huge benefits for the community on the island.

'I hope the project could at least provide us with scores of job opportunities if not hundreds. This will greatly improve the chance of residents finding employment when they finish their treatment.'

The island can be reached only by boat. A service runs four times a day to and from Cheung Chau.

A leading conservationist said he was worried that turning the island into a waste hub could bring more hygiene problems and affect its bio-diversity.

'There will be increasing sea traffic to the island while the waste transported might bring more insects, bugs and rats, threatening other animals on the island,' said Alan Leung Sze-lun, senior conservation officer for WWF. He said Bogadek's burrowing lizard had been spotted there.

Lee Kwai-chun, an Islands district councillor returned by Cheung Chau residents, said her voters would oppose the Shek Kwu Chau choice as southwesterly winds in summer would blow pollutants to Cheung Chau.

Speaking in an RTHK programme, Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah reiterated that incineration was a complete solution to the city's waste problem. He said about 80 per cent of the city's waste could be treated by incineration and recycling in the long term, leaving only 20 per cent for the landfills to handle.