Initial go-ahead for incinerator

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 May, 2009, 12:00am

A controversial plan to build a sludge incinerator in Tuen Mun has been given the initial go-ahead by legislators, despite an alternative proposal by a Li Ka-shing-controlled firm that could cost only 20 per cent as much.

Green Island Cement, a unit of Cheung Kong Infrastructure, which put forward the alternative HK$950 million plan, expressed regret.

Members of the Legislative Council's public works subcommittee yesterday voted 8-4 to endorse a HK$5.15 billion plan for an incinerator, in an ash lagoon in Nim Wan. The facility will be able to burn up to 2,000 tonnes of sludge - a by-product of sewage treatment - a day.

The government said there was an urgent need to build the facility, because the amount of sludge handled each day would rise to 1,500 tonnes in 2014 from the present 800 tonnes, which is dumped in landfills.

At yesterday's meeting, some members raised concerns over the government's refusal to consider the cheaper plan by Green Island Cement, based on a different technology called 'eco-co-combustion'.

Abraham Razack said: 'We appreciate the urgency of the project. But it is also in the public interest if we can save much public money by adopting the Green Island Cement' plan.

The Secretary for the Environment, Edward Yau Tang-wah, said the company had not raised an intention in the project until two days after pre-tendering ended in January.

Mr Yau also said Green Island had not conducted any environmental impact assessment to show its plan was environmentally acceptable.

Green Island Cement executive director Don Johnston said the government's requirements for an environmental impact assessment were 'most irresponsible and illogical'. 'As a subsidiary of a public listed company answerable to shareholders, there is no way that Green Island Cement can justify spending HK$20 million to carry out an [environmental impact assessment] without being assured that we will be allowed to compete when tenders are called for the sludge treatment and integrated waste management facilities,' he said in a submission to the panel.

The project will go to a final vote in the Legislative Council Finance Committee meeting next week, widely regarded as procedural.