Talking rubbish

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 April, 2012, 12:00am


'The Environmental Protection Department'. It sounds like a department set up to - oh, I don't know - protect the environment, right? So imagine my surprise to find this agency is behind possibly the biggest threat to public health since the new airport: the Shek Kwu Chau waste incinerator.

Well, it's not exactly on Shek Kwu Chau. Nobody can accuse our green-thinking, open and accountable government of planning to ruin an ecologically diverse island smack in the middle of one of Hong Kong's few remaining unspoiled sea vistas. The city is reassuringly building the incinerator - which is set to burn 3,000 tonnes of rubbish a day - 10 metres off its coast.

A few pesky taxpayers keep objecting to the HK$15 billion price tag and continue to call for public consultations. Meanwhile, infinitely patient officials from the department insist that the incinerator will produce zero emissions while adding in the same breath that 'all pollutants will blow over to Cheung Chau'.

It's not that I'm against hare-brained government schemes per se - our civil servants need something to do, after all. But I do object to their total disregard for their job description: civil and servant. They are here to serve the public, not launch attacks on the health of future generations.

Hong Kong hasn't had a waste incinerator since the last one was shut in 1997 due to pollution concerns. Since then, the government has been constantly warning that our landfills are overflowing but doing nothing about it except scattering some recycling bins here and there.

Calls for a 21st-century answer to our waste problem look set to be ignored. And the super-hi-tech solution? Ship it all to an unspoiled island near some tourist attractions and send it up a chimney.