Funding call for waste burner
Cheung Chi-fai, Peter So and Tanna Chong
The environment minister is in last-ditch lobbying to reverse opposition to his bureau's request for HK$15 billion to build a waste incinerator - a plan about which even pro-government lawmakers have reservations.
Edward Yau Tang-wah (pictured) has been working hard over the past two days - ahead of a meeting of the Legislative Council's environment panel tomorrow - to convince lawmakers that the HK$15 billion facility off Shek Kwu Chau is essential.
The panel meeting is crucial to a decision whether the funding requests will go to the public works subcommittee as scheduled in May and the finance committee in June.
Yau also plans to seek HK$8.3 billion for landfill extensions in Tseung Kwan O and Ta Kwu Ling, and HK$33 million for a feasibility study on expansion of another in Tuen Mun.
If the requests are delayed or rejected, the decade-long debate on the incinerator could go back to square one after the election of the new legislature in September. Further doubts have been cast by a pledge by chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying, before his election, to review the role of incineration.
The incinerator is due to open in 2018, by which time all the landfills, without extensions, will have run out of space.
While Yau says Leung has not deviated from the direction of the current administration, the pan-democrats, citing the next leader's remarks, doubt the continuity of the present waste policy.
'It doesn't make any sense [going ahead] if the next chief executive says we don't need an incinerator,' Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said. Party members met senior environment officials on Tuesday but were unhappy with the responses on site selection, safety and emissions standards, and waste separation and reduction policies.
The Democratic Party's Lee Wing-tat said he doubted that incineration was a desirable way to resolve the waste problem.
Even the pro-government Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, which met Yau last night, had reservations.
'The incinerator might be a necessary evil but it should not be considered until waste reduction at source is adequately done,' said the party's spokesman on environmental affairs, Gary Chan Hak-kan.
Lawmaker Ip Wai-ming, from the Federation of Trade Unions, plans to abstain from voting on the issue, saying the union group believed officials had misplaced priorities on waste strategy.
The only party that supports waste burning is the Liberals. But the party, with three votes, will not support landfill extensions, its leader Miriam Lau Kin-yee said.
Asked if Leung favoured the funding request, a spokeswoman for the Chief Executive-Elect's office only said they were having 'ongoing communication' with the current Chief Executive's Office on various issues.