Waste-management alternatives to glorified bonfire given short shrift
I found it interesting that Professor Poon Chi-sun, director of Polytechnic University's research centre for environmental technology and management, has remarked of the waste incinerator issue that the current discussion by lawmakers 'has become politicised' and is 'not rational' ('Two ways to burn our trash, both with flaws', April 22).
This follows legislators' refusal to support the incinerator plan, and the Environment Bureau's withdrawal of its funding request. Yet the issue has long been politicised and irrational.
In 2005, an incinerator was proposed as part of a comprehensive waste strategy introduced by the government. Though the strategy appeared rational, politics soon led to proposals being watered down or sidelined until incineration emerged as pivotal for the city's waste management.
A proposed mega-incinerator was given the fancy-sounding title of 'integrated waste management facility', even though it was not integrated and would be little but a glorified bonfire. Incredibly, a site selection process led to the preferred location being an artificial island to be built beside Shek Kwu Chau, in a beautiful coastal location that's a prime site for the globally endangered finless porpoise.
Various reasons were given, among the more ludicrous being that the incinerator island would boost local tourism. Yet the real reason for preferring Shek Kwu Chau was surely political: there's no nearby major population centre with people who might protest.
A rational debate over the incinerator would surely involve the Environment Bureau and its consultant giving a balanced view of the pros and cons of the project.
Instead, information has been more akin to propaganda, with incineration touted as being near perfect - even though cases worldwide show there are abundant problems, including poisonous emissions and toxic ash - and alternatives derided or dismissed out of hand.
Plasma gasification is among these alternatives. It has been left to incinerator opponents to uncover information on this and other options.
Sadly, even waste 'experts' receiving government funding have been far from immune from politicization, seeming too prone to support the incineration-focused policy under Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and too ready to downplay or provide disinformation about ways to treat trash without primitive bonfires.
Martin Williams, director, Hong Kong Outdoors