Lai See

Is the new generation of incinerators really safe?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 4:22am

We were disturbed to come across a report that India's flagship incinerator in Delhi appears to be creating hazardous air quality conditions in the surrounding area.

The Timarpur-Okhla plant is India's only integrated waste management project, and it processes municipal solid waste, or MSW, from which it produces electricity. It handles 1,300 tonnes a day and aims to process a third of Delhi's MSW.

Our interest arises out of the Hong Kong government's plans for dealing with MSW. The last administration's "solution" was to build a 3,000-tonnes-a-day monster at Shek Kwu Chau island at a cost of about HK$28 billion. This has, for the moment, been shelved. The new generation of incinerators has been hailed as a substantial improvement over their predecessors, as the discharge of dioxins, suspended particles and organic pollutants was greatly reduced through high-temperature burning at over 850 degrees Celsius, air-cleaning systems and other improvements. They are widely used in Germany and Japan.

However, despite the claims made for these new incinerators, complaints continue, with some relatively new incinerators being closed down on environmental grounds.

Air samples taken from around the Delhi plant were analysed by Chester LabNet and the Chennai-based Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, and showed levels of PM2.5 many times higher than World Health Organisation guidelines.

Plant officials said the exercise was unscientific, adding: "Stack emissions have been slightly higher than permitted on a few occasions due to quality of waste burnt on that day." This is a new plant which has been running for just over a year and was built to be "environmentally safe".

It is because of concerns such as these that there will be considerable interest in the International Conference on Solid Waste, subtitled "Innovation in Technology and Management", which is being held in Hong Kong next week at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. It includes a public forum on Tuesday at 5pm in room S421 on the subject of "Thermal technology waste management in metropolises", with a panel of experts.


US troops use Chinese satellite

The Pentagon has found itself in the interesting position of having to pay a mainland satellite firm for bandwidth on the recently launched Apstar-7 satellite so that its troops operating in Africa can communicate.

The Apstar-7 is owned and operated by a subsidiary of state-controlled China Satellite Communication, and is chaired by the son of former premier Wen Jiabao.

The US military is so short of bandwidth that it had no choice but to lease from the mainland for US$10 million a year, Wired magazine reports.

No satellite firm, it appears, provides the continent-wide coverage that the military requires. The Pentagon says that its communications are heavily encrypted, but US policymakers have in the past voiced concerns that too much sensitive American data passes through Chinese electronics which conceivably could be accessed by mainland intelligence services. Indeed, mainland telecommunications companies such as Huawei have been accused of being subcontractors for Beijing's spymasters.

Last year, for the first time, China launched more rockets into space than the US.


Should Hong Kong worry?

Should Hong Kong be worried by the emergence of Singapore as a glamorous banker's playground? An article on the website eFinancial Careers extols the attractions of Singapore, its casino, museums, theatres, and Formula 1 Grand Prix. Virginia Brumby, director of Survival Chic, a lifestyle members group for executives in Singapore told the website, "People will move here for their careers, but the decision to stay is definitely affected by the quality of the lifestyle."

Meanwhile, Tony Latimer, an executive coach at the Asia-Pacific Corporate Coach Institute in Singapore, rhapsodises about the bars in the Marina Bay Financial Centre: "They can enjoy amazing views of the bay and watch the setting sun glinting off the casino. Compare that to drinking at roadside bars in Hong Kong, along dirty, traffic-laden back-streets, sucking in the fumes of buses and taxis."


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