Tuen Mun landfill
Legco's public works subcommittee voted on July 2, 2013, to approve a HK$35 million study of a Tuen Mun landfill expansion in the New Territories. The move has been met with strong opposition from residents, and the district council says Tuen Mun has a disproportionate share of dirty facilities such as power plants and fuel depots. Plans for another landfill, in Ta Kwu Ling, has also been drawn into the controversy. The government withdrew plans for the Tseung Kwan O site amid strong opposition.
Look at waste-to-energy option
The protests over the proposed landfill expansions have further highlighted the need for an independent review of Hong Kong's waste management plan.
The government has recognised the problem, but is not able to present a convincing solution. Its solution, proposed by the last administration, and simply regurgitated by the current one, lacks any credibility and that is why an independent review is necessary.
The waste problem is for everybody in Hong Kong to solve. Any solution that seeks to dump the problem on one sector of the community or in one area is flawed.
Why should Tseung Kwan O residents accept one-third of Hong Kong's total refuse? Why should South Lantau became the new dumping ground just because officials believe the small population will protest less than Tseung Kwan O or Tuen Mun residents?
A waste management policy should not be driven by short- term thinking or by adopting the line of least resistance.
The long-term goal must be to remove the existing landfill nuisance. This is possible over time as landfill waste can be used as fuel for modern waste-to-energy facilities. An independent review and an honest public debate will determine whether modern waste-to-energy incinerators are a health hazard. Technology has progressed a long way in recent years but the failure of government to convince Hong Kong people on this issue has resulted in stalemate - who should we believe?
In parallel with much greater efforts to recycle, and assuming there is a convincing case on the health issue, the government should proceed now with a waste-to-energy incinerator on, or adjacent to, each of the three existing landfills.
In addition, smaller waste-to-energy facilities should be located in other areas, including one for Lantau and the outlying islands, to reduce the transportation of waste and to send the right message that everybody in Hong Kong must be part of the solution.
To mitigate the nuisance, residents close to these facilities should benefit from a 50 per cent reduction in electricity bills. The government has enough money and should use it to encourage solutions, not ever more protests. Waste management is everybody's responsibility. No more nimby (not in my backyard) thinking - it is time for concerted action by all.
It is time for the government, our legislators and district councils to face the problem and show true leadership in agreeing a solution acceptable to Hong Kong people.
G. Chan, Sai Wan Ho