Rezoning existing landfill sites for incinerator not a good idea

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 December, 2013, 3:44am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 December, 2013, 4:38pm

I refer to Ian Brownlee's article ("Community has the know-how to tackle Hong Kong's waste challenges", December 2).

Mr Brownlee suggested that the government should consider two waste management initiatives recently proposed by two local NGOs, adopting plasma gasification and rezoning existing landfill sites for incinerators.

I agree that the government should give these initiatives some consideration. Yet on a practical basis, I do not see how they can be a wiser use of public resources than constructing a large incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau. And most certainly, I do not see how these initiatives could expedite the implementation of the proposed incinerator.

For one thing, plasma gasification is an emerging and pricey technology.

It has huge upfront and maintenance costs and has a lengthy payback period.

The cost-effectiveness of such technology has yet to be proved on a massive scale. Therefore, many metropolises have yet to pursue it as one of their primary municipal waste treatment strategies.

Regarding rezoning sites near existing landfills for an incinerator, that is easier said than done.

In 2011, when the Town Planning Board looked into rezoning Tseung Kwan O Area 137 (a parcel of land next to the existing landfill) into the landfill and related facilities, more than 10,000 local residents filed their objections against rezoning. Some of them even threatened to file an application for judicial review should the government decide to implement the board's final rezoning decision.

Such legal processes will lead to further delays in the construction of the incinerator and not expedite it by at least two years as Mr Brownlee claims.

I understand that Mr Brownlee and the NGO groups that share his views are well-intentioned.

They want to contribute in any way they can to help the government establish a sustainable strategy for Hong Kong's waste management.

Nonetheless, any new proposal that tries to rationalise the government's current waste management strategy should be feasible from a public finance standpoint. And more importantly, it should not attempt to create further conflicts between the government and those communities adjacent to a landfill.

This will only lead to more disagreements, a greater accumulation of waste throughout Hong Kong and further delay a strategy which fixes our city's waste management problems.

Tim Lo, Tseung Kwan O