Incinerator row - officials gave in to political pressure

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 4:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 4:01am

I refer to the letter from Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection ("Shek Kwu Chau chosen as the site for incinerator after exhaustive process", January 18) in reply to my letter ("Shek Kwu Chau is the worst site to build a new mega incinerator", December 29).

Just like the Environmental Protection Department, Mr Au issued highly selective information to justify siting the incinerator in Shek Kwu Chau instead of Tsang Tsui in Tuen Mun, omitting facts that do not support its decision, and ignoring questions when asked.

Mr Au did not respond to my pointing out that he gave the exact opposite answer to what his department's commissioned consultant report said on the cumulative impact on air quality and health in Tsang Tsui if an incinerator is located there.

In the department's 25-page report to Legco, the exhaustive process that Mr Au referred to had only four sentences explaining the selection of Shek Kwu Chau after four years of study by two consultants. There was no cost and construction schedule comparison. It did not mention the overwhelming higher rating Tsang Tsui received over Shek Kwu Chau in 12 out of 13 criteria.

The reason that the department gave - balanced distribution of waste treatment - is disingenuous. At no time from 2007-2010 was this mentioned. It appeared for the first time when the department presented its recommendation to Legco in February 2011. If it were so important, it would have been identified from the very beginning.

The fact is, the department was driven by political pressure from the Tuen Mun community.

When the first consultant report was published in January 2008, giving Tsang Tsui higher overall merit than Shek Kwu Chau, Lau Wong-fat, district councillor for Tuen Mun, was quoted as saying that the incinerator should be placed elsewhere since Tuen Mun has many waste treatment facilities already. The department tried in vain in 2008 to convince the Tuen Mun community, having 12 meetings with them in 2008 versus only five with the Islands District Council community. Losing that battle, the department began to advocate Shek Kwu Chau in 2009.

The environment secretary, Wong Kam-sing, declared during a recent public "consultation" in Cheung Chau that there is only one choice for Hong Kong - a polluting mega-incinerator based on sunset technology in the pristine natural environment of Shek Kwu Chau. There is no going back, he said. Some consultation, some choice.

Tom Yam, Lantau