Letters to the Editor, August 16, 2014

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 August, 2014, 2:44am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 August, 2014, 2:44am

Incinerator figures don't add up

Elvis Au ("Incinerator will adopt proven, cost-effective technology on island", August 5) continues to weave his tangled web of half-truths.

He revealed that of the HK$18.2 billion requested for the project, HK$12.7 billion is to build the incinerator and HK$5.5 billion (30 per cent of the total cost) to build infrastructure on Shek Kwu Chau.

So we will pay an extra HK$5.5 billion because vested interests do not want the incinerator built near the Tuen Mun landfill, which is the logical site.

The "balanced distribution of waste facilities" Au cites as the reason for selecting Shek Kwu Chau was never raised by the Environmental Protection Department from 2004 to 2010.

It surfaced only in 2011 after Lau Wong-fat, chairman of Tuen Mun District Council, objected to putting the incinerator in Tuen Mun.

The department then created the "balanced distribution" criterion to justify Shek Kwu Chau.

Getting approval for another site takes no more time than obtaining it for Shek Kwu Chau, that is, one year from April 2011 to April 2012.

On the capital cost, Au provides selective data.

A survey of all incinerators constructed shows that economies of scale lead to lower per-tonne capital cost the larger the capacity. Au chose Denmark's lower-capacity 1,100 tonnes per day incinerator costing HK$4.27 million per tonne to compare to his proposed high-capacity 3,000 tonnes per day incinerator costing HK$4.25 million per tonne.

This is like comparing the per passenger cost of a bus to a Rolls Royce.

An honest comparison is with the per-tonne cost of high-capacity incinerators.

These include - the 2,300 tonnes per day facility in Runcorn, Cheshire, UK, at HK$2 million per tonne; the Afval Energie Bedrijf Waste Fired Power Plant in Holland with 3,800 tonnes per day capacity at HK$1.1 million per tonne; the 3,000 tonnes per day facility in Beijing at HK$1 million per tonne; the 1,600 tonnes per day facility in Riverside, Kent, UK, at HK$2.6 million per tonne.

Nor did Au mention the 1,000 tonnes per day incinerators in Finland, China, England, South Korea and Azerbaijan costing less than HK$3 million per tonne.

The 1,000 tonnes per day plasma gasification plant in Teesside, England, cost HK$3.1 million per tonne, paid by the operator.

If approved by the Legislative Council's Finance Committee in October, Au's Rolls Royce incinerator will cost between 100 per cent and 300 per cent more than similar capacity incinerators in the world.

Dr Tom Yam, Lantau


Israel can call Hamas' bluff over blockade

The earlier failure to achieve a new and lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was not surprising.

For Hamas to demand the complete lifting of the blockade without demilitarising Gaza is a pipe dream; no Israeli prime minster will ever agree to ease the blockade, let alone lift it altogether, and give Hamas the time and resources to rebuild its rocket inventory and tunnels.

Israel, on the other hand, cannot continue to enforce the blockade and expect Hamas and the Palestinians to accept that with equanimity.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can win huge international support by calling Hamas' bluff and offer to lift the blockade completely and allow the Palestinians to build a seaport and airport, provided that Hamas agrees to demilitarise Gaza and openly forsake violence.

Netanyahu should offer to implement the agreement in a number of phases, over a period of four to five years, based on predetermined reciprocal phases to allow for confidence building.

Any ceasefire, however long, will simply not work unless it has these clear objectives; otherwise, it will be only a prelude to the next round of fighting.

If Hamas is really concerned about the future well-being of the Palestinians in Gaza, it will have no reason not to accept such an offer. But if Hamas remains committed to the destruction of Israel and is willing to sacrifice Palestinian men, women and children to achieve its elusive dream, then it will reject the offer.

It is time for both Netanyahu and Hamas leaders to face the truth and show their true intentions as neither can have it both ways.

Alon Ben-Meir, senior fellow, centre for global affairs, New York University, US


Sacked helpers face visa dilemma

I refer to the report ("New maid sources a work in progress", August 10). This story gives only one side of the picture, that of foreign domestic helpers who leave of their own volition.

In my work as a volunteer with NGOs, I have come across an equal number of helpers who want to stay and work in Hong Kong in spite of the travails they face at their workplace, some of which are highlighted in the PostMagazine story ("Maid to pay", August 10).

The fact is, most times the helper's contract is summarily terminated by the employer and the helper has to leave as their visa to continue to live in Hong Kong ends 14 days after the termination.

The employment agencies, which recruited them in their home country and brought them to work in a foreign environment, should be looking after their interests, but most of the time are not interested in even listening to the helpers' problems.

I have yet to come across an agency that collects only 10 per cent of the first month's salary as agency fees from helpers (institutions run by NGOs trying to fight the pernicious practice of high fees excepted). I know at least one Bangladeshi helper whose contract was terminated by her employer only two months after she arrived in Hong Kong.

In Bangladesh she paid 126,000 taka as agency fees plus another 33,000 taka for passport and medical fees to the same agency (a total of about HK$15,000). Today she is in debt and without a job.

She would love to stay on and continue to work in Hong Kong, but will be required to leave very shortly unless she finds another employer.

Armin Kalyanram, Pok Fu Lam


Chek Lap Kok needs gates, not runway

On the afternoon of August 6, I arrived at Chek Lap Kok on BA27 from London Heathrow and we were parked at a remote site on the airport apron, which required a coach trip to the terminal.

If the airport cannot handle the flights currently landing, why do we need a third runway? Surely we need more terminals and gates.

Are we looking forward to the good old days of Kai Tak?

Ian R. A. Brown, Lamma


PRD airport integration key to efficiency

We have been hearing more doomsday warnings that Hong Kong is finished unless we build a third runway at Chek Lap Kok.

The cost estimate was HK$136 billion in 2011, and later soared to HK$200 billion. I have heard of even higher sums.

Proponents of a third runway all have vested interests. The Airport Authority collects charges for every landing and take-off, regardless if planes are full.

Studies to support the need for a third runway have all been sponsored by the authority.

Previous correspondents have called for an independent study by a group like the Bauhinia Foundation to see if there is a real need for the runway, but these calls have been ignored.

There are five airports within 150 kilometres of Hong Kong. Integration with the Pearl River Delta airports is the key to improving efficiency.

Better liaison with mainland air-traffic control could provide more slots under the present system. Wide-bodied aircraft should be encouraged.

Small-aircraft traffic between third- and fourth-tier mainland cities should be handled by the airports in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and even Macau, which are all under-utilised.

Cargo originating from the Pearl River Delta should be loaded onto planes in Shenzhen and Guangzhou and carried by mainland airlines. This is better than having smoke-belching trucks haul the goods from the delta region to Chek Lap Kok and onto Cathay Pacific's cargo planes.

The money for the third runway could be better spent on building more hospitals and schools in Hong Kong. It could also be used as seed money to start a universal retirement fund.

F. Wong, Mong Kok


Speed controls needed now on Sai Kung roads

For the last three years, Friends of Sai Kung and Sai Kung Buffalo Watch have pushed for better speed control measures. Their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

In 2011 the Transport Department, in reply to a letter, said that the "mentioned road sections" in Sai Kung "did not meet the criteria" for installing speed enforcement cameras. What will it take for cameras to be installed - more human deaths or animals mowed down for simply existing in spaces we destroy with rampant development?

There have been reports of hikers clipped by wing mirrors from speeding taxis, near-misses at pedestrian crossings, and speeding minibuses.

Enough is enough. Tai Mong Tsai and Sai Sha roads need fixed speed reduction measures and the poor excuses for not installing them are ridiculous.

Karina O'Carroll, Sai Kung