Controversial waste disposal plans including landfill expansion look set to return to the city's agenda, even as residents call for the closure of the Tseung Kwan O rubbish facility.
Undersecretary for the environment Christine Loh Kung-wai yesterday described landfills as a problem left by the previous administration.
"Maybe I am unfortunate; the 'wok' [meaning a big mess] has landed in my lap," Loh said.
"Are there shortcomings in previous [environmental] policies? Maybe yes. The new administration has about five years and we will make a good start [on waste disposal] during this time."
Loh was responding to criticism from a Tseung Kwan O resident that the government had done a poor job in managing waste in the past 15 years.
Another resident also complained about the landfill. "It is so near our homes," said Ng Mei-lan, 61, who lives on the 45th floor of a residential block in Wan Po Road, where dozens of rubbish trucks go past every day on their way to the landfill.
"We breathe in not only stinky air, but also toxic elements from construction waste. The ash [in my home] is terrible and my health has deteriorated two years after I moved here."
The two were among about 100 residents Loh met at the Lohas Park Community Hall after her two-hour visit to the Tseung Kwan O landfill yesterday morning. They called for a complete shutdown of the facility this year.
Loh said it was impossible not to expand the landfill, given the considerable amount of waste generated daily.
The authorities would work on alleviating the problems, including the smell, noise, air pollution and the rubbish trucks. Residents had complained about leaked solid and liquid waste being left on the road, she said.
Loh did not comment on the construction of incinerators as it is subject to judicial review.
"I definitely hear their pain," she said. "But it's extremely difficult at this stage to put aside [plans of] landfill expansion and an incinerator … It's difficult to give up [the two plans]. I personally think we are slow in reducing waste."
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said waste disposal was a long-standing problem and required public consensus to resolve it.
In April, the Environment Bureau abandoned a HK$23 billion plan to expand landfills in Tseung Kwan O, North District and Tuen Mun, and to build a waste incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau, off the southern coast of Lantau, as members of the Legislative Council public works subcommittee and Finance Committee withheld their support. Then-environment minister Edward Yau Tang-wah said new plans were needed before landfills became full in 2018.