Villager kicks up a stink about Tuen Mun's smelly landfill
Stench of rubbish and lack of government action prompts man to challenge environment minister to spend night in blighted settlement
Yuen Long villager To Sik-yu says his nose can detect four distinct types of odour coming from the rubbish tip opposite his home.
The 42-year-old, whose home in Ha Pak Nai village is across the river from the Tuen Mun landfill, said he could differentiate the odours of fresh rubbish, pig waste, sludge and even the bottom layers of the landfill.
Environment officials doubt his claim, but To says he has developed a sensitive nose after 20 years of being a close neighbour to Hong Kong's biggest dump.
"The officials always claim that odour is something subjective," he said, challenging environment minister Wong Kam-sing to spend a night at his home to smell it for himself.
To said that there were times the area smelled like any other in Hong Kong, but that the odour could be "invasive" at other times, especially around dawn and dusk, or when light south-westerly winds blew in summer.
Since 2009, when rubbish began to be piled up at a spot 100 metres from his home, To has filed numerous complaints to the Environmental Protection Department.
Now, the mound is up to 50 metres high, but he said there have been few environmental improvements.
"I was so angry about the smell one time that I told an officer on the phone that I was going to send my mother to a hotel as a temporary respite from the bad smell and would send the invoice to them," he said.
His village, with 200 households and many elderly people, is so well known for landfill pollution that a group of Shenzhen residents visited on Tuesday to learn more about the impact of a landfill extension they also face.
To accused the government of a double standard in not having appointed a special team with electronic monitoring equipment for the Tuen Mun tip, as it did at Tseung Kwan O.
He said the villagers had asked officials for an air-conditioning subsidy and free medical checks for elderly people who had been exposed to the odour for years, but none of the suggestions had been seriously considered.
"We are not ready to make any deals with officials," he said, in reference to the row over a proposed extension to the landfill.
"We have been enduring the landfill for 20 years. It's now time to give us back our dignity and treat us fairly," he said, adding that he did not want to relocate.
Villagers were now more willing to support the democrats than the pro-government Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, which is backing the extension.
"The DAB is digging its own grave," To warned. "It is going to lose our votes."
But he was sympathetic towards the environment minister, who had inherited the situation.
"He should come and stay a night with us to learn more about the smell," he said.