Hong Kong could be overwhelmed with rubbish by the end of this decade, warns minister

Legislators refuse to back minister's renewed push for funding for incinerator despite dire warning that city will be swamped by rubbish

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 4:16am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 October, 2016, 9:07am

Hong Kong could be overwhelmed with rubbish by the end of this decade, the environment minister warned yesterday in another bid to win over lawmakers refusing to back construction of an incinerator and expansion of a landfill.

"It is an urgent issue and action is needed now," Wong Kam-sing said.

The environment secretary was lobbying members of the Legislative Council environmental affairs panel to support an HK$18.2 billion incinerator on a man-made islet off Shek Kwu Chau and expansion of the Tseung Kwan O landfill.

The panel declined to endorse the plans and said it would hold hearings late next month to gauge public views.

Wong said the city's three landfills would be full in five to six years and there would be nowhere to dump the rubbish.

He said cities worldwide were using incineration to dispose of rubbish and it could reduce Hong Kong's waste by 90 per cent, with the ash being dumped in landfills.

But opposition legislators remained unconvinced. Some asked the government to do more to tackle waste at source first, while others wanted the incinerator project put on hold until a court appeal was settled.

A resident of Cheung Chau, near the proposed incinerator site, lost his case against the project last July, but his appeal is scheduled to be heard in early June.

Officials maintained there was no court order prohibiting the project, and it would serve the best interests of Hong Kong to seek funding approval now.

NeoDemocrat Gary Fan Kwok-wai agreed incineration was an effective waste treatment but feared the government would drag its feet on tackling waste at source if the incinerator was given the go-ahead.

Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, of the Civic Party, criticised Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for breaking his election campaign promise that incineration would be used as a last resort.

Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, said it was difficult to support the incinerator before the court case was settled. "What if the government loses?" he asked.

Officials, meanwhile, said waste-water lagoons at landfills now had double liners after a leak at the Ta Kwu Ling tip in July. Checks had been stepped up.