Landfill, incinerator plans pass Legco's environmental affairs panel

Government scores rare victory after previous requests to fund waste solution were rebuffed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 1:57pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 March, 2014, 3:08am

Controversial plans to deal with Hong Kong's mountain of waste cleared an early hurdle yesterday.

The expansion of three landfills and construction of an incinerator at an island off Lantau won approval from the Legislative Council's environmental affairs panel.

The plans must now be passed by Legco's public works subcommittee before funding approval is sought from the Finance Committee.

It was a rare victory for the government, which has had previous funding requests rebuffed. The government has argued that the projects are crucial to the city's long-term waste-management plans.

It faced accusations of tyranny yesterday after presenting the four proposals as a package for a single vote.

Lawmakers generally supported construction of the incinerator on reclaimed land at Shek Kwu Chau, a plan opposed by people who live on nearby islands. Pan-democrats, including members of the Democratic Party, NeoDemocrats, and Civic Party, were against the proposal to expand landfills in Tseung Kwan O, Tuen Mun and Ta Kwu Ling.

The panel cleared the plans by nine votes to six with the backing of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Business and Professionals Alliance.

Liberal Party lawmakers were absent and Cyd Ho Sau-lan, of the Labour Party, did not vote because she is the panel's chairwoman.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the bureau would submit its plan to the public works subcommittee next month. He said both the incinerator and the landfill expansions were necessary to manage Hong Kong's waste. All three landfills are projected to be full by 2019 on current trends.

"Many members of the public understand that there is a need for the expansion of the three landfills and the construction of the incinerator, so it's not without public support," Wong said.

Lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah of the Civic Party accused the government of being tyrannical because it had bundled the four plans together.

DAB lawmaker Elizabeth Quat said the government should work on rebuilding trust with residents near the landfills.

Fellow DAB member Gary Chan Hak-kan said the party would monitor how the government was reducing waste and improving the environment in districts with landfills before deciding how it would vote in the public works subcommittee.

Before the meeting, lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai protested outside with Sai Kung district councillors against the expansion of the landfill in Tseung Kwan O. His motion opposing expansion of that landfill was voted down. Another motion against expanding all three landfills was also defeated.