Lawmakers split over controversial HK$20b waste landfill and incinerator plans
Boos from public gallery as lawmakers fail to reach any agreement on 'urgent' proposed landfill extension and incinerator plant
Amid boos from residents, deeply divided lawmakers yesterday delayed a decision on the controversial HK$20 billion proposals for the extension of the Tseung Kwan O landfill and the construction of a waste incinerator plant in Shek Kwu Chau.
The deferral, at the legislature's public works subcommittee, pushes the issue to the next meeting on May 7, despite the two plans being deemed urgent and necessary to the city's sustainability by Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing.
The proposals need the green light from the subcommittee before they can be put before the Finance Committee.
While some Tseung Kwan O residents booed lawmakers who supported the landfill plan, huge rifts among the lawmakers remained unresolved at the close of the session.
The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong supported the proposals.
"It is unrealistic for us to wait until waste reduction efforts bear fruit," said Gary Chan Hak-kan, of the DAB, which had pledged to support the landfill plan if the government introduced effective measures to minimise any impact on the community.
But the pan-democrats stood firm in opposing the two items. Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, of the Civic Party, said he didn't trust the government to give serious consideration to waste recycling and reduction after they gave the green light.
"Will more [landfills or incinerators] be introduced?" Chan asked. "There is a reasonable doubt about this at the moment. We just can't shut our eyes to this and simply support it."
Wu Chi-wai , of the Democratic Party, said his party colleagues would not support the move unless they could see real cross-departmental efforts to boost waste recycling.
Michael Tien Puk-sun , of the New People's Party, said he backed the proposals, but only as long as the government was able to promise that it would move foul-smelling household waste away from the Tseung Kwan O landfill to the proposed organic waste treatment centres - and not dump it in the landfills at Tuen Mun, which lies in his constituency, and Ta Kwu Ling in North District.
Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, of the Labour Party, queried whether the Tseung Kwan O landfill would be truly full by 2015, citing different dates given by officials in recent years.
"It seems there are conflicting figures, which are constantly changing," he said.
However, Chan Ying-lung, assistant director of the Environmental Protection Department, said the department had maximised the use of its landfills and now landfill waste was stacked up to a height of 100 metres at the Tseung Kwan O site.
The committee has previously approved the HK$7 billion Ta Kwu Ling extension and a HK$35 million feasibility study on the Tuen Mun landfill extension.
It was the second time the Tseung Kwan O landfill extension has been before the subcommittee. In 2012, Wong withdrew the same plan amid overwhelming opposition from lawmakers. The incinerator plan, which is still being legally challenged, was officially before the committee for the first time.