Anger at country park landfill plan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2006, 12:00am

Green groups say encroachment into sensitive areas is no answer to the city's waste problem

Green groups yesterday attacked a plan to turn part of Clear Water Bay Country Park into landfill, saying environmental officials should not act to pollute the environment.

There should be no encroachments on country parks, they said, and officials should move faster on waste-recycling measures to prevent further landfill extensions.

'It is outrageous and ridiculous for the environment watchdog to try to dump rubbish in a country park. There is a clear conflict of interest,' Conservancy Association chief executive Lister Cheung Lai-ping said. 'No matter how the consultancy claimed that the area is not environmentally sensitive, it is a matter of principle. Our country parks should be well-protected.

'If they successfully invade our country parks this time, a floodgate will be opened for others to step into our backyard with all sorts of reasons. This is not acceptable.'

The Environmental Protection Department wants to extend the Tseung Kwan O landfill. One of its three options would occupy between 3 and 5.1 hectares of a slope in the country park. The other two options are smaller and would not touch the park.

A consultancy study report said some protected bird species were found in the area, though they are common and widespread in Hong Kong. Two rare butterfly species were also recorded.

The report, obtained by the South China Morning Post, stressed the ecological impact to the country park would be small. It said waste in the urban areas would be transported to the other two landfills in the New Territories when the Tseung Kwan O site was exhausted in 2011 and closed.

About 18 hectares of land in the country park was taken for the landfill when the site was first opened in the early 1990s. Ms Cheung said the green groups would investigate how the original encroachment was allowed.

She said the government should work faster on recycling, dumping charges and building a new incinerator to resolve the city's growing waste problem. 'We do not need a bigger landfill if we can do a better job on these fronts,' she said.

The government last month announced its waste management strategy and proposed to introduce a levy on municipal waste in 2007. An eco-park for recycling industries will be opened later this year.

Authorities are considering incinerators, which would greatly reduce the use of landfills. But no date has been set for any building.

Friends of the Earth director Mei Ng Fong Siu-mei said the government had to act now to tax waste producers. She suspected the proposal to take park land might be a government tactic to pave the way for incineration, 'but both landfills and incinerators are unacceptable to us'.

'This landfill expansion is very bad news for all of us and a very expensive option,' she said. 'We need legislation to tackle the source of pollution and tax waste producers. We should stop encroaching on our countryside.'

Additional reporting by Donald Asprey