I refer to the article by Edwin Lau Che-feng, of Friends of the Earth ('Costly incinerator will be a waste of money', April 2).
Based on the most recent studies, the estimated cost of building the first phase of integrated waste management facilities on an artificial island near Shek Kwu Chau is HK$14.96 billion in money- of-the-day prices, or HK$11.38 billion in September 2011 prices. The figure of HK$4 billion quoted in the article was a very preliminary estimate based on the information gathered around 2002-3, in the absence of detailed studies. As with other infrastructure projects, the actual cost estimation could only be made on the basis of the findings in the engineering studies and environmental impact assessment. Construction and material prices increased significantly from 2002 to 2011. Another cost factor is the stringent environmental requirements for achieving high environmental performance. The facilities will meet the most stringent international standards. Additional measures will also be incorporated to further reduce the impacts.
The estimated capital cost of building the facilities at Tsang Tsui is about HK$9 billion in September 2011 prices. The difference in the capital cost between the two sites is $2.4 billion (September 2011 prices) and relates to the costs of, for example, reclamation works, berths and breakwaters and submarine cables. With a capital cost of about HK$9 billion, the cost of building integrated waste management facilities near Shek Kwu Chau is comparable to that of other plants in Europe, such as the one in Amsterdam, that process about 2,400 tonnes per day (a fifth less than the one near Shek Kwu Chau).
The artificial island near Shek Kwu Chau is chosen because it would ensure a more balanced spatial distribution of waste facilities given that there is already a sludge treatment facility of 2,000 tonnes per day under construction in Tsang Tsui; it is closer to the Island East, Island West and West Kowloon refuse transfer stations; it is located in the downwind side of the prevailing wind; and it has the potential to enhance synergies with neighbouring islands. Like other advanced economies, the modern waste-to-energy plant under the integrated facilities can significantly reduce the waste volume and carbon dioxide emissions and is an indispensable part of the government's multi-pronged strategy to tackle the imminent waste problem.
The Environmental Protection Department is committed to working with the community to reduce and recycle waste, while taking forward the integrated waste management facilities and other waste projects for Hong Kong.
Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection