A judicial challenge against the government’s plan to build a massive offshore waste incinerator began in the Court of First Instance on Wednesday.
Leung Hon-wai, a resident of Cheung Chau, is mounting the challenge against decisions taken by the Town Planning Board and the director of the Environmental Protection Department, which cleared the path for building the incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau, an island south of Lantau. The island is home to a drug rehabilitation centre with about 300 patients and staff.
Leung’s lawyer, Valentine Yim See-tai, said he would base his challenge on technical grounds. He told the court that the environmental impact assessment report failed to meet requirements specified in a technical memorandum from the government.
Yim said the department failed to explain, as required, the mitigation measures it would adopt to remedy the loss of a 31-hectare marine habitat of high ecological value and home to finless porpoises.
“Our complaint is that the technical memorandum requires that the offsite mitigation measures be made during the environmental impact assessment [stage]; now they say ‘let’s deal with it in the further study’,” he said.
“There should not be another report. It should have been done in the same round.”
Yim acknowledged that the government said it would produce a study on building a proposed marine park, to mitigate the environmental damage, before the construction began on the incinerator. Even so, it fell short of the requirement, he said.
The environmental assessment report should have included the ecological profile and location of the proposed marine park, he said.
On the second technical ground, Yim said the report failed to explain why no alternatives to an incinerator were provided, and to fully study the health impact posed by various different waste disposal technologies.
“It’s no more than stating the conclusion. There is a lack of elaboration,” Yim said. “If they discarded alternatives, they should make it clear so people would know they were discarded.”
“If there is no proper assessment, there could be dire consequences,” Yim said.
The hearing continues before Mr Justice Au Hing-cheung.