Top officials were still seeking support yesterday from lawmakers for plans to expand rubbish dumps, despite the announcement of measures aimed at easing opposition.
About a third of the members of Legco's public works subcommittee remained undecided on the plans ahead of a vote on Wednesday, while the rest have either taken sides opposing or backing them.
If the plans are endorsed by the subcommittee, they stand a better chance of being approved by the council's Finance Committee when the government seeks funds later.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor admitted that after two weeks of lobbying the government had yet to secure enough votes for the plans to expand the three sites, in particular the Tseung Kwan O landfill, as it is closer to people's homes.
She called on lawmakers and district politicians to support the plan under the principle of "shared responsibility and differential care".
Lam said: "At the end of the day … I hope that we will all give support to the three landfills because they are all needed … to enable us to tackle, jointly, the issue of waste management in Hong Kong."
The government says the expansions are needed to stave off a waste-management crisis until it completes a planned incinerator - itself a controversial project - in 2023.
Of 31 lawmakers on the subcommittee, 11 from the pan-democratic camp and the Liberal Party are expected to vote against expansion of the rapidly filling landfills, while only seven, mostly from functional constituencies, are likely to support it.
Eleven lawmakers - mainly from the Federation of Trade Unions and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong - either said they were undecided or inclined to oppose the plan. Subcommittee chairman Chan Kam-lam is unlikely to vote, while Elizabeth Quat will not be in Hong Kong.
As part of the "sweetening" measures, Lam said she would take over the leadership of a working group set up with Tuen Mun district council from Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai.
The group is looking at a set of proposals and demands from Tuen Mun district, which is the site of one of the three landfills.
Lam said she did not regard the proposals as compensation because she did not think it was a time for making deals. "But under the precondition of sharing responsibilities, some districts have borne more than others, so if they have demands about leisure, cultural and transport [improvements], we will consider them seriously," the chief secretary said.
The government plans to seek about HK$9 billion to expand the Tseung Kwan O and Ta Kwu Ling landfills by 13 and 70 hectares respectively. Another HK$35 million will be sought for a feasibility study for the 200-hectare Tuen Mun landfill extension, which would cost HK$9 billion to build.
To win support for the Tseung Kwan O plan, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing promised to spend HK$10 million subsidising 300 rubbish truck operators to install anti-leakage devices and additional covers. Trucks without them will be banned from landfills.