Tuen Mun district councillors are refusing to budge on objections to expanding the city's biggest landfill, despite the government's efforts to offer concessions.
At a special meeting with Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing yesterday, councillors said they would continue to object to expansion plans unless the government did more to address the concerns of residents and villagers.
The government has attempted to placate the environmental concerns of Tuen Mun residents with plans including retrofitting rubbish trucks with covers. It has also set up an air-quality monitoring station in the district.
But councillors dismissed the plans as "basic responsibilities", which could not justify an expansion of the 110-hectare West New Territories landfill at Nim Wan.
Wong's ambitious plan to pump HK$1 billion into the recycling industry was also labelled a "diversion".
"Promoting recycling is the sensible thing to do whether there are issues with landfills or not," said Siu Hei councillor Yim Tin-sang. "But coming here and selling us your plans for recycling as a way to reach a compromise on landfill expansion is a mistake."
Sweeteners announced last July to persuade the council to support the plan included the rezoning of a proposed crematorium and increased funding for a footbridge across the Tuen Mun River channel.
Dozens of villagers from Ha Pak Nai and Lung Kwu Tan - both communities straddling the fringes of the landfill - protested outside the municipal building yesterday. They complained that the government makes Tuen Mun receive over three-quarters of the city's waste without considering the health and hygiene impact on the community.
Despite the deadlock, Wong said the Environment Bureau would submit a report on the expansion plan to the Legislative Council's environmental affairs panel next month. He is aiming to table a funding request with the Finance Committee for the expansion of the city's three landfills by the middle of the year.
Wong announced the formation of three public liaison committees in Tuen Mun, aimed at improving dialogue between the public and government on the issue of landfills.
The committees, which residents, villagers and professionals can join, could submit ideas and propose recommendations on landfill management. Affected Shenzhen residents, who have recently petitioned against the landfill expansion, are also free to join, Wong said.
But council chairman Lau Wong-fat warned the government not to go to the committee for funding until a consensus was reached with the district council.
"This will only further deteriorate relations between us [and the government]," said Lau, who is also chief of the powerful Heung Yee Kuk rural body.
The government wants to expand the landfills in Tseung Kwan O, Ta Kwu Ling and Tuen Mun - which are expected to reach capacity by 2019 - until a planned incinerator is ready.