Building an incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau could put many drug addicts back on the streets and at increased risk of relapse, the head of one of the city's biggest drug rehabilitation centres says.
Nestled deep in the lush woods of the island, just 20 minutes by ferry from Cheung Chau, is the Shek Kwu Chau Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre.
For more than half a century, some 20,000 drug users in total have battled addiction on the tranquil island at the facility, which offers mock Roman baths, Chinese pavilions and Greek sculptures. The centre is partially funded by the government.
"This island has an element of natural attractiveness," said centre superintendent Patrick Wu Shun-on. "Too bad this is land rented from the government. If we say we don't like it here, we may have to look for somewhere else to move."
If the planned incinerator were to be built on a reclaimed portion of the southern part of the island, Wu said the ensuing noise, light and air pollution would increase patients' stress levels and deter drug users from seeking help at the facility.
"The distance from some of the dormitories to the proposed site [of the incinerator] is less than a few kilometres. The construction of five to six years will be very hard for us," he said. "Many patients suffer from insomnia and often sleep during the day, when construction would be in progress". The facility is currently home to 210 patients.
The expansion of three landfills and construction of the moving-grate system that converts waste to energy on the island won approval from the Legco environmental affairs panel last month despite opposition from residents of nearby islands.
The plans must now be approved by the Legco public works subcommittee later this month before funding approval is sought from the Finance Committee.