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Updated: Vocal Opponents Pack Public Meeting On Proposed Super-Incinerator

i Nov 27th No Comments by

UPDATED WITH ADDITIONAL QUOTES, PHOTOS, DETAIL

  • Accuse government of “hardselling” project rather than listening to objections
  • Slam “Done Deal” on site choice
  • Abhor choice of toxins-emitting technology over safer, modern versions

Click on PUBLIC MEETING TAB for story

{tab=Public Meeting; Nov 25, 2011}

UPDATED WITH ADDITIONAL QUOTES, PHOTOS, DETAIL

Lantau resident Bob Bunker of LIM points out the flaws in the EPD’s Super-Incinerator proposal. Photo: Mark Parlett/LIM

A public consultation called by the government which plans to construct a controversial super-incinerator on unspoilt Shek Kwu Chau attracted a vocal and well-organised lobby of opponents to plans to build what they describe as “the world’s most expensive bonfire”.

More than 150 people crammed into a Pui O primary school on Friday evening determined to ensure the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) was left in no doubt whatsoever of the depth of opposition to a 3,000-tonne rubbish-burning facility on the neighbouring island, a lightly inhabited area of outstanding natural beauty.

Spearheaded by members of the Lantau-based Living Islands Movement (LIM), participants argued that incineration should be the last, not the first resort for solving Hong Kong’s waste disposal problem.

“We are very glad that the people finally had their chance to express their concerns about this misguided project,” LIM chairman Louise Preston said.

OUTMODED TOXINS-EMITTING TECHNOLOGY

The incineration technology earmarked by the government is outdated and would give off far more toxic emissions than more up-to-date incinerators fitted with plasma arc furnaces, LIM said.

Elvis Au, EPD

LIM, which led the successful campaign against a decision to build a super-prison on Hei Ling Chau in 2004, accused the government of rushing through the Shek Kwu Chau plan in violation of its own planning and consultation policies, and of failing to conduct a proper cost analysis of the plan.

Residents of Cheung Chau, as well as green groups, environmental activists and ordinary, unaffiliated citizens also oppose the Shek Kwu Chau option.

The EPD team of nine was led by Elvis Au, Assistant Director and P.H. Lui, a Principal Environmental Protection Officer in the EPD. Also present was David Lui, the Regional Managing Director of AECOM, the consultancy company advising the EPD.

A DEAF EAR

Incensed by what she described as the EPD’s determination to “sell” the project rather than truly listen to public opinion, one Lantau resident emptied a bag of local rubbish at Elvis Au’s feet.

PH Lui, EPD.

“We were lied to by the government. That’s why we’re upset. We’ve been tricked and are dis-informed all the time,” said Paul Melsom, a horticulturalist and Lantau resident.

Tempers flared when Au said the EPD would approach the Legislative Council for funds to start dredging at Shek Kwu Chau. Members of the audience accused the government of a done deal in selecting Shek Kwu Chau before completing the requirement to consult public opinion and of starting work early in order to declare a fait accompli.

[Continued below the photo album. Photographs by Mark Parlett of LIM]

Parlett, a resident of Pui O, said he was exasperated by EPD stonewalling.

“We have asked again and again for a proper explanation for why they have chosen SKC when the alternative would take less time to build, would be much cheaper, would not endanger any wildlife nor despoil any beautiful landscape,” he said,

“Today we received the same bland platitudes and obfuscation … when will they [the EPD] finally come out with the truth?”

Campaigners say a range of ash lagoons at an already degraded site in Tsang Tsui, over a hilly range from Tsuen Mun, would be a cheaper, more efficient and logical choice; the necessary infrastructure is already in place at the lagoons, which serve CLP’s Black Point power station.

The Tsang Tsui choice would have an impact on fewer people — the lagoons are shielded by three mountain ranges and are more than six km from the nearest population cluster, Tsuen Mun.

Building a facility at Shek Kwu Chau requires land to be reclaimed from the sea and would cost HK$10 billion more than the Ash Lagoon option. The artificial island eyesore would be located only three km from Cheung Chau, in full view of south Lantau’s hills and beaches and to travellers on the Macau ferries.

A Noisy Meeting

Friday’s consultation was a noisy one, interspersed with chants from the audience and some heckling.

Members of the audience criticised Au and the EPD for failing to provide a translator to facilitate discussion and for the absence of a microphone at first and for failing to make a note of queries and opinions.

WASTING TAX-PAYER DOLLARS

“The Government proposal effectively tips $10 billion of taxpayer money into the South China Sea,” said Preston of LIM. ‘That’s $2,000 per Hong Kong resident. For no apparent good reason.”

A government-commissioned Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, reissued on November 18, declares both Shek Kwu Chau and Tsang Tsui to be “acceptable” sites for the incinerator.

DONE DEAL?

Despite citing the obvious advantages of selecting Tsang Tsui over Shek Kwu Chau, government documentation and plans plumped for Shek Kwu Chau at the earliest stage, suggesting a done deal.

LIM said it would continue to press the EPD for wider and more open public consultations while continuing to demand a more modern and holistic approach to Hong Kong’s waste management challenges.

THE EPD will hold another public consultation on Cheung Chau on Monday, November 28.

 

{tab=Proposed Incinerator Pix}

Picture: Aecom

Renditions of the view of the Shek Kwu Chau Incinerator from four spots on South Lantau: Cheung Sha, Pui O and Tong Fuk beaches and the Lantau Trail.

Click on the slideshow below to view in full-screen mode.

Extracted from Volume 4 – Figures (PDF version) of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report prepared by Aecom for the Hong Kong Government. Each set of pictures shows before (unmitigated) construction, one year and 10 years after construction. The one and 10-year views appear identical.

 

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