I wish to comment on Mr. Ian Brownlee’s article titled “Community has the know-how to tackle Hong Kong’s waste challenges” on Dec 2, 2013.
In Mr. Brownlee’s article, he suggested that the Government should consider two waste management initiatives recently proposed by two local NGOs: adopting plasma gasification and rezoning existing landfill sites for incinerators.
I concur that the Government should give these initiatives some consideration.
Yet on a practical basis, I do not see how these initiatives can be a wiser use of public resources than constructing a large incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau. And most certainly, I do not see how these initiatives could expedite the implementation of proposed incinerator.
For one thing, plasma gasification is an emerging and pricey technology.
The technology has a huge upfront and maintenance cost and has a lengthy payback period. The cost effectiveness of such technology has yet to be proven on a massive scale; hence, many metropolises have yet to pursuit such technology as one of the primary municipal waste treatment strategy.
For another, rezoning sites near existing landfill for incinerator is easier said than to be done.
In 2011, when town planning board (TPB) examined the rezoning Tseung Kwan O Area 137 (a parcel of land next to existing Tseung Kwan O landfill) into landfill and related facilities, more than 10,000 local residents filed their objection against such rezoning. Just to make things worse, some of the local residents even threatened to file an application for judicial review, should the Government decide to carry out TPB’s final rezoning decision.
Ultimately, all these due processes will eventually lead to further delay in the implementation of incinerator and not expedition by at least two years as proclaimed by Mr. Brownlee.
I understand Mr. Brownlee and his fellow NGO friends have a heart of gold. They want to contribute in any possible ways that they can to help the Government in establishing a sustainable approach to Hong Kong’s waste management.
Nonetheless, any new proposal that tries to rationalise the Government’s current waste management strategy should be feasible from a public finance standpoint. And more importantly, it should not attempt to create further conflicts between communities adjacent to the landfill and the Government.
Otherwise, it will only lead to more chatter, further delay in fixing our city’s waste management problems and eventually, waste piling up in every corners of Hong Kong.