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March 27th, 2008:

Proposed Sai Wan MTR Ventilation Shaft

3,000 Sai Wan residents oppose proposed MTR ventilation shaft 

Scarlett Chiang
Updated on Mar 27, 2008 – SCMP

About 3,000 residents in Sai Wan are dissatisfied with a proposed ventilation shaft on the MTR West Island line, saying it would pollute the air and make the road surface hotter.

Hui Kwan-ying, representative of the Hill Road residents, complained to legislators yesterday that the MTR Corporation had not listened to their opinions regarding the proposed ventilation shaft.

“The MTR told us it was impossible to move the ventilation shaft to another area as it would be too far away from the proposed [University of Hong Kong] station,” Ms Hui said.

“We think it is totally possible to move it, but it is just that the rail company is not willing to pay a bit more money.”

She said Hill Road was like a basin and is covered by a flyover, so the air going though the proposed ventilation shaft, which would be located near three apartment blocks, would be trapped and inhaled.

“Whenever there is a construction project, the area around the [project] smells bad,” she said. “If the proposed ventilation shaft goes into service, we will suffer from the polluted air emitted by the shaft from 6am to midnight every day.”

Ventilation shafts are a necessary part of an underground railway system as they provide sufficient air flow for tunnels and stations, according to the MTR Corp.

The West Rail Concern Group said the air flowing out of the ventilation shaft was 3 degrees Celsius hotter than that of the nearby area. Ms Hui, also a spokeswoman for the group, said the shaft would force residents to keep their windows shut at all times.

She added that the shaft, which is the size of a two-storey building, would block Hill Road and cause great inconvenience to passers-by.

The group suggested moving the ventilation shaft to the intersection of Hill Road and Des Voeux Road West, or near the Haking Wong Building on the University of Hong Kong campus.

It suggested installing fans to blow the air farther up the proposed ventilation shaft to exit elsewhere.

However, an MTR Corp spokeswoman said the suggested locations were not feasible as they were about 400 metres from the proposed university station.

“Installing fans is not a viable method of ventilation,” she said. “It is not sustainable, either, because it would waste a lot of energy.”

She said that as the West Island Line was an electric railway, no combustion of fossil fuels were involved.

“The air is not hazardous to humans,” the spokeswoman said. “We hope the residents can accept this, as the line aims to bring them more convenient transport.”

Guangdong Watchdog Backs Refinery Plan

Fiona Tam – SCMP – Updated on Mar 27, 2008

Guangdong environmental authorities say they will not stand in the way of a controversial US$5 billion oil refinery and petrochemical plant in Nansha despite opposition on ecological grounds.

Chen Guangrong, deputy director of the provincial environmental watchdog, said on Tuesday that the provincial authorities supported plans for the Sinopec-Kuwait Petroleum Corporation plant.

Mr Chen said the plant would have “significant strategic meaning” in securing the province’s energy supply and would fit in with Guangdong’s industrial strategy. But he said the Ministry of Environmental Protection had to give the final approval for the plant, a project that would also have a “significant impact on Guangdong’s environment”.

“As far as I know, the plant has not yet obtained the environmental impact assessment approval from the national watchdog, and won’t be allowed to start construction without it,” Mr Chen said.

However, mainland media reported that land requisition for the project had been under way in Nansha, a southern district of Guangzhou, since June.

The Southern Metropolis News suggested the project was proceeding against national regulations that all planned petrochemical projects must have an environmental impact assessment, as well as feedback from the public and experts.

The controversial plant was listed as a priority project in the province’s annual economic and social development programme in January but 14 Guangdong legislators have jointly urged the government to shelve the project because of environmental concerns.

Guangzhou Mayor Zhang Guangning said the government would reduce the plant’s output of pollutants with advanced equipment that met international standards.

“The reason we support this project is it helps control pollution and protect the environment,” Mr Zhang said.

He said the new technology applied at the Nansha plant could cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 80 per cent compared with existing petrochemical plants in Guangzhou.

Meanwhile, Guangdong’s environmental bureau said 14 cities in the province were afflicted with acid rain. In Guangzhou, 80 per cent of its rainfall was acidic. The province’s pollution-reduction efforts were well short of targets.

The Sinopec-Kuwait Petroleum plant, said to be the nation’s biggest joint venture, will emit 6,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide every year in a region that is already notorious for its air pollution.

It is designed to be able to process 15 million tonnes of petroleum and 1 million tonnes of ethylene a year.