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January 7th, 2009:

Officials Snubbed Over Sludge Burner

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP – Updated on Jan 07, 2009

Environment officials were given the cold shoulder by politicians at a meeting of the Tuen Mun District Council yesterday.

Councillors, who are angry over plans to build a sludge incinerator nearby, refused to discuss the issue with the officials and demanded negotiation with them directly on planning matters.

The demands were made in two motions endorsed by the councillors at the meeting to discuss the Nim Wan incinerator and proposed landfill expansion in the district.

One of the motions called on legislators not to approve funding for any facility that caused pollution – including the HK$4.7 billion incinerator – until planning matters were properly addressed by top officials.

“There is neither adequate consultation nor a balanced development plan for Tuen Mun. There is also no compensation to minimise the negative impacts of these dirty facilities,” said district councillor Albert Ho Chun-yan, who is also a Democratic Party legislator.

Other councillors feared that if the sludge incinerator were approved, it would pave the way for the government to build more unpopular facilities in the district.

Ellen Chen Ying-lung, assistant director of environmental protection, said there was no communication breakdown with the councillors.

“This is our job to come here and it is part of the process we must go through. But we also understand their worries and we will continue our dialogue,” she said.

Dr Chen stressed that the incinerator’s impact on air quality would be minimal as it would be separated from the town centre by a mountain ridge and winds would carry emissions away from the town.

The incinerator would burn up to 2,000 tonnes of sludge a day.

Dr Chen said the department was open-minded on ways to green and beautify the incinerator and provide community facilities.

“Perhaps it could be turned into a tourist spot … one that allows people to see the sunset there,” she said.

The department intends to seek funding for the incinerator this year and hopes to start construction next year for completion by 2012.

Unimpressed By Anti-Pollution Measures

Most people unimpressed by anti-pollution measures: poll

SCMP – 7th January 2009

About 80 per cent of people polled by the Democratic Party found government measures to clean up the air either ineffective or only slightly effective. In interviews of more than 500 people from December 29 to Monday by telephone, it was found that only 12 per cent said the measures were effective. Nearly half felt that air pollution was now even worse than in the previous two years. The poll also found that the air-pollution sources needing to be addressed most urgently was transport, followed by cross-boundary emissions and power plants. More than a third of respondents also said schools should be closed at times of serious air pollution.

I Thought It Got Easier To Breathe Back There In August!

James Fallows, The Atlantic – 07 Jan 2009 12:34 pm

As attentive readers may recall, the air in Beijing through the six months before the Olympic games was almost unbelievably horrible. Lest we forget: this was the view out my window in mid-June, which was not that different from how it had been day upon day through the spring and early summer.

But even as I was wheezing my way around town and truly getting depressed by no view of sun and sky (and being told by a doctor that I should stop smoking, when I’d never started), I was reporting in the Atlantic on plans to get things cleaned up by the time of the Olympics. The first two days of the Games looked pretty bleak — but then a line of thunderstorms moved through, and the air looked far better, and the environmental threat to the Games was averted.

Since then, the air in Beijing has seemed better — not all of the time, God knows, but more than before. How much of the improvement is due to factories being shut down because of the recession? (They must have been running 40 hours a day in the spring, given how bad things were then.) How much because of typically strong late-fall winds blowing in from the northwest? How much an actual long-term change? I don’t know.

But, courtesy of a tip from an engineer at NASA, here is new evidence that all the anti-pollution steps taken because of the Olympics really did make a difference in air-quality measures in August — and, it seems, some of the time since then.

The NASA map below will make more sense if you read the full report, here. Highlight version: the deep red west of Shanghai and north of Hong Kong (where Shenzhen and Dongguan are), plus through the central coal-and-factory belt in places like Shanxi province, is a bad sign. The light green around Beijing is relatively good! (The red zone on the coast just east of Beijing is the city of Tianjin.)


As the NASA report says of Beijing’s special Olympic anti-pollution rules:

During the two months when restrictions were in place, the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — a noxious gas resulting from fossil fuel combustion (primarily in cars, trucks, and power plants) — plunged nearly 50 percent. Likewise, levels of carbon monoxide (CO) fell about 20 percent.

Why does this matter? Because it shows that corrective steps can improve even the most hopeless-seeming environmental disasters. It’s worth trying to do something, rather than just hunkering down in bed and trying to take very, very shallow breaths — my strategy in the months from April to July.

In other words, Yes We Can.