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January 4th, 2012:

Javelin Park Investigation – UK plant filters ‘let particulates through’

10:20am Wednesday 4th January 2012

By Chris Warne

STRICT regulations forbidding the emission of tiny particles from incinerators are needed to safeguard public health, warns Dr Dick van Steenis.

Ultrafine PM1 and PM2.5 particulates which are released when waste is incinerated are causing premature infant and child deaths, he believes.

Dr van Steenis also claims these particles, which are small enough to be inhaled by humans, are linked to a host of other adverse health effects, including birth defects, childhood cancers, respiratory illnesses and heart attacks.

In evidence submitted to a House of Commons select committee in May last year, Dr van Steenissaid the Environment Agency had admitted that 90 percent of PM1s and 35 per cent of PM2.5s escape through filters installed in UK incinerators.

This, the retired GP claimed, meant that UK incinerators were emitting somewhere between 40 to 120 times more particulates than those in Finland or Sweden, where air quality regulations are tighter.

In his submission to the Environmental Audit Committee, Dr van Steenis also criticised the Health Protection Agency for failing to examine data at ward level, which would allow the HPA to assess the health impact of incinerator fumes.

The HPA has so far refused to look at ONS figures despite it being recommended by the World Health Organisation, he said.

GLOSVAIN protesters and Lib Dem county councillors have been calling on Gloucestershire County Council to consider a mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plant as an alternative to the Javelin Park incinerator.

However, Dr van Steenis is equally opposed to that option on the grounds that a large amount of leftover waste from MBT plants still has to be incinerated or put into landfill.

“What we should be looking at are plasma arc gasification plants because they break everything down into atoms,” he said.

Dr van Steenis believes plasma arc gasification plants are the safest and most environmentally friendly option and are capable of generating more energy from waste than incinerators.

© Copyright 2001-2012 Newsquest Media Group

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Download PDF : Incinerator HPA Response

Future sites for reclamation unveiled

South China Morning Post – Jan. 4, 2012

The government on Wednesday proposed 25 reclamation sites around the coast of Hong Kong as part of efforts to increase the amount of land available for building.

The sites, which include the outlying islands of Cheung Chau, Hei Ling Chau and Lamma, could provide 1,500 hectares of artificial land, the government said.

The location of the sites was released on Wednesday, a month and a half after the start of a public consultation on ways to increase the land supply, which will end in February.

A Development Bureau official said the sites listed were only possibilities put forward for public debate.

Robin Li Kui-biu, a chief engineer in charge of harbour projects, said the sites were examples provided to assist discussion on the criteria for selecting sites, if reclamation outside Victoria Harbour was accepted as an option to increase land supply in the long term.

The consultation asks the public if they agree with eight proposed criteria for site selection, including; whether a project meets local needs, its environmental impact, and cost effectiveness.

No reclamation is proposed within the much-shrunken but now protected Victoria Harbour, or in Hong Kong’s marine parks.

Today’s list does include five sites in Tolo Harbour, two in Silver Mine Bay on Lantau Island, one in Sandy Bay on Hong Kong Island and several in Tuen Mun.

Other large reclamation sites on the list are at Beaufort Island, Peng Chau, Siu Ho Wan, southwest Tsing Yi and Lung Kwu Tang.

The government wants to create enough land to build 40,000 flats a year. It has said that, as well as providing land, reclamation would be a ‘green’ way to dispose of construction fill, much of which is now shipped to the mainland.

But environmentalists want the government to consider methods other than reclamation.

The chief executive of environmental watchdog Green Power, Man Chi-sum, said in November – when the consultation was launched – that priority should always be given to using abandoned or abused land in the New Territories.

Press Invitation

(with effect from 1 January 2011 for two years)

Mr. TSANG Kam-lam, J.P. (Chairman)     General Manager of HKPC Environment and Product Innovation Lab

Environmental Impact Assessment Subcommittee  Membership List
Professor CHAU Kwai-cheong, J.P. (Deputy Chairman)
Ms. AU Pui-yee, Teresa
Dr. CHAN YUEN Tak-fai, Dorothy, B.B.S.
Professor FUNG Tung
Ms. HO Siu-fong, Betty
Mr. LAU Che-feng, Edwin, M.H.
Professor LEE Hun-wei, Joseph
Professor LI Xiang-dong
Dr. LO Wai-kwok, B.B.S., M.H., J.P.
Dr. MAN Chi-sum, J.P.
Miss NG Yuen-ting, Yolanda
Mr. WONG Ka-wo, Simon, J.P.
Dr. YAU Wing-kwong
Dr. YEP Kin-man, Ray

Please read the news from Oriental Daily today :

It says the chair of EIA subcom who works in HKPC, and HKPC has got a work contract with EPD to measure the air quality around SKC after the first round of EIA meetings for the incinerator.  So you may wonder why the chair of EIA subcom did not declare potential conflict of interest before the EIA meeting on 5 Dec and on 30 Dec (even this is the second round to review the the same EIA of incinerator).   There was another member who has declared potential conflict of interest in the EIA and ACE meetings, and she was advised to excuse herself from the meetings.

東方日報 2012-01-04





太陽報 2012-01-04

通過石鼓洲環評 曾錦林疑利益衝突




Tsang is breaking his tax cut pledge at the very worst time

SCMP – another broken promise from a Colonial era bureaucrat used to taking orders rather than making them

The chief executive’s back-pedalling on a vow to lower the city’s profits tax makes no sense when the government is running surpluses and sitting on huge reserves

It looks as if Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is going to renege on his promise to cut corporate taxes just when a tax cut is most affordable and exactly when it could do Hong Kong the most good.

It seems a long time ago now, but back in 2007 ahead of his re-election as chief executive, Tsang promised to cut the city’s profit tax rate to 15 per cent.

“If there’s economic growth, the chance of having tax cuts … is much higher,” he said at the time.

Since then Hong Kong has enjoyed growth, strong growth. Assuming the city’s economic output grew 5 per cent last year in line with the government’s November forecast, Hong Kong will have clocked up an average annual growth rate of 3.6 per cent in the five years since Tsang made his promise.

That might not sound much, but 3.6 per cent counts as rapid growth for an economy as developed as Hong Kong. And when you consider that the last five years have seen the worst global financial crisis and economic slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s, then by any reasonable measure Hong Kong’s economy has been steaming ahead at full speed.

But although Tsang did reduce the profits tax from 17.5 per cent to 16.5 per cent in 2008, it now looks as if he is going to welsh on his promise to cut the rate further to 15 per cent before he steps down in June.

“It’s hard to meet my vow to cut corporate tax,” he said in a radio interview yesterday. “We may see the emergence of a worldwide recession. So it’s hard to have room to do such a thing right now.”

His reasoning reveals an economic rationale so contorted, it is hard to believe Tsang was once reckoned one of Hong Kong’s stronger financial secretaries.

Sure, in Western Europe or the United States, the prospect of a recession makes it harder for governments to cut taxes. That’s because in a recession the unemployment rate rises, pushing up the cost of government welfare payments even as the overall tax take falls because of slowing activity.

As a result, government deficits soar. Tax cuts would only exacerbate the problem, pushing debt levels even higher.

But Hong Kong is an altogether different kettle of fish. The city is entering this downturn with what most developed economies would consider full employment. The government has few social security obligations; welfare payments make up a negligible portion of its expenditure. And it is not running a deficit, but a handsome surplus.

As the first chart shows, Hong Kong has consistently run budget surpluses for the last seven years. And according to accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers, it will turn in another for the financial year ending this March, recording an estimated surplus of HK$30 billion.

What’s more, the government has plenty of fiscal firepower in reserve. As the second chart shows, at the end of November it boasted accumulated fiscal reserves of HK$617 billion. Added to the exchange fund’s accumulated surplus of HK$567 billion, that means there is a whopping HK$1.2 trillion of spare cash in the kitty.

So it’s hard to see why Tsang thinks there’s no room for a tax cut right now. In fact, with plentiful reserves and a global slowdown looming, this is exactly the time that the Hong Kong government should be considering a little counter-cyclical tax reduction to stimulate economic activity.

It would be little, too. Last year the government collected HK$93 billion in profit tax. A reduction in the rate from 16.5 to 15 per cent would have reduced that take by roughly HK$8.5 billion, or just 2.2 per cent of overall revenues, barely enough to dent the budget surplus.

Granted, in a downturn a cut in corporate taxes coupled with the likely slump in property-related revenues could push the government’s budget into deficit.

But, as we’ve seen the government can afford to go into the red for a while and a downturn is exactly the time when it should be running a deficit.

A reduction in the profit tax in next month’s budget would boost business confidence, support economic activity and enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness.

It’s what the city needs. Tsang should keep his promise.

Shenzhen ‘wants to kill’ HK factories

South China Morning Post – Jan 4, 2012

Of course Hong Kong still needs a third runway to handle the dwindling exports from the PRD ?

Manufacturers angered by the decision to implement pay rise next month, after municipal authorities had earlier offered to shelve any increase

Shenzhen’s minimum wage will rise from next month, ending a one-month delay to the increase rather than a year-long grace period that angry Hong Kong manufacturers had asked the municipal authorities for in December.

Manufacturers received government notices on Monday that the minimum wage will jump 13.6 per cent to 1,500 yuan (HK$1,850) on February 1, the second rise in 10 months and the highest minimum wage in the nation.

Major trade body representatives said they were disappointed at the special economic zone’s decision, especially since officials had earlier offered to shelve the pay rise.

Pauline Ngan Po-ling, the chairman of the Hong Kong Young Industrialists Council, said the decision effectively ignored manufacturers’ call for a one-year delay due to the escalating euro-zone crisis and poor demand in the United States.

Trade members met Shenzhen government officials and representatives of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong as recently as December 16.

“They assured us by promising to share our burden but two weeks later, they raised wages by almost 14 per cent,” Ngan said. “On the one hand, they say they will help us, on the other hand, they want to kill us.”

Ngan, the deputy chairman of Mainland Headwear, which runs a factory in Shenzhen with about 2,500 workers making caps for export, said the wage rise was ill-timed.

The increase would raise the company’s labour costs by 20 per cent and prompt it to set up its second production base outside the mainland, she said.

Higher wages have exacerbated manufacturers’ recent problems, which range from a credit crunch and dwindling orders to labour shortages and changing industrial policies.

A Grant Thornton survey revealed yesterday that confidence among Hong Kong businesspeople about the next 12 months sank to its lowest in the fourth quarter of last year. Their biggest worries were shrinking orders and profitability as a result of rising finance costs.

“We are disappointed at the sudden pay increase, which came at a very inappropriate time and hit badly our confidence in the prospect of the manufacturing sector,” said Jimmy Kwok Chun-wah, who runs petrochemical plant Rambo Chemicals in Shenzhen and is a deputy chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries. “It looks like Shenzhen is testing how much pressure manufacturers can bear because it is the first and only region in Guangdong to lift minimum pay.”

Federation deputy chairman Stanley Lau Chin-ho said Guangdong provincial vice-governor Zhao Yufang promised last month that the province’s proposed minimum wage would be shelved from January 1, but did not say until when.

“We got this verbal promise during her visit last month, but she did not say when the proposals would be implemented,” Lau said.

After outcries from trade bodies, Guangdong put on hold two proposals that would have lifted the minimum wage by 16 per cent or 17.9 per cent on average.

Last week, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said 24 provincial or regional governments raised minimum wages by an average of 22 per cent in 2011, a year in which labour disputes had sparked protests.

China Labour Bulletin spokesman Geoffrey Crothall said that at the existing levels, the minimum wage could not be considered “a living wage” and workers were still banking on overtime and allowances to make a decent living.

Top officials now remote figures

SCMP letters

Top officials now remote figures

Grenville Cross (“Principled stance”, December 23), Anthony Wong Kin-wai (“Open minds”, December 20) and Albert Cheng King-hon (“Standing still”, December 17) have identified serious and inherent weaknesses in Hong Kong’s governance.

We are supposed to have an accountable, executive-led government, but in truth we have administrative officers leading civil service bureaucrats.

The decline in the number of experienced professionals at the top of government departments (replaced by administrative officers) is a worrying trend.

The ingrained nature of bureaucrats is to avoid decision-making and to avoid criticism, and this results in a culture of inertia.

Conversely, the Hong Kong community encompasses great expertise, fast action and strong motivation situated within a compact location.

Sadly, the administration appears to see itself as a separate entity and the marriage of professional incompetence and arrogance has isolated the executive from this capable community.

The most senior officials have become remote figures to the media, having been exclusively replaced by the ubiquitous “spokesman”.

Public consultation has become purely procedural, and civic society gets fed up with addressing a stone wall.

An illustration of the malfunctioning system is the incinerator planned at Shek Kwu Chau.

The public has given so many valid reasons why this project falls severely short, and yet the government ploughs on regardless with its poorly considered plans, even knocking back a beneficial private sector initiative (Green Island Cement).

A major challenge for the new chief executive will be to engage the expertise of the Hong Kong community at the earliest stage and prior to policies and plans being set in concrete.

Government officials must humbly realise that their own experiences are far more limited than those in the “hurly-burly” of the private sector.

An executive-led system of government can only be effective when it fully meshes with civic society.

I. M. Wright, Happy Valley

Making a hash of dash to ash

SCMP Laisee  4th Jan 2012

The trouble with taking on the government over its decisions is that the merits of the case get lost and it becomes an issue of face. Take the proposed monstrosity that the so-called Environmental Protection Department has planned for the scenic island of Shek Kwu Chau near Lantau. If all goes to plan, the scene of tranquility is to be transformed into a monster incinerator complete with a massive chimney stack. This site somehow received the green light in favour of an area near the landfill site near Tsuen Mun.

The other startling aspect of this scheme is the technology. The government is planning on using old moving-grate technology, which essentially moves the material over a grate and burns it. In the process it creates a noxious chemical cocktail that is either vented from the giant chimney or mixed in with powdery ash that will have to be transported by barge to a dumping ground providing further opportunities for polluting the air en route.

The various bodies involved in making decisions appear to know little about plasma arc technology. Instead of burning the waste, it is vapourised. The resulting gasses are captured instead of being vented and can be used to generate power or to create organic fuels such as ethanol or jet fuel. The solid residue can be broken up and used for making roads.

Not only is this technologically more environmentally friendly but is cheaper than the old technology. However, the government already appears to have decided against it, murmuring that the new technology is untested. But it has been used in Japan since 2002. The Tees Valley in Britain is set to build a substantial waste-to-energy plant using plasma arc technology, as is Ottawa, Canada. Other projects harnessing the technology can be found in Milwaukee, Shanghai and other cities around the world.

At the same time, a team from Imperial College London has been commissioned to carry out a survey on behalf of Britain’s Health Protection Agency after fears emerged about the health risks posed by incinerators, particularly for young children.

This survey was commissioned after alarming discoveries of the higher incidence of infant deaths among those living downwind of a number of incinerators in Britain. These incinerators are of the type being proposed for Hong Kong. Surely Asia’s world city can do better than this?