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November, 2012:

Environmental report on Shek Kwu Chau incinerator fell short, court told

Submitted by admin on Nov 15th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Austin Chiu

Environmental impact report failed to meet requirements, court is told

The environmental impact report for a massive offshore waste incinerator failed to meet the requirements of a technical memorandum and a study brief from the government, a court heard yesterday.

Lawyer Valentine Yim See-tai made the assertion in the Court of First Instance as a legal challenge to the HK$23 billion project on Shek Kwu Chau, an island south of Lantau, began.

Yim is representing Leung Hon-wai, 66, a resident of nearby Cheung Chau island, in a judicial review challenging decisions by the Town Planning Board and the director of the Environmental Protection Department, which cleared the way for the incinerator’s construction.

Johnny Mok SC, for the government, said the report had met requirements.

Outside court, Leung said: “My family has been living on Cheung Chau for eight generations. We are particularly worried about the air quality and pollution likely to be caused by the incinerator. It is close to the community. We would have no objection if it was elsewhere.”

Leung is one of four people who lodged a judicial challenge to the project. His was selected to proceed and the other applicants will be bound by the decision.

Yim said that one ground for the challenge was the department’s failure to explain, as required, any measures to remedy the loss of an ecologically important 31-hectare marine habitat, home to finless porpoises.

“Our complaint is that the technical memorandum requires that the offsite mitigation measures be made during the environmental impact assessment; now they say ‘let’s deal with it in the further study’,” he said. “There should not be another report. It should have been done in the same round.”

Yim acknowledged that the government had said it would produce a study on establishing a marine park before construction began, adding that this still fell short of requirements.

The report should have included the profile and location of the proposed park, he said.

Yim said the report also failed to explain why no alternatives to an incinerator were considered and no full study of the health effects of various waste-disposal technologies conducted.

“If they discarded alternatives, they should make it clear so people would know they were discarded. If there is no proper assessment, there could be dire consequences,” Yim said.




Shek Kwu Chau


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Implementation of air-quality improvement measures

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Monitoring and reporting of air quality

Download PDF : e59ch01

It’s official: Hong Kong has poor air quality

Submitted by admin on Nov 15th 2012, 12:00am



Howard Winn

The government’s Audit Commission published two reports yesterday which are a damning indictment of the previous government’s record on monitoring air quality and its lamentable efforts at improving it. The two reports, Implementation of Air-Quality Improvements Measures, and Monitoring and Reporting of Air Quality show a remarkable level of failure in meeting its obligations under the air pollution control ordinance, and in taking very obvious steps such as getting old polluting diesel-engined vehicles off the road.

This is something that think tanks and environmentalists have been advising for years and yet the EPD has barely done anything.

The EPD has no shortage of information as to the sources of air pollution, but it has just been highly ineffective in enacting improvements. Even with the power stations, the one area where gains were made, the Audit Commission notes: “Nox [nitrogen oxides] emission allowances set for local power plants to be effective from 2015 and 2017, would significantly exceed those proposed by the EPD consultant.” Elsewhere the report notes “the EPD has never achieved its performance target on API (not exceeding 100 on any day in a year) since setting the targets in 2006-07”.

Professor Anthony Hedley, who set up his eponymous environmental index, has called the government’s air pollution index, “a complete piece of fiction”. We suppose the Audit Commission should be congratulated for saying what many people have known for quite a long time.

There are new leaders at the EPD and a lot of people have high hopes they will enact measures to improve the environment. There are also many sceptics who believe it is just too hard to effect the necessary changes in Hong Kong. Let’s hope they’re wrong. These reports give it considerable ammunition to attack the problems.

The administration has agreed with both reports and says unequivocally that “the protection of health is the key guiding principle in the formulation of air-quality improvement measures,” and achieving the World health Organisation guidelines on air quality is a long-term goal.

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Air Pollution in Hong Kong

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Auditor slams Hong Kong’s efforts to tackle pollution

Submitted by admin on Nov 15th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong

Cheung Chi-fai

Proposed standards not tough enough to protect public health, says auditor

Hong Kong’s proposed air quality standards are not tough enough to protect public health, while existing measures to curb harmful emissions are ineffective, inadequate or stalled by red tape, the Audit Commission says.

In its third report since 1997 on Hong Kong’s efforts to clean up the air, the government auditor also notes that far from meeting the 24-year-old air quality objectives, pollution has gotten worse.

Echoing green groups’ criticism, it says the objectives proposed for 2014, “do not provide adequate protection of public health”.

The objectives comprise a mixture of interim targets recommended by the World Health Organisation. But the auditor calls for a clear road map and timetable to boost health protection.

The report, following the second one in 2005, takes stock of efforts during the rule of previous chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

It says that while the city aspires to be world class, its air quality has a long way to catch up as the annual concentrations of nitrogen dioxide are up to 279 per cent higher than Sydney, New York and London, which have already met the WHO guidelines on that pollutant.

While failing to meet the objectives set in 1987, the city every year since 2006 also missed the Environmental Protection Department’s target of no days with the air pollution index over the “very high” level of 100. Instead, the days with excessive pollution has risen year after year, from 74 in 2007 to 175 last year.

The auditor also put roadside air quality under the spotlight, pointing out that pollution levels were up to 70 per cent higher than the 24-year-old targets.

On the monitoring network, its suggests building stations in Tseung Kwan O and Tuen Mun to serve the growing population.

The report questions the effectiveness of the commercial diesel vehicle replacement schemes introduced by the department in 2000. After an outlay of at least HK$1.8 billion, it says, there are still more than 50,000 highly polluting vehicles on the roads, including 17,000 diesel vehicles more than 17 years old.

It also casts doubt on a scheme to use taxpayers’ money to help equip polluting buses close to the end of their lives with devices to remove nitrogen oxides, while raising concern about a meagre 1.1 per cent reduction in bus trips on busy corridors despite a rationalisationprogramme. The Transport and Housing Bureau and Environmental Protection Department both come under fire for not imposing stricter fuel standards on ocean-going and local vessels.

Welcoming the report, green groups urged swift action but also highlighted the need for co-ordination to implement measures.

Friends of the Earth senior environmental affairs manager Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung said the chief secretary should take up the role of co-ordination.

“The EPD is not in a position to push measures involving other bureaus or departments and Carrie Lam should step in to make interdepartmental co-operation happen,” she said.

Responding to the report, the Environmental Protection Department said there had been real improvements in the concentrations of pollutants over the years. It pledged to review the air quality objectives every five years, with the ultimate aim of adopting the WHO guidelines.

It would also reconsider introducing “disincentive schemes” to speed the early retirement to of polluting vehicles. But it noted that a 2009 proposal to increase licence fees for old vehicles was not supported by lawmakers.


More on this:

Government must do more to improve air quality [1]

Hong Kong fails to meet air quality targets [2]

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Hong Kong fails on pollution targets

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New air quality objectives under fire

Wendy Wong reports.

The Director of Audit has criticised the government’s new air quality objectives, to be introduced two years from now, saying they will not adequately protect public health. Furthermore, he pointed out that Hong Kong had never achieved the air pollution improvement goals set a quarter of a century ago, and took the Environmental Protection Department to task for its failings.

The audit report came as high levels of air pollution again hit the territory with the reading at the roadside monitoring station in Central soaring to 140.

High levels were also recorded at the other two roadside stations in Causeway Bay and Mongkok.

Earlier this year the government said the territory’s air quality objectives would be revised to more stringent levels from 2014.

But the Auditor warned that the objectives would not provide adequate protection of public health, as they were mostly set on interim targets of the World Health Organisation, rather than its strictest standards.

Very bad air days were said to have steadily worsened – rising from 74 in 2007 to 175 last year despite the Environmental Protection Department setting a performance target to keep Hong Kong’s air pollution index under 100 for a whole year.

household waste is hazardous

New milestone in burning incinerator saga


Submitted by admin on Nov 10th 2012, 12:00am



Howard Winn

Exploratory vessels a new milestone in burning saga

Although government plans to build a monster incinerator in the environs of Shek Kwu Chau have officially been shelved, preparatory work continues.

Concerned citizens have noticed the presence of a number of vessels at work off the island. It turns out they are engaged in site investigation work involving the drilling of bore holes according to a Marine Department notice dated July 11, several months after the decision to shelve the project.

The assumption has always been that with the shelving of the project and the arrival of wiser heads at the Environmental Protection Department, it was doomed. The site investigation work would seem to indicate that we should not necessarily draw that conclusion.

Another possible conclusion is that the government is saying one thing and doing another. The incinerator saga reaches another interesting point this week with a judicial review of the environmental impact assessment of the project starting on Wednesday.

One argument likely to be raised is that there has been a failure of natural justice in approving the EIA because the Director of Environmental Protection acted both as the proposer and regulator of the project. Environmental groups have been pointing out this conflict of interest since the posts were merged in 2005.

It’s thought that the judicial review is likely to result in a ruling in a month or so, and whatever that may be, there is likely to be an appeal because of the significance of the issue – failure of natural justice – which will need to be resolved at a higher level.

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A world first for bio jet fuel

Until now bio-fuel flights have been restricted to a 50-percent blend with petroleum as the technology was largely unproven.

Related Stories

Paris – The world’s first flight powered entirely by bio jet fuel has raised hopes for cleaner air travel and upped the prospects of a boon for farmers whose oilseed crops could supplant kerosene.

A Dassault Falcon 20 twin engine jet took off from the Canadian capital Ottawa last month to test the new jet fuel, made from 100 percent oilseed, for engine performance and emissions, aiming to make sky journeys less polluting.

Several engineers were on board, monitoring the engines’ performance and fuel burn, making a round trip to Montreal and back in 90 minutes.

Two companies – Applied Research Associates and Agrisoma Biosciences – have partnered with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) to develop a “sustainable source of renewable energy” for the commercial airline industry.

A second aircraft, a Canadair CT-133 jet tailed the Falcon’s October 29 flight, collecting emissions data from the lead plane’s engines for analysis.

Until now bio-fuel flights have been restricted to a 50-percent blend with petroleum as the technology was largely unproven.

Several commercial aircraft during the Rio climate summit in June used much-touted bio jet fuels mixed with traditional petroleum jet fuel.

But the October 29 flight was the first time a jet aircraft was powered by 100 percent, un-blended, renewable jet fuel that meets petroleum jet fuel specifications, the NRC said in a statement.

“To date, all powered flight has relied on fossil fuel. This flight changes everything: we have witnessed petroleum free aviation,” said Agrisoma president Steven Fabijanski.

Engine tests at NRC’s Ottawa laboratories prior to last month’s flight proved that regular jet fuel could be swapped with the experimental oilseed variety without modifying an aircraft’s engines or fuel tanks.

And after landing back in Ottawa, Canadian test pilot Paul Kissman told AFP he couldn’t detect any difference in the engine performance using the oilseed fuel compared to petroleum-based jet fuel.

“For us it was the same,” he said, adding that further analysis of the test data would show whether the new bio-fuel had any adverse effects on the engines themselves or whether reduced aviation emissions expectations were met.

The fuel was made from brassica carinata, commonly known as Ethiopian mustard, a crop that is well suited for growing in semi-arid regions.

The Canadian government hopes this initiative will launch a new bio jet fuel industry that becomes a boon to growers.

More than 40 farmers in Canada’s mid-western prairies were contracted to grow over 6,000 acres of the oilseed crop that was turned into bio jet fuel by Agrisoma and Applied Research.

To the untrained eye the transparent liquid bio fuel appears identical to petroleum-based jet fuel.

“It turns into essentially drop-in fuel that looks and acts identical to conventional jet fuel,” explained Fabijanski, adding that increased oilseed production to make the fuel would not adversely impact food farming.

“The farmers that we use to grow this seed are farmers that have land that is not particularly good for food production. By growing this seed you actually enhance or improve the land for eventual food production,” he said.

The cost of production for commercial use has yet to be calculated. But Chuck Red of Applied Research Associates insisted it would be “cost competitive” with petroleum-based fuel, when in full production.

“Through this initiative, we provide a sustainable option for reducing aviation emissions,” he said, adding that the fuel could be commercially available within a few years.

The only question remaining is whether the fuel actually lowers emissions, including those linked to global warming; NRC scientists are now poring over the data and hope to deliver an answer within weeks. – AFP

From food waste into treasure*Overset by 10.*

HK Standard

The new administration is clearly working hard on the processing of food waste because such efforts are necessary as Hong Kong’s landfills are nearly full.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The new administration is clearly working hard on the processing of food waste because such efforts are necessary as Hong Kong’s landfills are nearly full.

To win the blessing of environmental groups to open new landfills, the government must be seen to have done a good job in energy conservation and waste reduction.

Food waste is not a problem unique to Hong Kong – it is also a headache for other metropolises such as Guangzhou, where plans to build garbage incinerators were shelved amid strong objections from residents.

The Guangdong capital, therefore, decided to take the alternative route of engaging specialists from Shanghai to introduce measures to better handle organic waste.

In the past couple of years, Guangzhou has started the practice of separating dry and wet household refuse, and raised subsidies for the establishment of food-waste processing plants.

Food waste is thus recycled into compost used in growing organic vegetables – a practice promoted by the city government.

Guangzhou targets creating an environmental industrial chain this way, which of course requires a period of investment.

In Hong Kong, the government has floated the idea of a recycling plant for food waste to relieve the pressure on landfills, after its proposal to expand the current site at Tseung Kwan O was vetoed.

To properly handle food waste, corresponding facilities must be set up at restaurants and residential buildings, while measures are implemented to ensure hygiene during transportation.

Substantial setup expenses can be expected, and it is unknown at this stage when the SAR will be ready to roll out such a program on a full scale.

As mainlanders are also fighting against the siting of obnoxious facilities in their neighborhoods, local governments are developing waste-processing industries instead.

With the encouragement of corresponding policies, many private enterprises are venturing into this new business, hence its rapid growth.

These companies might even come to Hong Kong to “treasure hunt” soon. Siu Sai-wo is chief editor of Sing Tao Daily