Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

January, 2013:

Can Leung Chun-ying deliver clean air to Hong Kong?

Submitted by admin on Jan 20th 2013, 12:00am

Comment›Insight & Opinion

SCMP Editorial

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s maiden policy address will be remembered for his declaration that the quality of the air we breathe to be among core livelihood issues, along with the housing crisis, poverty and so on. He will, therefore, be judged on real progress in reducing air pollution, or effective action to back up his words. He started off on the right foot by promising to introduce legislation next year to require all ocean-going vessels to use low-sulphur fuel when berthed in the city. Think tank Civic Exchange, which specialises in air-quality issues, hailed this as a major breakthrough that could reduce the city’s sulphur emissions by up to a third. But that’s the easy part, since 18 shipping companies have already signed up to a voluntary low-sulphur programme.

It will not be so easy to get tens of thousands of densely polluting, old commercial diesel vehicles off our roads. That is what it will take to make a real difference, such as increased life expectancy for more than 3,000 people estimated to die prematurely each year because of bad air.

Leung pledged HK$10 billion in cash incentives for operators to replace or remove the dirtiest commercial vehicles on our streets by 2019. The lifespan of newly registered trucks will be limited to 15 years. This may sound drastic, until you consider that other countries are preparing to introduce Euro VI emissions standards this year. And it is easier said than done. Ten billion sounds a lot, but so do the 88,000 vehicles that predate the Euro IV standard introduced in the city in 2006. Ex-gratia payments could offset 18 to 30 per cent of the cost of clean-fuel replacement vehicles, up from 10 to 12 per cent in past voluntary schemes that did not attract many takers. But the transport industry has signalled that the government is in for a fight because the package goes too far, while green groups say old vehicles are not being phased out quickly enough.

Roadside urban air pollution is homegrown and manageable. This government’s resolve to clean it up where others have failed remains to be tested. Nonetheless, Professor Anthony Hedley, of the University of Hong Kong’s department of community medicine, says Leung’s plan is a “defining moment”. And hopes have been boosted by the appointment of Civic Exchange founder Christine Loh Kung-wai as undersecretary for the environment. For the sake of this and future generations, we trust that her confidence in Leung to make a difference in cleaning up our air is vindicated.


Air Pollution

Leung Chun-ying


Source URL (retrieved on Jan 20th 2013, 6:56am):

HKIA to seek third runway funding

By Wong Joon San (HK Edition)

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) passenger volume hit record to 56.5 million last year, while flight movements grew 5.3 percent to 352,000, reflecting the pressing need for a third runway. Wong Joon San reports.

The Airport Authority of Hong Kong will make funding arrangements for Hong Kong International Airport’s (HKIA) third runway once the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the runway is completed.

According to Stanley Hui, chief executive officer of the Airport Authority Hong Kong, the EIA into a three-runway system at HKIA is progressing well and should be completed end of this year.

Speaking as a moderator at a recent panel discussion themed “How high can Asia’s air cargo industry fly?” held in Hong Kong, Hui revealed that work on the EIA which started in August last year, was progressing well and should be completed in “18 to 20 months”.

“Then we will be making funding arrangements, and if all goes well, work on the third runway will start in 2014,” he said, adding that based on the preliminary master planning commission, the cost of the project was expected to be HK$136 billion, if everything proceeded as planned.

Cost escalation

Hui pointed out that any major infrastructure project was likely to have cost escalation, and hopefully there would be no delays.

Yvonne Ho, general manager of the Hong Kong, International Air Transport Association, who spoke on the panel, emphasized on the need for greater risk assessment of the project and to ensure that security vulnerabilities are checked carefully and use of technology are optimized in the project.

“Our secured trade vision is to have secured security at the cargo’s origin. Using secured shippers, then the cargo need not undergo 100 percent cargo screening. Also, we will have the capability to detect any suspicious cargo, and to do this, we screen the cargo and certify and identify it as secured freight,” Ms Ho said.

Regarding whether shipping lines were grabbing a slice of the air cargo business, Hui points out that what goes on ships would not go on air, as airfreight mostly handled time sensitive and high value goods. “When shipments are behind time and if they face being penalized, even the cheapest commodity will go as airfreight to meet the delivery deadlines. What must go on air will go on air,” he says.

Related to air cargo demand, Hui said electronic components and products manufacturer, Foxconn’s new factory in Shenzhen had started operations with employment of 250,000 people and their numbers would reach 500,000 in the near future, reflecting that their products’ (iPhones and iPads) would increase air cargo demand.

Staff shortage

On the main issues faced by Cathay Pacific Airways, Ivan Chu, the chief operating officer, said shortage of staff and lack of land for logistics and warehouse were the airline’s main problems as it was seeing demand rising in the fashion and retail trade.

Asked whether iPhones and iPads were lifting air cargo demand, Chu says no doubt these had increased the air cargo volume to some extent. “Our shipping colleagues are catching up in arranging for transport of cargo, and so on the logistics side of the operations, these arrangements will improve,” he says.

Replying to a question whether the industry was being impacted by manufacturing facilities relocating from Southern China, Chu says some factories had relocated to Jiangzhou, Shanxi province, in the middle of nowhere with a population of 100 million. “Electronic production there has increased more than six times and it had become a manufacturing base with its cheap land and labour. Cathay, by flying a Boeing 747 to the city, is able to serve its needs,” he said.

Similarly, the airline is also meeting the needs of Chongqing and Chengdu where the government policies are attracting increased manufacturers to the area, Chu said, pointing out that: “We will adapt to the changes. In addition, Cathay’s subsidiary airline, Dragonair also serves these areas to support Cathay, with bellyhold cargo capacities.”

Edward Lau, Managing Director, TNT Express Worldwide (HK), who also spoke on the panel, said the company’s ability to expand in Hong Kong was impacted by the city’s runway restrictions as the third runway was still not built yet. He pointed out that it takes about 10 years to build a runway.

“Not having the runway on time would affect Hong Kong’s status as a hub. Aside from space constraints, work on the eco-system should also be carried out. And if a company offers cold chain logistics for pharmaceutical companies, they also need the supporting infrastructure,” he explained.

Lau said TNT’s Southeast Asia hub is in Singapore, which is in the heart of the ASEAN hub. He said the hub is clean and efficient and is close to China. Working with components produced in Singapore, they are shipped to Hong Kong and South China. Lau said: “Both Singapore and Hong Kong are complementing each other, and one territory’s gain is not another’s loss. I see the pie as getting bigger.”

Competition exists

Hui says the way manufacturing is planned and distributed ultimately works towards a total and bigger market. “Competition is there, but it is not a zero sum game.”

Chu also says that Cathay was getting better results in Hong Kong in terms of tonnage, and value. “We should not look at things from the competition point of view, but rather from cooperation with Singapore.”

Asked whether the trend of aircraft becoming larger would lead to them to replace freighters, Chu says presently 60 percent of cargo was carried by freighters while 38 percent were carried in the bellyhold of passenger aircraft, but did not directly answer the question.

Hui says that at HKIA, the fact that cargo is transported in bellyholds and also by freighters is one of the competitive advantages of Hong Kong. “Whatever cannot be carried by freighters to destinations which may not justify the use of a freighter, the cargo can still be transported in bellyhold of passenger airlines, particularly to destinations such as Guangzhou, Taipei or Sanya (in Hainan Island).”

HKIA to seek third runway funding

(HK Edition 01/19/2013 page2)




Sina Miniblog

QQ Miniblog



QQ Friends

Xinhua Miniblog

Sohu Bai

IFeng MB

Sohu Miniblog


Shou Ji




Netease MB

More… (130)

Waste Management Mafia Charged in New York

Twelve members of three New York crime families have been charged with racketeering conspiracy in the waste industry after multi-rear investigation

“The indictments show the ongoing threat posed by mob families and their criminal associates. In addition to the violence that often accompanies their schemes, the economic impact amounts to a mob tax on goods and services,” explained FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George C. Venizelos.

In total charges have been made against 32 individuals as part of an investigation into organized crime’s alleged continuing control of large aspects of the commercial waste-hauling industry in the greater New York City metropolitan area and in parts of New Jersey.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the main Indictment charges 12 defendants under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise that asserted illegal and extortionate control over commercial waste hauling companies.

A further 17 defendants are facing charges of individual acts of extortion, loan sharking, and other crimes associated with those activities.

The charges are contained in three Indictments, United States v. Franco, et al., United States v. Giustra, et al., and United States v. Lopez.

The Department said that thirty of the defendants have been arrested in connection with the charges, and will be presented and arraigned in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin N. Fox. Two further defendants, Dominick Pietranico and Pasquale P. Cartalemi are expected to surrender shortly.


Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Here, as described in the indictments, organized crime insinuated itself into the waste disposal industry throughout a vast swath of counties in New York and New Jersey, and the tactics they used to exert and maintain their control come right out of the mafia playbook – extortion, intimidation, and threats of violence.

According to Bharara, while the accused mobsters may have hidden themselves behind seemingly legitimate owners of waste disposal businesses, law enforcement was able to pierce that veil through a painstaking, multi-year investigation.

“Organized crime has many victims – in this case small business owners who pay for waste removal, potential competitors, and the communities infected by this corruption and its cost,” he added.


The Department of Justice said that the following allegations are based on the Indictments and statements made in Manhattan federal court:

Twelve of the defendants, who are members and associates of three different Organized Crime Families of La Cosa Nostra (LCN) – the Genovese, Gambino and Luchese Crime Families – are charged with participating in a RICO enterprise in which they worked together to control various waste disposal businesses in the New York City metropolitan area and multiple counties in New Jersey.

This criminal waste disposal enterprise was an illegal organization, the members of which engaged in crimes including extortion, loan sharking, mail and wire fraud, and stolen property offenses.

The members of the enterprise avoided any official connection to the waste disposal businesses they controlled, because they were either officially banned from the waste hauling industry, or unlikely to be granted the necessary licenses required to do business in the waste hauling industry due to their affiliations with organized crime.

Accordingly, enterprise members concealed themselves behind waste disposal businesses that were officially owned and operated by non-Enterprise members (controlled owners), who were able to obtain the necessary licenses because they had no known affiliations with organized crime.

Ultimately, the members of the enterprise exerted control over these waste disposal businesses by, among other things, dictating which trash pick-up stops a particular hauling company could use and extorting payments in exchange for protection by individuals associated with organized crime.

By asserting and enforcing purported ‘property rights’ over the trash pick-up routes, the Enterprise members excluded any competitor that might offer lower prices or better service, in effect imposing a criminal tax on businesses and communities.

Separately, some of the controlled owners were also committing crimes, including stealing property of competing waste disposal businesses and defrauding businesses of their customers.

The operation of the Waste Disposal Enterprise was coordinated by and among factions of the LCN families through the use of ‘sit-downs’ to determine which faction would control a particular waste disposal company and established the financial terms upon which control of that company could be transferred from one faction to another in return for payment.

During the time period alleged in the Indictment, enterprise members extorted a controlled owner, who, unknown to them, was a cooperating witness (CW). The CW incorporated a waste removal company (CW Company) that ultimately was controlled by a number of different factions of the enterprise.

At various times, the CW Company was under the control of Carmine Franco, a Genovese Crime Family associate who was banned by New Jersey authorities from maintaining any involvement in the waste hauling business in that state due to prior criminal convictions.

A Genovese Crime Family crew based principally in Lodi, New Jersey (Lodi Crew), which included Genovese Family soldiers subsequently wrested control of the CW’s waste company from Franco and further extorted the CW for weekly payments for ‘protection’ from other LCN factions.

In addition, at various times, a different faction of the Genovese Crime Family – led by Genovese soldiers and a Gambino Crime Family crew controlled the CW’s waste hauling company.

In addition to the 12 defendants charged as members of the waste disposal enterprise, 17 of the defendants are charged with carrying out various illegal activities in relation to the waste hauling industry.

These illegal activities include: extortion, mail and wire fraud conspiracy, and interstate transportation of stolen property.

The Department of Justice also noted that the charges contained in the Indictments are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Read More

Crime Magnet: New Jersey’s Waste & Recycling Industry
For anybody who’s seen the TV show The Sopranos, the concept of crime bosses working in New Jersey’s waste industry will be a familiar one. And it’s not hard to see where the show’s producers took their inspiration from. Over the years numerous mobsters have been exposed as operating in the industry, and the problem is far from becoming a footnote in history.

Cardboard Gangsters Arrested in New Jersey Recycling Swindle
Three arrests have been made in New Jersey following a theft operation which was responsible for stealing tens of thousands of dollars worth of cardboard for recycling large retail sites.

VIDEO: UK Environment Agency Getting Tough on Waste Crime
Serious waste crime is big business in the UK, with the number of people sent to prison for committing serious waste crime offences almost trebling in the last three years and 759 illegal waste sites shut in 2011-2012, according to a new report by the Environment Agency.

BBC News – King’s Lynn waste incinerator plan under fire in Commons



17 January 2013 Last updated at 13:27 GMT


Article written by Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

King’s Lynn waste incinerator plan under fire in Commons


Artist’s impression of the proposed incinerator

It’s not every day that a Conservative MP will tear into his local Conservative county council.

But then it’s not every day that you get a row like the the plan for a waste incinerator at King’s Lynn.

As we’ve reported before, this is an issue that’s divided the Conservative Party in Norfolk.

There have been acrimonious exchanges between the local district council and the county council.

Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy has been reported (twice) to the standards committee and has now decided to stand down while he defends himself.

There was a strong turnout for referendum on the plan which was immediately dismissed.

The controversy cost the Tories dearly in last year’s local elections and it could do so again later in the year – and now Conservative MPs from Norfolk are holding debates in parliament to complain about the county council’s actions.

Local people ‘ignored’

“It is wrong for a local authority to ride roughshod over local people when local people have made their views crystal clear,” said Henry Bellingham, MP for King’s Lynn and West Norfolk.

“Localism often requires difficult and tough decisions, but democracy is ill-served if consultation takes place but its findings are ignored, particularly when they are as overwhelming as in this case,” said Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman.

Other MPs from the county nodded in agreement.

“Start Quote

It is wrong for a local authority to ride roughshod over local people when local people have made their views crystal clear”

End Quote Henry Bellingham MP (Con) King’s Lynn and West Norfolk

The proposed incinerator would burn 250,000 tonnes of waste, provide power for the local community and create 200 jobs. But Mr Bellingham finds a lot wrong with the plan.

“The county council couldn’t have picked a more unsuitable site,” he told the debate. “It is upwind of Norfolk’s third largest community and the internationally renowned Wash.”

Support for waste incineration was rapidly diminishing around the world, he claimed. He was also worried the contract did not represent value for money, there could be a risk to health and the uncertainty was blighting the local community.

But his biggest anger was reserved for the developers and the county council who had ignored the results of a local referendum in which nearly 93% of people voted against the plans.

“65,516 people voted no on a turn out of 61.3%,” he said. “Compared with the recent Police and Crime Commissioner elections, when the turnout was around 12%, that must have been one of the most decisive results in British electoral history.

Strength of feeling

“What I am saying to Norfolk County Council is please think again … why not sit down and talk to local MPs – and to the borough council of King’ Lynn and West Norfolk – and look for an alternative solution that could command public support?”

Because the matter is now in the hands of the planning inspector with the final decision being made by the Secretary of State, the Communities Minister Nick Boles couldn’t say much by way of reply.

But he noted that a number of MPs from Norfolk had turned up to the debate, a sign of the strength of feeling on the issue.

He also congratulated Norfolk County Council on having a plan for waste but said he always preferred it if the plan had the support of local people.

After the Prime Minister’s comments that he hoped planners would listen to local people, Mr Bellingham and his colleagues hope this is another sign that things are moving their way

CY Leung Policy Address 2013

download PDF : Policy Address 2013Env

UNIDO to fund $ 2-lakh project for proper bio-medical waste treatment—2lakh-project-for-proper-biomedical-waste-treatment/1059765/0


To reduce Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) from biomedical waste, the United Nations Industrial Organisation (UNIDO) has launched a project titled ‘environmental sound management of medical waste’ in five states including Punjab. The project was launched Tuesday from Ludhiana.

As per UNIDO and ministry of environment and forest, poisonous gases like dioxin and furans are still being emitted from biomedical waste treatment plants and black ash was found in all the incinerators surveyed by the teams. Other states in the project include Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Orissa.

“The total cost of the project is estimated to be $ 40 million for a period of five years, out of which global environmental facility (GEF) is financing $ 10 million and the rest is to be raised through co-financing,” said Erlinda Galvan, Industrial development officer UNIDO. The Ministry of environment and Forest (MoEF) is the co-ordinating agency.

UNIDO will be investing  $ 2,00,000 in Punjab, but it will be in the form of manpower or facilities, no money will be given to officers

Experts said that segregation of the waste is not being done properly and till date many hospital staff are not aware of the colours of the bins in which the waste is to be dumped as per the rules.

Dr S P Dhua, MoEF, said: “Naked hands are used for segregation and we surveyed the incineration process in different parts of the country and found black ash everywhere. The waste can be treated through microwaves as well and it works well in reducing POPs. Four model hospitals will be given microwaves for biomedical waste treatment so as to find the difference.”

“The required 1,000 degree Celsius temperature is not maintained in incinerators as per our survey,” he added.

Dr M Subha Rao, director MoEF, said: “Before formation of Bio-medical Waste Act, it was not being treated at all and being dumped along with the domestic garbage. I strongly believe that diseases like HIV, Hepatitis A, B and C appeared because of improper management of bio-medical waste.”

The five-member UNIDO team had on Monday visited Rajindra Medical Hospital in Patiala and surveyed DMCH on Tuesday from where the project was launched by PPCB chairman Ravinder Singh.

Incinerator health risk ‘unacceptable’

Incinerator health risk ‘unacceptable’
By Dr Vyvyan Howard
Head of Research, Developmental Toxico-Pathology Research Group

The pressures of safe waste disposal are mounting, as illustrated by IF’s latest drama-documentary. Toxico-pathologist Dr Vyvyan Howard argues that the threats to human health from toxic emissions mean incinerators are not an acceptable option.

Dr Howard

Dr Howard: We are leaving a toxic legacy for future generations

The past 150 years have seen a significant increase in the toxicity of both domestic and industrial wastes.

The waste stream used to consist mainly of natural products, such as paper, wood and fabrics – neutral wastes which seldom caused problems.

But nowadays, many products include high levels of heavy metals and, in addition, synthetic plastics such as PVC, whose disposal has caused enormous health and environmental problems, plus a toxic legacy for future generations.



Thursday, 31 March, 2005

1900 BST

Programme summary

Studies of the development of foetuses and young children have led to an understanding of the effects of a number of global environmental pollutants which have their maximal impact during development.

Many of these chemicals are persistent and bio-accumulative, building up in our bodies over time.

Mothers pass these chemicals to their babies, both in the womb and in breast milk.

Some disrupt the action of the hormone systems, affecting babies’ development in many different ways.

A number of well-documented effects have been shown to be happening at current environmental levels of dioxins and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the best studied of the hormone-disrupting chemicals.


The so-called “background” levels of dioxin-like compounds are almost totally caused by human activities, mainly through combustion of organochlorine products, such as PVC.

Levels of dioxins have been reducing in recent years, but infants still receive many times the dose currently deemed “safe”.

Indeed, recent evidence indicates that there may be no safe dose.

As the effects on the foetus occur at extremely low levels, always in combination with many other manufactured chemicals, dioxin levels need to be reduced as low as possible.

There is no place for incineration in municipal waste management

The foetus is the stage of life which is the most vulnerable to damage from hormone-disrupting chemicals.

These affect the many ways in which hormones regulate development in the womb and early childhood, with effects which can last throughout life.

These effects can range from an increased likelihood of respiratory problems or allergies, to reduced IQ, less efficient kidneys, reproductive problems or a higher probability of contracting cancer.

Effects on the intelligence, immune status and hormonal status of infants have been related quantitatively to the amount of dioxin-like substance in the mother’s body.

Furthermore, many effects, including altered brain function and lung function, appear to persist past the age of seven.

Neurobehavioural and immune system deficits have been shown to be correlated with the level of PCBs and dioxins that infants received from their mothers while in the womb.

Effects on brain development include altered play behaviour as well as general mental and psychomotor development. Other papers also document various reproductive problems.

There is general acceptance that male reproductive health is under threat, and dioxin-like substances have also been related to a reduction in the proportion of male to female births.

‘Toxic cocktail’

It is impossible to accurately cost out the health benefits arising from dioxin reduction, as the potential developmental health effects are so diverse, and can occur in synergy with other chemicals.

It is impossible to calculate the cost to society of, for example, a reduction in IQ levels, or the reduction in quality of life due to foetal kidney growth impairment, immune system or reproductive system, developing less than optimally, causing reduced potential, occasional illness throughout life or a higher risk of cancer.

A precautionary approach would be to reduce human exposure to all chemicals which persist and bioaccumulate or are capable of hormonal disruption, down to the absolutely unavoidable level, especially as mixtures of chemicals may have synergistic effects.


Incineration is back on the agenda

Professor Chris Coggins

Read full article

Above, I have cited scientific evidence of harm from just one group of persistent chemicals.

However, we are all exposed to a complex mixture of manufactured toxic chemicals and we have no way of testing the effects of such a cocktail.

Many of the components of this mixture come to us via our food as a secondary consequence of waste disposal.

Even the most modern incinerators still emit some dioxins and similar chemicals. These ‘end of pipe’ waste disposal solutions simply encourage manufacturers to continue with ‘business as usual’.

There are two fundamental approaches to handling waste – either reduce the amount and toxicity of inputs to the waste stream; or attempt to deal with wastes once they have been produced.

Substitution of toxic chemicals in products, is the key to reducing health hazards.

For most of the known hormone-disrupting chemicals, there are substitutes which are less obviously problematic.

In summary, my researches have led me to the firm conclusion that there is no place for incineration in municipal waste management.

Policy should instead concentrate on maximal waste minimisation, reuse and recycling, together with substitution of toxic chemicals in products.

Dr Vyvyan Howard is a contributor to BBC Two’s If… The Toxic Timebomb Goes Off, to be broadcast on Thursday, 31 March, 2005, at 1900 BST.

Report on the health impact of the MIWA-waste incinerator in Sint-Niklaas Belgium

Download PDF : Report_health_impact_Belgian_MIWA_waste_incinerator2

Majorcan politicians in bad odour over imported waste

January 16th, 2013 9:09

Majorcan politicians in bad odour over imported waste

By annanicholas

There are many things for which Majorca can be proud but being the owner of the largest incinerator in Southern Europe should not be one of them. Recent news that the Balearic regional government deemed it a devilishly good idea to import waste from other European countries to feed the monster Son Reus incinerator north of the capital of Palma has unsurprisingly met with fierce opposition.

Local environmental group, GOB, encourages tourists to bring their rubbish to Majorca in ironic photocall in Palma

Environmental groups such as GOB, Zero Waste Europe and Greenpeace, opposition parties, pensioner lobbying groups and local councils have condemned the initiative and just about every Majorcan I’ve approached on the subject, but so far their complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

I might have missed a vital piece of logic along the way but for an island that survives on tourism promoting the concept of clean open spaces, mountains, rural pursuits, sea and sun it seems somewhat bizarre to be welcoming thousands of tons of rubbish along with holidaymakers each year.

When Son Reus was originally built it was apparently capable of burning 300,000 tons of waste and then for some inexplicable reason its capacity was increased first to 432,000 and then in 2011 to 736,000 tons. Why? It is estimated that Majorca creates about 540,000 tons of waste – 84 per cent of all municipal waste generated on the island which basically means that recycling and re-use appears to be of little interest to the authorities. So in order to feed the excess capacity of Majorca’s insatiable metal Minotaur, rubbish must now be imported. Ironically Bunyola, the unlucky town nearest to the incinerator, has been a trailblazer for recycling waste and its council is naturally indignant that piles of rubbish will in effect be dumped at its back door.

The conservative PP party which controls the regional government argues that importing waste is safe, will generate much needed income, create jobs and has full approval from the EU (as if that’s going to garner any confidence locally). Campaigning groups counter that there are potential public health issues and that the burning of so much waste could have a serious environmental impact on the island.

There have been numerous studies of the health dangers associated with living in close proximity to incinerators such as the well documented Saint-Niklaas study in Belgium, which examined the causal link between incinerators and cancer. Dr Vyvyan Howard, a renowned toxico-pathologist claims that “even the most modern incinerators still emit dioxins and similar chemicals”. The World Health Organisation (WHO) asserts that exposure to dioxins and furans, both powerful toxins, may lead to the impairment of the immune system, development of the nervous system, endocrine system and the reproductive functions and recommends that to reduce disease, alternatives to incineration should be found.

The Balearic regional government insists that the waste it will be shipping to Majorca is perfectly safe but local residents understandably would like proof of that. Perhaps José Ramón Bauzà, the island’s president who pushed the policy through, should follow in the footsteps of John Gummer, a former conservative agriculture minister in the UK, who forced his young daughter to eat a beef burger in a public relations photocall during the British mad cow disease fiasco. In the same vein Mr Bauza should be made to relocate with his family to the environs of Son Reus in a public show of faith. It would after all be putting his money where his mouth is.

Find out more about Anna Nicholas here or follow her on Twitter @MajorcanPearls

A real strategy to save Hong Kong’s endangered natural assets

Submitted by admin on Jan 17th 2013, 12:00am

Comment›Insight & Opinion

Andy Cornish and Michael Lau

Andy Cornish and Michael Lau say we can rally round a biodiversity plan

The proposed beach at Lung Mei, incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau, expansion of the Tseung Kwan O landfill into Clear Water Bay Country Park and a potential third runway at the airport have all provoked strong reactions from environmental groups and sectors of the public concerned about their impact on wildlife and the environment.

This is despite some of these projects having undergone environmental impact assessments, which have been accepted by the Environmental Protection Department.

Advocates for new infrastructure, housing and the like mutter that the green groups are anti-development whiners. This glosses over the real reason opinions are divided: there is no common understanding on what our cityscape should look like, or what biodiversity should be conserved in an increasingly crowded Hong Kong.

The proposal by the Civil Engineering and Development Department to reclaim more land illustrates the problem. It should be possible to find sea areas with low ecological value that could be sacrificed for the greater good. But Hong Kong has never discussed, let alone agreed on, the goals for marine conservation or a strategy to achieve that. With only 2 per cent of our waters protected under current arrangements, green groups have little option but to oppose any large-scale projects that will degrade the marine life we do have left.

As highlighted by the chief executive in his policy address, the Environment Bureau has kicked off a process that should address the issue. Under the Convention on Biological Diversity, which was extended to Hong Kong in 2011, the city has to develop biodiversity strategies and action plans in line with internationally agreed goals and targets, and begin implementing them by 2015. Clear guidelines lay out an open and participatory process.

The convention is a key planning tool for sustainable development. Hong Kong, with its dense population and dwindling land supply, needs such planning aids more than most. Through this process, society will learn to offer more informed ideas in decision-making on future development.

As well as potentially lessening conflicts around development, a good biodiversity strategy will ensure the sustainable use of our marine fisheries, freshwater fish farms and vegetable farms. It would recognise the cultural and ecological significance of maintaining fung shui woods, and the importance of protecting the insects that pollinate our plants and crops, the watersheds that minimise our dependence on imported fresh water, and the forests and mangroves that serve as carbon sinks. All these enhance our quality of life.

An example of the value of biodiversity to our crowded city was during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003, when many thousands of people wanting to escape the paranoia of shoulder-to-shoulder living visited our extensive country parks.

A good biodiversity strategy and action plan will not write and implement itself. A key lesson from other countries that signed onto the convention decades ago is that it will only provide lasting real benefits if biodiversity conservation is well understood and implemented across all ministries with impact on the environment, not simply those directly responsible for environmental protection.

It is too early yet to say whether this will be the case in Hong Kong, but the commitment to sustainable development outlined in Leung Chun-ying’s manifesto should lead us to be optimistic.

Andy Cornish is an independent ecologist based in Hong Kong. Michael Lau is acting director of conservation at WWF-Hong Kong


Environmental Protection


Lung Mei beach

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 17th 2013, 8:06pm):