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June 25th, 2013:

Wading through Hong Kong’s rubbish of a waste policy

Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 12:00am

CommentInsight & Opinion

SCMP Editorial

When a government has to consider bribing a district to continue accepting other districts’ waste you know the rot has well and truly set in to the city’s rubbish disposal system. This is one of the suggested “sweetening” measures to persuade district councils and lawmakers to go along with expansion of landfill rubbish dumps and help save the city from being overwhelmed with its own waste before a planned incinerator comes on line in 2023.

The government is struggling to secure enough votes for the expansions in the Legislative Council’s public works committee. As a result, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has taken over the chairmanship of a working group set up with Tuen Mun district council to look at a set of demands and proposals from the district in return for a 200-hectare landfill extension. She denies this is about making deals, but has added: “Some districts have borne more than others so, if they have demands about leisure, cultural and transport [improvements], we will consider them seriously.”

· We think districts that have to put up with rubbish generated by neighbouring areas that hold their noses and invoke the “nimby” (not in my backyard) principle about garbage disposal have every right to make deals and drive hard bargains. Unfortunately, however, the capacity of our three landfills will have to be extended beyond 2019 because of past inaction. Unveiling a blueprint for solving the city’s refuse problem last month, Wong rightly described the situation as grave in laying out a mix of incineration, waste disposal charges and improved recycling to ease the strain on landfills. There is now little room for more talk. Support from the public works committee will improve the government’s chances of winning approval for funds from Legco’s Finance Committee for landfill extensions. The need for them is regrettable, but a vote scheduled for tomorrow is a chance for lawmakers to point the way forward to a better long-term solution.

Source URL (retrieved on Jun 25th 2013, 6:12am):

Union lawmakers may tip balance on landfill plan

Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 12:00am

NewsHong Kong


Cheung Chi-fai

Lawmakers from the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) may hold the key for environment officials seeking support for a Tseung Kwan O landfill extension plan, with time running out for them to secure enough backing in a pre-funding application vote.

Officials are targeting critical minorities on the public works subcommittee that could tip the balance, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The subcommittee will vote tomorrow on whether to recommend the plan to extend the landfill to the Finance Committee for final funding approval.

The landfill is located next to a large private housing estate and environment officials want to enlarge it by 13 hectares.

The body will also decide another extension plan for the Ta Kwu Ling landfill and a feasibility study for a landfill in Tuen Mun.

Lawmakers opposing the Tseung Kwan O plan outnumber those supporting it, with 11, mainly pan-Democrats, against it and seven, mostly independents, backing it.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), which has seven lawmakers on the subcommittee, has been vague over its leanings. But the source said the DAB could not make up its mind, and that its decision would also rely on the stance of minorities such as the FTU, which has three members on the subcommittee, as well as Dr Leung Ka-lau representing the medical sector.

The source said the DAB was seeking to avoid a “loss-loss situation” in which the pro-establishment party threw its weight behind an unpopular plan that could not be endorsed because of minorities’ objections.

But FTU legislator Kwok Wai-keung said he was not aware of their role. “It is the DAB, the largest party, that we are looking to,” he said. “We do not feel we are being treated as a kingmaker.”

The FTU has demanded the government set up a HK$5 billion fund for recycling in exchange for their support for the landfill.

Leung, who was said to rarely attend subcommittee meetings, was expected to be absent tomorrow. It is understood he tended to oppose the Tseung Kwan O plan.

Yau Yuk-lun, a Sai Kung district councillor affiliated with the DAB, urged his colleagues to vote in support of the plan for the city’s overall interest. But another DAB councillor, Chan Kwok-kai, wanted the government to offer more before he would back it.

Meanwhile, environment minister Wong Kam-sing yesterday sought to correct what he called misperceptions about the impact of the Tseung Kwan O landfill in an open letter to Tseung Kwan O residents.

It was posted on the Environment Bureau’s website after 13 people staged a hunger strike over the landfill extension plan.

Cheung Chi-tung, from a concern group of local residents, said he was unimpressed by the letter. “There is nothing new in it, and Wong still fails to address the fundamental problem – that the landfill is too close to our homes.”


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