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Letter to SCMP

7 July 2009

In the article (“Nurturing growth”, June 22), Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen talked about “changing the relationship between government, business and the market”. This certainly seems to be the time to adjust the balance between these relationships.

Given that finances are tight, the government should encourage more private enterprises to participate in the development of Hong Kong.

From my recent experience with the Environmental Protection Department, the message I received is that private sector involvement in public services, such as waste management, is not encouraged even if it can demonstrate substantial savings and environmental benefits.

Green Island’s eco-co-combustion system is an environmentally friendly and cost-efficient waste management solution. Sludge and municipal solid waste would be used as a refuse-derived fuel at our cement plant. The system boasts a number of benefits. For the treatment of sludge and solid waste, it presents a significant upfront cost saving of more than HK$6 billion compared to the department’s proposal. With sludge and solid waste being used to replace at least 40 per cent of coal used in the cement plant, there will be a net improvement in total emissions. In addition, there will be no residue ash as it would be used as clinker in cement manufacturing.

Our proposal for sludge treatment has already been denied, while for the treatment of the sold waste, we understand the department’s upcoming tenders have restricted its proposed integrated waste management facility to either Tsang Tsui or Shek Kwu Chau, so our proposal cannot be considered.

The eco-co-combustion model represents a good example of how the private sector can participate in Hong Kong’s environmental development. Instead, we are being prevented from competing. We hope the department will take heed of Mr Tsang’s words and consider private participation and not just stick to the conventional government-owned design-build-operate model.

Don Johnston, executive director, Green Island Cement (Holdings)

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