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Neighbours mull legal bid to stop incinerator

South China Morning Post – Jan 13, 2012

Group warns of ‘last resort’ action as proposed rubbish plant off Lantau Island nears approval

A group of Cheung Chau residents are threatening a legal challenge against a government plan to erect a rubbish incinerator off Lantau Island, as the project nears one of its last remaining hurdles next week.

Tom Hope, a retired lawyer who lives in Cheung Chau, said a judicial review would be a “last resort”, and that the residents still had other action planned to stop the project. The proposal was endorsed by the Advisory Council on the Environment last month and is slated for discussion by the Executive Council and the Town Planning Board next Tuesday.

“We want the government to stop and reconsider other options because there is still time to look at the technology, which seems to be a solution,” Hope said. “The government cannot be doing something wholly unreasonable.

“The primary reason for the incinerator is to alleviate landfills,” he said. “But the incinerator they are proposing will dispose hundreds of tonnes of ash while burning 3,000 tonnes of rubbish a day. There is alternative technology available.”

The technology favoured by the group, plasma arc gasification, has been tried in Canada, Britain and elsewhere. But Hope said one supplier told him the government does not want to explore it.

The Environmental Protection Department said in a statement it had considered other technologies, like plasma gasification, but they were “not suitable because of drawbacks” including an inability to handle a variety of rubbish.

The residents also criticised officials for failing to implement a waste-management plan laid down in 2005, which emphasised waste reduction and recycling over incineration.

The government proposes reclaiming 16 hectares of sea just south of Lantau near Shek Kwu Chau to serve as a site for the incinerator. It would be able to incinerate 3,000 tonnes of rubbish a day and will have a small mechanical sorting facility.

The reclamation would require the loss of 31 hectares of marine habitat, but the government promises to create a 700-hectare marine park between Shek Kwu Chau and the Soko Islands to make up for the damage.

The residents question the environmental impact assessment’s claims that plant emissions would have little effect on Lantau communities because southwesterly winds prevail only 8 per cent of the year. The group says Observatory data shows such winds prevailed 16 per cent of the time over the past two years.

The incinerator would be built on Shek Kwu Chau.

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