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SCMP Letters: Decision on incinerator technology driven by vested interests

From Tom Yau, Lantau Island resident:

Environmental Protection Department assistant director Elvis Au’s claim (“Why Shek Kwu Chau incinerator is still the best option [1]”, November 5) obscures the fact that the decision on incinerator technology was driven by vested interests, and the decision on the incinerator’s location by political pressure. Neither decision is “the best option” for Hong Kong.

The department has fixated on building a moving-grate incinerator since Edward Yau Tang-wah became environment secretary in July 2007. Au refuses to acknowledge the advances in incinerator technology over the past six years, ignoring the decreasing installation of moving-grate incinerators worldwide and the increasing use of plasma gasification for municipal solid waste. Nor has Au addressed the growing evidence on the health hazards of the older technology.

In 2009, before any decision was made on incinerator technology, the department engaged Aecom to hold “public consultations” making the case for a moving-grate incinerator. In November 2011, the department appointed Aecom the prime contractor for the project; this was before it sought approval from the Legislative Council’s environment panel in April 2012. The intersection of Aecom’s interest in a sunset technology and the department’s predisposition to this technology was evident from early in Yau’s tenure.

On the choice of location, the department clearly yielded to political pressure. Reports by its two consultants, Camp, Dresser & McKee International and Aecom, show Tsang Tsui in Tuen Mun as the better location under five criteria: engineering, technical, economic, less ecological impact and more efficient land use. One factor favours Shek Kwu Chau: lower transportation cost.

Constructing an incinerator in Tsang Tsui would cost 26 per cent less than in Shek Kwu Chau (September 2011 prices reported by Au in 2012) and be completed two years earlier. Reclamation, seabed dredging and cable laying to create the Shek Kwu Chau infrastructure will have an impact on fisheries and wildlife habitats. The Tsang Tsui site is ready in situ amid existing waste-treatment facilities.

However, Tuen Mun district councillor Lau Wong-fat was reported in January 2008 as saying Tuen Mun already has a power plant and landfill, hence the government should pick another site for the incinerator. Since then, the department has promoted Shek Kwu Chau, introducing the specious criterion of “balanced spatial distribution” of waste treatment facilities.

The choice of incinerator technology and its location will affect Hong Kong far into the future. It should not be driven by vested interests and political pressure.

12 Nov 2013

One Comment

  1. Kwun Tong Bypass says:

    If you geniuses would be able to do simple math you would realize that Hong Kong needs T W O times 3,000 tons per day incineration! 13,000 minus 50 Percent recycle still leaves more than 6,000 tons to get rid of! Shek Kwu Kau AND Tuen Mun. It’s just a matter which fight the Govt has decided to pick first. So lets get started with the sunset technology, and all of you can play around a bit with your pet plasma technology.

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