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Standard: Team to liaise with public on landfill issues

from Hillary Wong of the Standard:

A public liaison team has been set up to help ease concerns over landfill expansion, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said.

“The issue has been dragging for a long time and needs to be dealt with, or it will affect the hygiene of the community,” Wong said. “We also understand the people are affected in this issue. So we’ve set up a public liaison team, with the government officers to negotiate with citizens so as to relieve their anxiety over the issue,” he told TVB talk show On the Record.

Wong also said his visit to Europe to observe relevant infrastructure will help enhance “everyone’s understanding of the issue.”

Wong and nine legislators visited Europe earlier this month to learn about waste management strategies in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.

Wong said giving subsidies to people living near landfills was rarely done overseas.

“For example, having an established incinerator, there might be some community education center nearby. For infrastructure that produces heat, some relevant facilities will be built like a heated pool,” he said.

Subsidies need further discussion with the public liaison team, he added.

Residents living within 300 meters of landfills in South Korea were given a subsidy, however.

“This mechanism was also controversial in South Korea because there were no subsidies for residents outside 300 meters,” Wong said.

But he added that in Hong Kong, the nearest residents are about three kilometers away.

He said that while the government is open-minded, the question should be studied carefully.

“For our case in Shek Kwu Chau [incinerator], its distance to Cheung Chau reaches three to five kilometers – 10 times more than in South Korea. Also, ships will mainly be used to transport refuse from Island East and West, and Kowloon West to Shek Kwu Chau, which does not make a great impact on the environment,” he said.

Wong also said he remained open-minded about suggestions by the Council for Sustainable Development’s Bernard Charnwut Chan on plans to give some assistance to nearby residents.

Wong said expanding the landfill in phases is not feasible as it involves tender and technical issues. He added public money would not be put to good use.

24 Mar 2014

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