Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

September 5th, 2009:

Japan trip to study waste ‘is garbage’ – Lawmakers’ visit to incinerators criticised

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP

A group of 26 politicians will visit Japan with the environment chief and his officials this month to inspect waste-incineration plants in what one critic branded a “brainwashing” exercise to persuade them to accept such facilities in their areas.

The trip, partially paid for by the Environmental Protection Department, will host members of the Tuen Mun and Islands district councils, whose districts are potential sites for an incinerator capable of handling 3,000 tonnes of waste a day but which oppose the plan.

They will visit incinerators and landfills in Tokyo and Osaka from September 14 to 17.

The department said the tour aimed to give a better understanding of how such advanced facilities worked in Japan, but a district councillor shunning the trip said it served no purpose but brainwashing.

“It is almost certain that only positive things will be displayed,” Yim Tin-sang, a Tuen Mun district councillor, said. “You will have no chance to talk to local green groups or meet opponents.”

But Lam Chung-hoi, another councillor who will take part, said it was their duty to find out the truth about incinerators, though it would be unlikely to soften their stance.

“Officials have been saying how beautiful these incinerators are in Vienna or Japan. We are obliged to understand more if they are telling the whole truth,” he said.

Tuen Mun is often seen as a victim of the government’s poor planning that has resulted in a cluster of polluting facilities, such as a power plant and sludge treatment works in the district.

This week the council passed a resolution opposing a plan to double the size of the landfill, to cope with the city’s mounting waste problem.

The trip will cover at least seven facilities, including the largest waste-burning plant, Shin Koto, in Tokyo, which can process up to 1,800 tonnes of waste daily. Some community facilities associated with these plants are also on the itinerary.

The group includes 17 councillors from Tuen Mun, nine from the Islands, and Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat and vice-chairman Daniel Lam Wai-keung.

Nearly half of the delegation members are from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, though there are also councillors from the Democratic Party, as well as independents and government-appointed members.

They will be accompanied by Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah and senior department officials.

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, environmental affairs manager of Friends of the Earth, said it was good for politicians to learn how other places were managing their waste. But the study trip should not just focus on technology but also on policies.

Japan not only had some of the most advanced incineration technologies but one of the highest densities of incinerators. Some are even located within city centres.