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November 11th, 2011:

Landfills aren’t all bad, says minister

South China Morning Post – 11 Nov. 2011

Reclamation outside harbour would be a ‘green’ way to find space to dispose of construction fill and should not be demonised, Carrie Lam says

Reclamation in Hong Kong outside Victoria Harbour would be a “green” way to ease a space shortage for disposal of construction fill and should not be demonised, the development minister says. But green groups say the ocean should not be treated as a rubbish bin and the government should encourage recycling of the fill instead of dumping it.

Launching a public consultation on ways to increase land supply yesterday, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said reclamation in waters other than the much-shrunken harbour was not only a way to create more land, but also would help solve the mounting fill problem. “We have been sending surplus fill to Taishan , [Guangdong,] 170 kilometres away,” the secretary for development said, adding that fill always had to be processed somewhere in the world.

“Our environmentalist friends say we, as members of the global village, should take our own responsibilities. It does not seem justified to ask others to deal with our fill.”

Most fill – stone and mud sorted from construction waste – comes from infrastructure and land-formation works.

Shipping the materials to the mainland city caused carbon emissions of 50 tonnes a day and cost HK$70 a tonne to handle, HK$33 more than using it for local reclamation, she said.

“We will be using the latest technology and strictest monitoring for future projects,” the minister said.

“One should not demonise reclamation work.”

Two existing public fill banks in Tseung Kwan O and Tuen Mun will be full by 2020.

The first-stage consultation, ending in February, does not identify reclamation areas but asks the public whether they agree with eight proposed criteria for site selection, including whether a project meets local needs, its environmental impact and cost effectiveness.

Officials expect the next reclamation project to be completed in 2019.

The exercise also seeks views on rock-cavern developments for various facilities from sewage plants to data centres and restaurants. An earlier feasibility study covered five sites in Lantau, Tuen Mun, Mount Davis, Sha Tin and Lion Rock.

The two strategies are among six to meet the government’s target of providing land for 40,000 flats a year.

Vincent Ng Wing-shun, vice-president of the Institute of Urban Design, agreed there was a need to reclaim land from the sea because other land-supply methods, such as resumption of rural land, incurred uncertainties, including compensation and relocation of residents.

Dr Man Chi-sum, chief executive of Green Power, said he had not “demonised” reclamation.

“Priority should always be given to using abandoned or abused land in the New Territories, like scrap-car storage,” he said. “The minister is treating the ocean as a rubbish bin. Once the shorelines are straightened, the natural habitat is lost.”

He said hardly any developers were using fill from the two existing banks, and the government should encourage them to recycle the materials stored there instead of finding places to dump them.

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Carrie Lam launched a consultation.

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