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August 18th, 2012:

Incinerator’s location is a burning issue


Aug 18, 2012

We’ve been looking at a presentation by the Permanent Secretary for Development (Works) Wai Chi-sing, which was made in November 2010 at an infrastructure conference. This was of interest to us despite being some years old because it showed the government’s initial thinking as to where it wanted to locate its integrated waste management centre (IWMC), in other words its controversial incinerator.

In Wai’s presentation it is clearly marked on a slide and described as “Tuen Mun IWMC”. However, three months later, the government evidently had a rethink and announced the incinerator would be located in Shek Kwu Chau – a scenic island south of Lantau. Leaving aside the question of whether an incinerator of this kind is the way to go, the location appears to have been decided on political grounds rather than on what makes sense.

For example, ash from the incinerator – and there is a lot of it – will need to be transported on a fleet of barges back to the ash pits at Tuen Mun. It is well known that Tuen Mun and its environs are the fiefdom of Heung Yee Kuk leader Lau Wong-fat, who in Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s days as chief executive, sat on the Executive Council. It is well known that Lau opposes the location of the incinerator in his backyard, and his thinking appears to have swayed the government.

Officials from the Environmental Protection Department now talk of the need to spread facilities such as incinerators more widely among the community rather have it concentrated in one particular area. The project was frozen by Legco to enable the incoming C. Y. Leung administration to review its environmental policies. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out.