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Waste Proposals Need To Receive A Fair Hearing

Updated on Mar 06, 2008 – Leader

Time is running out to decide how to dispose of our city’s rubbish after its landfills are exhausted. Burning it is the preferred option. Two suggested sites for a waste incinerator have, however, aroused concerns among environmentalists and nearby residents. Now the government has received an offer that raises other issues.

Green Island Cement, a subsidiary of Cheung Kong Infrastructure, wants to build the incinerator at its plant in Tuen Mun near one of the government’s chosen sites. It says the proposal would harness the energy generated by the incinerator to power its cement plant, a heavy user of electricity now produced by polluting, coal-fired generation. A pilot study shows the plan would meet all environmental criteria, the company claims.

The proposal could potentially solve two problems at once – burning the city’s massive volume of solid waste while eliminating the use of coal to power the cement plant. Depending on the details, it could save money and be good for the environment.

The government will, no doubt, be mindful of past criticism over claims of collusion with – and favouritism to – developers in major projects. It might, however, be argued that since Cheung Kong has come up with this idea, it should get the contract if the proposal finds favour with the government. But such a move does not necessarily follow. It would be a little like suggesting Sir Gordon Wu Ying-sheung, chairman of Hopewell Holdings, should automatically be given the right to build the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge because he first proposed it in the early 1980s.

While Cheung Kong’s idea has its merits and should be considered, proposals from other potential operators must also have a fair chance. What if CLP Power, which has a plant in the same locality also wants to build the incinerator?

The answer lies in finding the waste-disposal solution that is in the best long-term interests of Hong Kong. If Cheung Kong’s proposal is considered fairly and transparently, along with any others, neither the government nor the public need fear the perception of collusion or favouritism.

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