Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

Incinerator design can make it a tourist draw, environment official says

South China Morning Post — 20 March 2011

The Environmental Protection Department believes the incinerator proposed for Shek Kwu Chau would become a draw for tourists interested in architecture and technology.

Its assistant director Elvis Au Wai-kwong pointed to incinerators in Japan and Austria as examples of how such waste treatment facilities can draw visitors.

“Tourists are attracted by the landmark buildings they build and the modern educational facilities,” Au said. “They attract tourists because of the architecture and the modern facilities they provide.”

Au was speaking before a meeting tomorrow of a committee of the department’s Advisory Council on the Environment, called to discuss the government’s report on the choice of the island off Lantau for the incinerator, which has sparked a backlash from environmental groups and a series of protests over the past week.

Au said his department had not yet spoken to the Tourism Board about how such a facility might be marketed to visitors, nor about any effect it might have on nearby Cheung Chau, which relies heavily on the visitors that each weekend, according to the board, double the island’s population of about 25,000.

Conservationists have expressed concern at the impact of a “mega incinerator” on species such as the finless porpoise, the white-bellied sea eagle and two snakes endemic to Shek Kwu Chau, while fishermen say the plan would destroy fishing grounds and ruin their livelihoods.

“We are still in the planning stage, we are still planning the facilities and we are going to engage with the stakeholders by meeting them in the future,” Au said.

The economy of Cheung Chau would benefit, he said, because ferries would be employed to take the 1,000 or so people employed on construction of the incinerator to and from the island for meals.

Cheung Chau residents, who have held a series of protests over the past week, remain unconvinced that the proposal would have any positive effect on their lives.

“To be honest, no one really knows anything,” said Rammy Chau, owner of the Lovely Island Restaurant on the Cheung Chau harbourfront directly facing Shek Kwu Chau.

“We might get a short-term benefit from construction workers but it’s hard to see any international visitors coming to see waste disposal in the long term. There also has to be an effect on us in terms of pollution, and no mention has been made on what happens with the boats that will go past full of rubbish.”

The incinerator would emit about 2,900 tonnes of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, and 217 tonnes of respirable suspended particles per year, according to an environmental impact study.

“It doesn’t seem to have been thought through or explained,” Chau said. “But we are a small community with no voice. If they put four small incinerators in four parts of town, Hong Kong as a community could share the burden – and no one would complain. Instead we are left having one huge one and a lot of questions.”

The government rejected an alternative site in Tuen Mun.

The department says figures provided by the Maishima incinerator in Japan show it has received about 300 visitors a week since it opened in 2001 – although how many of them were students and how many international tourists could not be defined.

Visitors to Cheung Chau yesterday showed concern about the plans.

“I come here every time I come to Hong Kong,” San Franciscan Sandra Tang said. “We love the city but Cheung Chau is an escape and you can enjoy the heritage and nature. We heard about the incinerator … and it seems strange that anyone would want to put it in an area that has somehow remained so unspoilt.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *