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Officials Snubbed Over Sludge Burner

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP – Updated on Jan 07, 2009

Environment officials were given the cold shoulder by politicians at a meeting of the Tuen Mun District Council yesterday.

Councillors, who are angry over plans to build a sludge incinerator nearby, refused to discuss the issue with the officials and demanded negotiation with them directly on planning matters.

The demands were made in two motions endorsed by the councillors at the meeting to discuss the Nim Wan incinerator and proposed landfill expansion in the district.

One of the motions called on legislators not to approve funding for any facility that caused pollution – including the HK$4.7 billion incinerator – until planning matters were properly addressed by top officials.

“There is neither adequate consultation nor a balanced development plan for Tuen Mun. There is also no compensation to minimise the negative impacts of these dirty facilities,” said district councillor Albert Ho Chun-yan, who is also a Democratic Party legislator.

Other councillors feared that if the sludge incinerator were approved, it would pave the way for the government to build more unpopular facilities in the district.

Ellen Chen Ying-lung, assistant director of environmental protection, said there was no communication breakdown with the councillors.

“This is our job to come here and it is part of the process we must go through. But we also understand their worries and we will continue our dialogue,” she said.

Dr Chen stressed that the incinerator’s impact on air quality would be minimal as it would be separated from the town centre by a mountain ridge and winds would carry emissions away from the town.

The incinerator would burn up to 2,000 tonnes of sludge a day.

Dr Chen said the department was open-minded on ways to green and beautify the incinerator and provide community facilities.

“Perhaps it could be turned into a tourist spot … one that allows people to see the sunset there,” she said.

The department intends to seek funding for the incinerator this year and hopes to start construction next year for completion by 2012.

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