Reply To: Plan for incinerator island by Shek Kwu Chau environmentally unacceptable


Edited version of this letter from me appeared in today's South China Morning Post:

I read with interest the recent article and editorial on Hong Kong's environmental impact assessment, including the editorial noting that some green activists joke that EIA reports are "invincible".


These were especially timely given I am involved in opposing plans for building an artificial island together with mega waste incinerator beside southwest Shek Kwu Chau, in the otherwise unspoiled waters along southern Lantau.


I considered the EIA report on possible sites for waste incinerators was strongly biased towards making the Shek Kwu Chau site appear a viable choice for an incinerator, and deficient concerning potential pollution, as well as impacts on scenery, biodiversity, and Hong Kong people's quality of life.


So when I attended a public session of an Advisory Council on the Environment sub-committee meeting on the report, I looked forward to hearing some strong criticisms, with ACE members pointing out the report’s many shortcomings. Instead, there was little of substance; and to my mind, the sub-committee functioned largely as a rubber stamp for the report.


Also striking to me: though the meeting included government officials and consultants, together with ACE members, it appeared not one person present was an expert in waste incineration. Indeed, after a little research within Hong Kong and on the internet, I felt better informed than most people who spoke.


In this case, then, the EIA process was particularly deficient. Not only was the government both proposing and judging a project that would cause environmental damage, but the EIA was discussed by a government-appointed body, with ACE chair Paul Lam Kwan-sing admitting (in the Post article) that members lack certain expertise.


The government subsequently withdrew the EIA report, after a judicial review found serious issues with the EIA for the Hong Kong – Zhuhai – Macau Bridge. This suggests that though ACE passed the report, the government lacks confidence in it.


Clearly, a better system is needed. Not just a bureaucratic mechanism: I believe there is a case for leadership coupled with true dialogue with Hong Kong people; both are sorely lacking at present.


The choice of Shek Kwu Chau for Incinerator Island has surely arisen not through vision, but through the government fumbling for a strategy, with a series of consultations, reports and committee meetings that have failed to tackle the root causes of Hong Kong's waste problem or find forward-looking solutions.