More garbage

As the decennial inspection tour of the renegade province draws to a close, I learn that Taipei is blessed with something few cities in the world can boast: a waste incinerator with a revolving restaurant on top of the gaily coloured chimney. Browsing the Hong Kong newspapers on the flight back, it occurs to me that the democratic non-existent country could teach the Big Lychee a thing or two about choosing locations for unpopular but necessary public facilities.

The lead story in today’s South China Morning Post tells of outrage and uproar over a plan to put an incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau, an island south of Lantau about which the overwhelming majority of us, if we are to be candid, know or care little. A glance at the government report on the subject confirms what the protestors are saying, namely that officials have chosen this desolate spot purely because it would cause less fuss than the alternatives.

Using an old and familiar – not to say rather tired – tactic, the document presents each other possible option along with some insurmountable problem that rules it out. Thus Ha Mei Wan off Lamma power station tragically has a dense cluster of finless porpoise sightings.  Tuen Mun would, unfortunately, cease to be fit for human (yea, even public housing tenants) habitation if we put an incinerator next to the existing power stations, steel mill and cement factory already gracing the neighbourhood. Something called the Tsung Tsui Ash Lagoons (any relation to the La Brea Tar Pits?) are sort-of-OK but still a bit close to the above-mentioned blights on the landscape (and we’re saving it for Incinerator 2). The sinister-sounding Tseung Kwan O Area 137 has, sadly, already been earmarked for ‘future PHI needs’, and let’s not tell relieved nearby residents that it means ‘potentially hazardous installations’.

One of Lantau’s most voluble wits is quoted in the SCMP as saying that if the incinerator is as clean as the bureaucrats say, “why don’t they build it next to Legco?” As we can see, this was in fact considered…

However, yet again, there is a distressing obstacle preventing what might appear to be a sensitive and logical choice: any extra hot air being generated around our Legislative Council would render life in Central and Western District unsustainable, or, in the worst-case scenario, damage the tourism industry.

So the obscure Shek Whatever island off Lantau it is. Residents of the last remaining truly green area of Hong Kong will just have to live with it. Maybe their dire warnings that the chimney could fall down and hit a water buffalo will turn out to be justified, and they’ll be able to turn round and tell the rest of us “told you so.” We’ll just have to see.

If it were up to me, I would seize the opportunity for more of that all-important integration, partnership and cooperation with the Mainland, and put Hong Kong’s incinerators, not to mention landfills, prisons, columbaria and drug rehab centres, within an hour’s ferry ride away on the other side of the border. Even after becoming the world’s leading source of plasticware, textiles and electronics, the Pearl River Delta is still 90% flat muddy wasteland where villagers will put up with almost anything for a reasonable sum.

And then we have Taiwan. The non-country has cleaned up impressively since, as it happens, it became democratic in the late 1980s. It has recycling, it has nuclear power stations, it has measures to reduce waste, it has growing fleets of electric vehicles, and it has incinerators. These plants are not popular, though by all accounts they are pretty high-tech and far less polluting than landfills. To help ease the way, local communities are given sweeteners for accepting the facilities, such as free admission to the heated swimming pool that gets built alongside.

This principle, appropriately vulgarized, would work in Hong Kong. Offer each household within half a mile a big enough one-off cash payment, and you would soon have neighbourhoods competing with each other to house the most noisome and feng-shui-damaging garbage or corpse treatment centres. It could pay for itself through lower construction costs than in remote areas like Shek Kwu Chau. Seal the deal with a little local referendum, and away you go. And you don’t even need to bother with a revolving restaurant.

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13 Responses to More garbage

  1. Maugrim says:

    It was almost Pythoneseque to read this morning that they are protesting that the option causing the ‘least fuss’ has been chosen. Perhaps they are more interested in the fun in being dragged away screaming by police, and the publicity that would be generated than an actual solution.

  2. Sir Crispin says:

    Typical hysterical, knee-jerk reaction from the locals operating with the least amount of possible knowledge or sense. Incinerator’s are a lot cleaner than in past decades, in fact there are communities in Europe where they are in the downtown core. I suppose when garbage starts piling up in the streets then maybe they will get behind the idea, but I like your idea of the payments. When in doubt in HK, go with the lowest common denominator…appeal to their insatiable lust for cash.

  3. Maugrim says:

    Nah Sir Crispin, its the insatiable desire to get something ‘free’ or ‘extra’. Something more for nothing. An extension of kiasu perhaps. Observe it some time if you get a chance.

  4. Stephen says:

    Good to see that lashings of hectares of reclamation is needed for facilities, berthing and a breakwater so as not to spoil Donald’s concrete pouring credentials. I’m sure the proposal will sail through the legislature with the backing of the functionals and DAB yes men.

  5. good joss, taipan says:

    Jack Bennett parted the bead curtain with one hand and peeked inside. The place was dark with only a few scattered customers.
    “Hello Joe” a husky voice said out of nowhere “you come and have a drink in my bar”. Bennett looked into a pair of almond shaped doe eyes. They were inscrutable yet inviting. He stepped forward.
    He had never been in the Plum Blossom Lounge before. The barman served his whiskey on the rocks. A glitterball slowly rotated on the ceiling. You can always tell a classy joint, he thought. They even mixed the nuts.
    “Hey Joe, you buy me drink ?” the husky voice with the big brown eyes asked. There she was again, standing next to him, wearing a cheong-sam with a slit up to her knee. Before he could answer she ran a delicate finger over the short sleeve of his new safari. “Nice suit, Joe”.
    Jack Bennett had heard numerous sailors’ tales about the anatomical peculiarities of Chinese wimmin. But a prominent adam’s apple was not one of them.
    Bambi drew her finger teasingly over his hairy, manly arm, past the digital watch with 5 functions and it came to rest on his upper leg.
    “Oh, you so man” she whispered breathlessly.
    You too, honey, Jack Bennett thought.
    “Can I make friend with you ?” she inquired. “You make love long time to Mei Ling…….”

    (to be continued, no doubt)

  6. jing says:

    Er ….. where were we ? Is the Plum Blossom Lounge revolving on top of the mega-incinerator ? In that case Zhuhai is the optimum spot for it.

  7. Vile Traveller says:

    The trouble with placing waste disposal facilities in remote, unspoilt locations is that, on the whole, it is not these remote unspoilt locations which are generating all the garbage. As it is certainly true that moder waste incinerators are relatively “clean” (inasmuch as there is no actual safe lower limit for dioxins), the large healthy-looking lady in the picture makes an excellent point in locating it in Central. Perhaps not next to LegCo which has insurmountable obstacles as mentioned by H, but wouldn’t a lovely iconic chimney look just the business in front of IFC2, next to the new vent megastructure that HyD is currently putting on the lawn?

    Japan has quite a nice one, but they had Hundertwasser. We’ve got CEDD.

  8. Mui Wo's Dirty Northern Bathtub says:

    Lousie Preston !!! OMG, OMG !!! – Ms P is the foxy-librarian-looking lady in the piccie doing a somewhat limp impersonation of Adolf H . She’s a right larf after a cupla sherries. Go Girl, Go Girl, you tell ’em !!!

  9. Max (of Max and Louise) says:

    Curly and Fatty say:

    Two school exam questions: Answer twice, once as a rational resident/taxpayer and secondly as a Hong Kong bureaucrat (e.g: put yourself in the shoes of Winky Ip, if possible without upsetting Hemlock):

    Q. 1): Hypothetically assume you can completely disregard Hong Kong’s air pollution problems and decide to build a large dioxin and fly ash producing incinerator, would you?

    (A) Build the incinerator by 2016 at the cost of X billion HK$, at Tsang Tsui adjacent to the ash pits where the waste ash by-product will be buried. Note your existing garbage trucks can directly access the incinerator (so no extra costs for new transport);

    OR

    (B) Build the incinerator by 2018 by: (i) reclaiming 15.9 hectares of pristine marine and porpoise breeding area at Shek Kwu Chau, including expensive new breakwater; (ii) build one or more unsightly and smelly harbour-side waste transfer facilities to move untreated garbage from truck to open-top garbage barge; (iii) buy and operate this fleet of garbage barges (note polluting bunker fuel used); (iv) spend the same X billion HK$ as in (A) to build incinerator, but note extra construction costs of building on an island, getting workers there etc; (v) accept higher ongoing operating costs of barging garbage to the incinerator and then ash from there to the same ash pits at Tsang Tsui (going under Tsing Yi bridge). In your answer take into account the adverse visual effect on tourism of this barge fleet in the harbour and the incinerator site, particularly as Macau ferries will pass very nearby.

    Q.2): If your answer to Q.1 was (B) would you ensure that an announcement on sites was made before any financial costing of alternatives was done, to ensure you didn’t look stupid? YES/NO.

  10. twinkle says:

    Nicely done, Max. I think that’s all we need to know.
    Mr Yau, would you show this gentleman to your office?

  11. Big Al says:

    Everyone seems to be missing the point of the incinerator and it’s high-tech air pollution control equipment. It’s not a facility designed primarily to burn refuse, but it’s a facility to generate CLEAN AIR that we desperately need! After flue gas passes through scrubbers, electrostatic precipitators and whatnot, the gas coming out of the stack will be cleaner than the ambient air in Hong Kong. Just think of it; plumes of clean air bellowing out of the chimney – open your windows and inhale deeply! Prices of houses on Shek Kwu Chau (if there are any) will sky rocket! All these monied expats who, because of poor air quality, are always thinking of leaving Hong Kong with their snotty kids and snooty wives will stay in droves. EPD can set up a stack-side air monitoring station and claim massive improvements in local air quality. It’s a WIN WIN WIN WIN situation (except for the monied expats bit) if ever there was one, and all people are doing is poo-poo-ing it! Hong Kong – I’ll never understand the place!

  12. York Hunt says:

    If you show me your precipitator, I’ll show you mine.

  13. the appalachianfanclub says:

    I suspect that folk like Sir C and his best chum Maugs would like to be welcomed on an island like Shek Kwu Chau

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