Questions answered, and unanswered

Yesterday’s puzzle: why is Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department so keen to use dirty and old-fashioned incinerator technology to solve our garbage woes when clean and fruitful Plasma arc molecule separation and gasification appears so obviously better? A comment-writer says…

It has taken over 10 years to get the proposal this far and the technology was not that old when EPD started the process … In 2009 the nice Japanese old technology suppliers took an awful lot of EPD bureaucrats, local Lantau pollies and the Heung Yee Kuk (of course) to Japan for an all-expenses paid incinerator and karaoke tour.

This sets off a few synapses. Much rummaging around fails to uncover it, but I do recall seeing an official document containing lovely photos of pristine Northeast Asian incinerators. They were so gaily coloured that they doubled up as tourist attractions, and the reader was in no doubt that communities must have been squabbling over the right to host the things. And the document did have a curious sort of karaoke-style, relaxed and cheerful mood to it.

Speedily weighing things up yesterday, I pondered the possibility that the Plasma arc warp-factor antimatter technology looks a bit too good to be true, and the pragmatic civil servants therefore may have sound reasons for wanting to spend billions on building a giant smoky ash factory on Shek Kwu Chau. Now it looks a little more as if this would be a good subject for some incisive ‘Incinerator-gate’ investigative reporting. What a pity no such thing exists in Hong Kong.

Which brings us to another puzzle a watchdog press would sniff around: Why is the government so desperately eager to push us into building a third airport runway (at a mere HK$132bn)? Even by the standards of the Big Lychee’s conniving and arrogant officialdom, the public opinion poll showing the population begging to have the thing built without further ado was a contrived and laughable bit of propaganda. P.A. Crush, the South China Morning Post letters page’s voice of reason from Shatin, explains…

Air traffic fell in Wuhan after high-speed rail arrived, he adds, and Hong Kong’s own air cargo throughput is peaking.

This sounds all too believable. Dare I take the logic a step further and pose the question: Why did the government/MTR planners ram the HK$80bn high-speed rail link proposal through with such urgency? Answer: To beat the airport bureaucracy’s third runway to it.

Another bit of civil service skullduggery a hypothetical investigative journalist might tackle is the Government Hill controversy.

Not everyone appreciates the architectural wondrousness of the old Central Government Offices on Lower Albert Road – the soaring flying buttresses, the gleaming Corinthian columns and the mist flowing through the willows and ponds in the surrounding gardens. But many sensible folk have a soft spot for the site’s historic significance, and just about everyone apart from an evil alliance of bureaucrats and developers are united in opposing plans to build an office tower/car parks/Dolce & Gabanna-type temple to tackiness and landlords. 

The government portrays a translucent tower barely visible among lush greenery – hanging gardens, no less – spilling down from a park-like forested hill, and creeping like untamed jungle along overhead walkways and westwards right along the side of Queens Road away from the Ice House Street junction. Why, you can hear the hissing of the pythons dangling from the branches…

Opponents say it is all a load of BS, and even places like Battery Path face despoiling in some way or other, not least because of higher traffic levels. At the bottom of it all, however, is the question of why the place needs redevelopment of any sort at all. Short of possession of bureaucrats’ souls by mysterious demonic powers, no-one has a satisfactory answer.

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20 Responses to Questions answered, and unanswered

  1. Walter De Havilland says:

    I think I have the answer to the rubbish disposal dilemma … a Black Hole. If the boffins at CERN could reconfigure the Large Hadron Collider to manufacture a Black Hole, which we held in a temporal time-shift force field then we could feed it all our garbage. The only downside would be the emitted Hacking radiation. To shield us from that a perimeter of senior EPD officials should be dense enough.

  2. Wag says:

    A POEM FOR THURSDAY

    I look to the skies.
    No dollars falling.Yet.
    Merely the national bird:
    A drifting plastic bag.
    Burn it.
    From ash grows
    Money.
    And none but the civil servants
    Burn that.

  3. maugrim says:

    One more to add to the list, the initial plan for the use of Tamar had the ‘pressing need’ for retail space to be included, as if HK hasn’t already got any number of ‘shopping experiences’ within spitting distance of Admiralty. The plan has been scaled down but is still mentioned from time to time. A fillip to the usual suspects? Civil Servants bored at lunch time? A desire to make HK as air conditioned and as ‘gleaming’ as possible. All of the above most probably. Pity they just couldnt have a park.

  4. Alex says:

    Love how that architect’s rendering shows a Gucci shop at ground level in the building on the left.

    Shouldn’t that be a Dolce & Gabbana money-laundering outlet instead?

  5. Big Al says:

    Why is it that, these days, shopping is an “experience”? It never used to be. Whitewater rafting down the Chattooga River is an experience. Hilking the Inca Trail to Machupicchu is an experience. Bungee jumping off the Vic Falls Bridge into the Zambezi is an experience (particularly when the bungee breaks). I’m sorry, but going shopping is not an experience in any way, shape or form. It’s a pain and to be avoided at all costs.

  6. Big Al says:

    Regarding the third runway, just as the Horse becoming CE is a foregone conclusion, so is the third runway -there is no way it’s not going to happen. What we should be worried about is the fourth runway – where are they going to stick that? Answers on a postcard, please. If you follow the argument that concludes a third runway is needed due to ever increasing and never decreasing passenger demand, then so is a fourth runway, followed by a fifth, a sixth, etc. Clearly, therefore, the argument is bollocks, but whenever did that stop pointless infrastructure development in Hong Kong?

  7. Klaxon says:

    Funny how the need for an incinerator crops up immediately after the Kwai Chung incinerator and its colossal 150m chimney are dismantled. Maybe they could have just rinsed the filter.

  8. kawaiichimney says:

    “lovely photos of pristine Northeast Asian incinerators. They were so gaily coloured that they doubled up as tourist attractions”

    The EPD have been drinking too much of their own dioxin-laden Kool-Ade.
    Their response to objectors to the incinerator at SKC was …. to offer a choice of colour and graphics on the mega-stack.

    They suggest a marine theme.

  9. Big Al says:

    @ kawaiichimney
    This is a return to government’s traditional form of public consultation, honed over the years:
    1. Decide on the size and location of a new piece of pointless infrastructure (e.g. the mega prison on Hei Ling Chau)
    2. Ask the public what colour they want it painted (e.g. black & white stripes, or perhaps lots of broad arrows in random directions).
    There, you’ve been consulted, so shut up.

  10. PropertyDeveloper says:

    They’ve got away with it so many times (who ever protested about the loss of much of Tolo Harbour or greater Sha Tau Kok Hoi, the road through the SSSI to Sam Muhn Tsai or the filling in of lakes at Nam Chung ?) that to lose a few more islands on the fringes won’t make much difference.

  11. Spud says:

    I believe the answer as to why they want to bulldoze the hill is not very sophisticated or complex at all. We all know this and all the other mega projects are ways to funnel public money and scarce resources to the pockets of the cartels but it seems that they can’t believe their luck that the general public aren’t interested or can’t see it.

    They have now become so complacent they can’t even be bothered to at least try and come up with decent fairly tales.

  12. Groot Oore says:

    Does anyone know if the Chinese media criticises the government on its collusion with business? I can’t imagine the disease-ridden lot at Tamar caring much about what gweilos think of anything.

  13. kawaiichimney says:

    Fairy tale: Once upon a time a horse became a king and realised that the
    old king had left him with some horrible legacies that made his people revolt.
    So the horseking threw out all the evil plans and let his people keep their old city buildings, land, islands and beaches instead of coating them in thick concrete.

    And the sky turned blue, the air cleared and pigs flew.

  14. Swine fever flying says:

    @ Groot Oore – the diseased occupiers of Tamar (“I haven’t yet used my personal shower but I did once wash my hands after using my en-suite office toilet”) think that business IS government. Of course they also ignore the (local) Chinese language press, and also ALL sectors of the electorate. I do hope that you don’t feel discriminated against – you see, there are only about a dozen tax payers whose opinion matters.

    It’s all about picking the worst practices from two systems – and calling it “Special” (as in SAR).

  15. Adrian says:

    @ Swine fever flying

    “It’s all about picking the worst practices from two systems – and calling it “Special” (as in SAR).”

    For the longest time I thought SARS was ‘Special Administrative Region Sickness’. Might still be, but the source & infectiousness of Tamarians has superseded the original illness.

  16. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Adrian

    SARS = Special Admin Region Sickness . I like that 🙂

    Then if you make the S stand for Sivil Servants and add “Tamar” in front of SARS you get TSARS ……….

    Actually I think that’s rather clever ! 🙂

  17. Jon Dica says:

    If anyone recycled in our fine city, it’d cut the household trash numbers down considerably. Particularly glass recycling. An absence of recycling bins in most giant apartment complexes adds to the problem.

    Of course, it’s a bit off-putting to go to all the trouble, when you witness the rubbish collectors picking up the public recycling bins and dumping them in with the regular trash. What a waste.

    This would have to be predicated on people’s selfish me-first attitudes being eradicated – fat chance of that. With no incentivisation, they just won’t do it.

  18. Probably says:

    @Big Al,
    Yes, shopping is an experience, but then so is going to the lavatory – something that it is necessary to perfom during the routine functioning of life but not something that one should have to brag about.

  19. Vile says:

    Ah, those lush hanging gardens of draped greenery and rooftop trees with that developers love to bedeck their visualisations. Unfortunately when it comes to actually building the things, the extra cost of providing the needed metre or so of soil on the roof usually sees these things reduced to a few patches of sedums.

    Which are then deleted to make room for A/C coolers.

  20. Allen Pinsent says:

    I am simply appalled at the government’s plans for Government Hill, and its previous failures to preserve iconic sites like Queen’s Pier and Edinburgh Place. This government has absolutely no sense of city planning and no doubt is preparing to sell us out – yet again – to the hegemonic oligopolies that control this dying city.

    I recently went to the 1881 Heritage site in TST – what used to be Hullett House – which has now been transformed into yet another glammed-up shopping mall for Mainlanders. Upon visiting the site, it is quickly apparent that restoration of Hullett House was a mere afterthought in Cheung Kong’s redevelopment of the site; the historic property overshadowed by rows of designer shops and reduced to no more than a ‘novelty’.

    I must agree with Akers-Jones. This sort of ignorance on the part of the government needs to stop, although this doesn’t seem to be happening so long as its hands continue reaching into developers’ pockets.

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