South China Morning Post
Families living on South Lantau are worried about the effect of the proposed waste incinerator to be built on Shek Kwu Chau island only 6 kilometers away. A number of families have made the decision to move to more rural areas in order to protect the health of their children, who suffer severe asthma attacks and other health disorders when exposed to the pollution in central Hong Kong.
The incinerator proposal is currently on hold and the final decision over its construction will be up to the new government. However, the expectation is that it will go ahead, as Hong Kong’s three main landfills are due to be exhausted by 2018.
Incinerators pose two main dangers to health, according to Dr Kenneth Tsang Wah-tak, a respiratory medicine specialist in Hong Kong: dioxins and airborne particulate matter.
Both pollutants can cause asthma, while particulate matter has additionally been shown to increase the risk of mortality by cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.
Elvis Au of the Environmental Protection Department insists that the incinerator will “showcase the best technology in the world,” meeting the European Union’s strict standards. It will burn waste more cleanly and completely, filtering out toxic emissions, and Au claims the process will be safe for neighboring communities.
However, the impact of modern incinerators is still not known. Even though they reduce the concentration of emissions, they tend to be larger and thus may increase the total mass of emissions.
It’s clear that a solution is needed to ameliorate the waste crisis in Hong Kong, a city which produces 13,800 tonnes of waste per day. However, it may be difficult to reach consensus as nobody wants the incinerator in their neighborhood, and the “‘not in my backyard’ phenomenon can stall vital public works projects indefinitely.”
The Environmental Protection Department claims it conducted a rigorous site search for the proposed the incinerator, choosing Shek Kwu Chau over Tuen Mun, wanting to “fairly distribute unwanted facilities” – the latter already has a landfill and a proposed sludge incinerator.
Au has been consulting community members since 2008 to reassure them about the impact of the incinerator. However, this has not alleviated the concern for many families.
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