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LCQ18: Extension of landfill

     Following is a question by the Hon James Tien and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (June 26):

Question :

     Regarding the projects recently proposed by the Government for extending the Southeast New Territories Landfill (Tseung Kwan O Landfill) and the Northeast New Territories Landfill, many residents in Tseung Kwan O and the North District have conveyed to me their strong discontent and opposition. They are concerned that problems of odours, air pollution, environmental hygiene, dust and transport, etc. caused by the existing landfills to the surrounding areas will worsen with the extension, resulting in further harm to the health and living environment of the residents nearby. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) notwithstanding the authorities have indicated that the District Councils (DCs) concerned have been consulted on the aforesaid two projects and such DCs have expressed support or no-objection to them, whether the authorities have gauged the views of the residents in the districts concerned in detail; if they have, of such views; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) of the formula adopted by the authorities for arriving at the exhaustion year of the Tseung Kwan O Landfill, and why the authorities have presented several variants of exhaustion year over the past years;

(c) as the Tseung Kwan O Landfill is the landfill closest to residential areas and its extension project is expected to cause greater impacts on the residents nearby, whether the authorities have explored alternative measures in place of the extension project and worked for an early closure of the landfill; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d) as some residents and experts have indicated that the odours produced by the Tseung Kwan O Landfill may drift to areas on the Hong Kong Island such as Taikoo Shing and Siu Sai Wan, whether the authorities have conducted an in-depth investigation on the issue; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Our reply to Hon James Tien's question is as follows:

(a) We have adopted a continuous public involvement approach during the planning and development stages of the projects, including the statutory environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. We have conducted a series of public consultation/engagement sessions through which we considered and addressed the concerns of relevant stakeholders and other interested parties on the landfill extension projects.

     For the Northeast New Territories (NENT) Landfill Extension, we have been consulting the North District Council (NDC) since 2004 on the proposal to conduct engineering feasibility and EIA study for the project, and from time to time reported to NDC on the study progress. We consulted NDC on April 12, 2007 regarding the EIA findings and the latest development of the project. A motion objecting to the NENT Landfill Extension was moved by the NDC at the meeting.

     As the proposed NENT Landfill Extension site is located between Ta Kwu Ling and Sha Tau Kok, the Ta Kwu Ling District Rural Committee (TKLDRC) and the Sha Tau Kok District Rural Committee (STKDRC) are also key stakeholders and local objections to the project had been received from them. In response to local concerns, the North District Office and the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) have taken the lead to set up a Working Group with representatives from the TKLDRC and STKDRC in early 2009. The Working Group provides a forum for stakeholders to express their views and to map out measures and betterment programmes to address their concerns. Liaison meetings under this Working Group had been held regularly to brief and update stakeholders of the latest development of the landfill extension project. Ten meetings have been held so far, with most of the requests under the betterment programmes in Ta Kwu Ling and Sha Tau Kok (mainly concerning improvement to local environment like greening or community facilities) successfully met or being explored. We will continue to carry out enhancement and associated works, and consider actively the requests for implementation of local enhancement works.

     Subsequently, in a consultation with the NDC on June 9, 2011 regarding Hong Kong's latest waste management strategy and the action plan, including the implementation of the NENT Landfill Extension project, the NDC members were generally supportive of the waste management strategy, without any motion against the NENT Landfill Extension. We will continue to maintain close liaison with the NDC, local community and other relevant stakeholders in taking forward the project.

     As regards the South East New Territories (SENT) Landfill Extension, we have adopted a continuous public involvement approach with the statutory bodies, non-statutory organisations and local representatives since the inception of the project in 2004. We have consulted the Sai Kung District Council (SKDC), the Advisory Council on the Environment, green groups, professional bodies and institutions, education institutions and the Tseung Kwan O (TKO) community. In addition, we have organised altogether over 500 site visits (with some 15 000 participants) to SENT Landfill, roving exhibitions and road shows in TKO and arranged outreach programmes for schools and residents in TKO to introduce the SENT Landfill Extension project to the local community.

     Among the three landfills, SENT Landfill is the closest to major residential developments, thus called for extra efforts in addressing community concerns on air quality, odour and dust. On odour concerns, we will designate the proposed SENT Landfill Extension for the reception of only construction waste with no odour issue. Municipal solid waste (MSW) and sludge will no longer be accepted upon the designation, resulting in reduction of relevant vehicle count by half when only construction waste is received. In addition, from mid 2013, an on-site odour monitoring team will operate from 6am to 2am everyday to enhance monitoring on and provide swift response to the odour issue. To step up monitoring on air quality, we will measure PM2.5 at Wan Po Road from July 2013 onwards, and establish an air quality monitoring station in TKO. For addressing concerns on dust, frequent and regular cleansing of Wan Po Road has been arranged.

     We last consulted SKDC on May 3, 2011 on the project. The meeting concluded that most SKDC members present at that meeting supported or had no objection to the scheme under which the size of the landfill extension will be reduced and only construction waste will be received and thereby addressed the community's concern on odour problem.  We will continue to maintain close liaison with SKDC and other relevant stakeholders in taking forward the extension project. We will also continue to carry out enhancement and associated works, and consider actively the requests for implementation of local improvement works.

(b)  The estimated date for the landfills reaching their full capacity depends on the waste generation rate, waste recovery rate and amount of waste requiring disposal. The waste generation rate is affected by a host of factors, and individual parameters may fluctuate due to various reasons. In our estimation, we have taken into account the historical trend of various data and economic forecasts, such as the Census and Statistics Department's estimates of population growth, the Economic Analysis and Business Facilitation Unit's estimates of Gross Domestic Product growth, as well as the measures for waste recovery and recycling (for example, coverage of the EPD's waste separation measures). We have reviewed the estimated date for the landfills reaching their full capacity based on the above basic considerations. Based on our latest estimate, the SENT Landfill will be full by 2014-15.

(c)  In May this year, the Environment Bureau published the "Hong Kong: Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022" (the Blueprint) as a solution to our imminent waste management problem facing Hong Kong. The Blueprint adopts the theme of "Use Less, Waste Less" and covers a series of measures, which include various initiatives in tandem to avoid and reduce waste; to engage the community in waste reduction and to complete waste-related infrastructure.

     Overseas experiences (including those of South Korea and of cities such as Taipei) show that landfills are an essential part of the waste management chain. Even in South Korea, the waste management composition presently stands at a ratio of 6:2:2, i.e. recycling (60%), landfills (20%) and incineration (20%). As the three landfills will reach their full capacity successively in 2015, 2017 and 2019, the timely extension of the three strategic landfills is an integral part of the Blueprint.

     Located in TKO, North District and Tuen Mun, the three strategic landfills receive waste from nearby districts and their respective refuse transfer stations. The three landfills and seven refuse transfer stations build a balanced waste management network which has provided the most efficient and least polluting waste management service to the public.

     Land resources are very valuable in Hong Kong, and land suitable for landfill purpose is scarce. Our proposed extension of the three strategic landfills is the outcome after thorough study. We hope to retain all precious usable landfill capacity. The SENT Landfill Extension in TKO is strategically important due to its proximity to Kowloon and Hong Kong Island and its ability to handle waste generated from the urban area.

     Because of the judicial review, we have yet to take forward the large scale waste-to-energy modern incineration facilities. Their construction will take as long as eight years, thus unable to ease the pressure of final disposal in time. Therefore, apart from extending the landfills in time, we have no other means to dispose of such waste.

(d)  The EPD has received odour complaints from the residents of the Eastern District (including Siu Sai Wan and Heng Fa Chuen) on Hong Kong Island. After receiving the complaints, EPD staff attended the vicinity of the complainants' places of residence for investigation but could not observe the odour.  Therefore, they were unable to further track down the nature and source of the odour. Apart from site investigation, the EPD also carried out analysis on the basis of the dates and time when residents were affected by the odour, as well as the data on wind speed and wind direction provided by the Hong Kong Observatory. However, EPD could not verify if the odour had originated from the SENT Landfill.

Ends/Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Issued at HKT 13:26


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