Grannie Green Revivial

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Chp 54, Dumping in the New Territories – Forty years champion for the environment

Dumping in the New Territories

The illegal dumping of construction and domestic wastes has been a problem that plagued the country side for many years. A particularly bad case was uncovered by CA in March 1998 in Sheung Pak Nai, an otherwise picturesque coastal area in the remote part of Western New Territories, where hundreds of tonnes of wastes were dumped. CA wrote to Secretary for Planning Environment and Lands Mr. Bowen Leung on 25 February urging the government to take strict enforcement action and to punish drivers of trucks which dumped the wastes, and followed it up with another letter to the Provisional Legislative Council on 7 March.

Following a site visit, CA held a press conference on 23 March 1998 condemning the illegal dumping and proposing that the government impose strict fines as well as set up a hotline to encourage citizens to report on similar infringements. CA also made a public call to the landowner to reinstate the site to its unpolluted state. It received a reply on 30 March from the Planning Environment and Lands Bureau acknowledging that “the current legislative controls may be inadequate” and that government would conduct a comprehensive review of the enforcement measures to improve control. But that was never delivered and illegal dumping remained as serious a problem in 2008 as it was ten years before.

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May 31, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment

Chp 53, Open storage in the New Territories – Forty years champion for the environment

Open storage in the New Territories

Open storage was one of the two issues addressed in CA’s September 1994 report on “Land Use and Environmental Quality in North West New Territories” (the other was wetland conservation). In 1991 the Town Planning Ordinance was amended to prevent sprawl of open storage, but it could not control pre-existing uses. The Town Planning Board had tried to upzone selected sites to Residential Group D to provide incentives for landowners to upgrade, but that had largely failed as the incentive (usually plot ratio of 0.2) was deemed not enough. Lack of enforcement over unauthorized uses exacerbated the problem further. CA’s solution was a rigorous clean-up and strict enforcement against non-compliance, while using non in-situ exchange for sites with potential to be turned into a well-planned port back-up area.

But open storage persisted and became a reality which New Territories residents had to put up with. Occasionally conflicts broke out: one of the cases involving CA was in Fairview Park where schools and residents were exposed to air and noise pollution and traffic hazard arising from illegal open storage yards nearby. With the help of CA, the residents and schools got organized to lobby Environmental Protection Department, Planning Department, Lands Department and Education Department in May 1998. Though not completely resolved, the problem was alleviated somewhat, but the bigger gain was perhaps in building the local community.

May 30, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment

Chp 52, Waste charging – Forty years champion for the environment

Waste charging

The Product Eco-responsibility Bill passed on 10 July 2008 paved the way for a levy on plastic shopping bag to be introduced. As early as 14 years before, in June 1994, CA’s waste expert Gordon Ng had made a public call for plastic bags to be charged. The rate suggested was $0.5, the same charge being contemplated by the government in 2008.

The plastic bags levy would look an easy one compared to charging for disposing at landfills. In the latter case, the charging was approved by the Legislative Council in 1995, a scheme on charging construction waste disposal at landfills was introduced in 1996 but it was never carried out. The problem stemmed from opposition of truck drivers and waste haulers on the fee collection mechanism, which was mainly based on a trip-ticket system, i.e. requiring truck drivers to pay at the gate or purchase tickets before dumping. The waste collectors and drivers felt it unfair to have to pay the charge instead of the waste generators. On the other hand, collecting the fee at the gate is the most efficient way of administering the charge, and is widely practiced elsewhere.

On 26 May 2001 CA held a seminar on Solid Waste Disposal Charging with representatives from the Environmental Protection Department, Legislative Council, and construction and waste management industries. While there was consensus on the need to press ahead with the charging scheme, views differed on implementation details.

The scheme made slow progress when government introduced the Waste Disposal (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2003 to the Legislative Council. The latest proposals were highly accommodating to the waste haulers and drivers: the government would identify major waste producers and charge them direct, despite the much higher administrative cost. Haulers and drivers would still need to share the burden of collecting and paying the charge for other waste producers, but small business haulers would be allowed a credit period. Despite these concessions, however, truck drivers and haulers still threatened to derail the Bill.

CA staged a petition outside LegCo when the Bills Committee met on 28 April 2004 to demand LegCo members not to block the Bill. CA also presented a public statement on the same day, decrying the lack of progress in the charging scheme eight years after the legislation was passed. The CA statement pointed that, “Every day 10,200 tonnes of construction wastes are sent to landfill, based on the operation cost of $125 per tonne, the whole society has to pay $1,270,000 every day, it is simply not fair.”

Nor would it be if the charging were to be limited to construction waste only. CA wanted the scheme “to be extended to cover other wastes such as clinical, commercial, industrial and household waste in due course.”

The Bill was duly passed by LegCo in 2004 and the actual charging began in 2006.

May 29, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment

Chp 51, Dumping of used tyros and vehicle parts – Forty years champion for the environment

Dumping of used tyres and vehicle parts

Up to 400,000 used tyres are thrown away each year. Some ended in landfills but a large quantity were dumped in the New Territories or simply burnt, causing air pollution and bad smell. In a statement by Chung Shan Shan in March 1994, CA drew attention to the problem and called for a ban on open burning, lamenting the lack of used car collection centre and hence the government’s inability to treat waste tyres. The alternative of cutting tyres into small pieces and then dumping at landfills would be wasteful. Instead CA suggested that the used tyres be collected and then either incinerated to generate electricity, or broken up through secondary material recycling for other uses such as plastic furniture or construction.

The issue was later extended to that of dumping of used vehicle parts. In July 1994 CA wrote to the Secretary for Planning and Lands Mr Tony Eason suggesting that a deposit system be imposed to register vehicles before they were dismantled and disposed, i.e. a levy for disposal which would be refunded after actual disposal, to be built into the vehicle registration tax. The Planning Environment and Lands Branch replied a month later rejecting the deposit system as impractical and pledging that government would continue to use planning control to regulate the problem.

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment

Chp 50, Chemical waste disposal – Forty years champion for the environment

Chemical waste disposal

One of the early deliverables of the 1989 White Paper “Pollution in Hong Kong: A Time to Act” was the Chemical Waste Treatment Facility in Tsing Yi Island. The plant was built quickly and commissioned in April 1993. The Facility was the answer to the once widespread problem of dumping chemical waste into rivers or sewers. Under the new system, chemical waste producers would be registered and required to pack and store chemical wastes for collection by licensed collectors using a “reverse milk bottle” system, thus making sure the chemical waste is tracked and safely disposed of.

The plant was extraordinary in that the government took a “build first, charge later” approach – not unwelcome by green groups – and issued a consultation paper in June 1993 seeking views on the charges to be levied, well after the plant went into operation. The government’s target was to devise a simple system to achieve an overall 43% recovery rate for operating cost, with a low starting fee at 20% gradually rising to full recovery by the end of the eighth year.

CA replied in August 1993 welcoming the polluter-pay principle behind the charging scheme but at the same time expressing concern over enforcement, as a large number of firms had not registered. CA also queried why the recovery was limited to operating cost only but not capital cost.

That last point was the subject of another letter to the Environmental Protection Department in March 1996, when the Chemical Waste Treatment Facility had run smoothly. The polluter-pay principle was highlighted again and EPD was asked to develop a plan for full cost recovery, instead of being persuaded into freezing the charges as the government was then under pressure for.

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment