Not In My Backyard, Mate!

The recent public meeting about the proposed development of an incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau was better than going to the circus. Considering the strength of the opposition to the superprison a few years ago, followed by the recent protests about the refusal to re-open the Mui Wo secondary school, you would have thought the government would have been prepared for some stiff resistance. Instead they seemed to think they were going to breeze through their presentation pretty swiftly, followed by some considered and polite questions. No such luck. What they got was a very hostile reception from a bunch of Nimbys who had some searching questions on every aspect of the project, none of which the government reps were able to satisfactorily answer.
From the outset the locals refused to watch the presentation, demanded bilingual translations and wanted notes taken of all that was said. Why hadn’t the government thought of this? There were then a whole series of comments from the floor, which made it amply clear that this project is a disgrace. There were no detailed figures concerning the cost of the project and how this compared with the other possible sites; the technology being proposed was not the best and the most efficient at dealing with the waste problem, as reference to Denmark and Japan made clear; the proposed site would be problematic from the point of view of transporting the waste and would be a serious blot on the landscape in an area of natural beauty; it would cause severe disruption to the seabed and the marine animals living in the area, including the dolphins and finless porpoises; and human health would be endangered by the emissions of toxins such as dioxins. On every count the project is a disaster, and the fact that no hard figures were forthcoming which would enable people to compare the relative costs of the different potential sites led some private consultants in the audience to say that if someone presented such a project to them, they would dismiss it out of hand and call for the sacking of the person responsible for it.

So, the government knows it has a fight on its hands and that the opposition has a very strong case indeed. There were many very knowledgeable people in the audience who pulled the government’s case to pieces. It was particularly galling to hear that some dredging work has already been carried out on the island even though, officially, no decision has been reached about the final site. This clearly suggests that the government sees it as a done deal. They also seem to be anxious to avoid a confrontation with the leader of the Heung Yee Kuk who happens to live near one of the other proposed sites near Tuen Mun!

It was great to witness such a powerful counterpunch to the government’s plans. It’s just a pity that most of these same people never speak out against the bigger, more important issues of peak oil and global warming. Nimbyism is not always an edifying sight, but if you’re not prepared to fight about local issues, then what are you prepared to fight for?

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About transitionsl

I've been an English teacher for the best part of 30 years, teaching in England, Tanzania, Brunei, Australia and Hong Kong. I've always been interested in nature and environmental issues, but it was the discovery of Peak Oil about five years ago that galvanised me into trying to help my local community to prepare for what will be a dramatically different world to the one many of us have been used to. I've been helping to run a transition group, following the guidelines created by Rob Hopkins's Transition Movement in the UK. This blog is an attempt to engage in discussion with a wider group of people in Hong Kong on the ways to transition from our current oil dependency to a state of fossil-free local resilience.
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