An Excerpt From: A Different Future for Yung Shue Wan: An Alternative Planning Approach
Submitted to Hong Kong Government, March 1995
2.0 Planning for the future
2.1 It is now widely accepted that human activities around the world are causing such large-scale damage to the global environment that it may not be able to support future generations.
2.2 In Asia, alarming signs of environmental degradation have become apparent over recent decades. In the 1980s, Hong Kong was in danger of becoming infamous for its increasingly polluted environment.
2.3 In the late 1980s, the Hong Kong government acted to formulate a strategy for pollution control and to create new departments within government to regulate and enforce standards. Further to the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, there was increasing pressure for all governments to produce policies, which supported “sustainable” economies. In 1993, the Hong Kong government published a second review of their 1989 White Paper on Pollution in Hong Kong entitled A Green Challenge for the Community.
2.4 The report broke new ground in Hong Kong in that it proposed programmes for “sustaining the environment” for future generations. In particular, ten principles were set out “each one a foundation stone on which to build a cleaner, healthier Hong Kong.” The principles, which follow, are highly commendable:
Stewardship: defined as “the responsibility of every community to ensure the proper protection of the environment so that the objective of sustainable development can be achieved”.
Sustainable development: defined using the Brundtland report as meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. (The report also states that “communities are therefore obliged to review objectively all their development programmes to ensure that they are compatible with the principle of sustainable development”, and that “this will require significant changes to our lifestyles”.)
Community responsibility: Responsibility for environmental action is not a responsibility for government alone, but an obligation on every member of the community”, and later “the environment is rarely, if ever, identified as a community concern. This must change.”
Public information: “Information about our environment should be made readily available so that the public can make informed choices.”
Realistic approach: “Measures to protect the environment should be based on the most reliable information available, on wide public debate of the measures, and on the understanding that in many cases essential goals will not be easily achieved.”
Precautionary principle: “Believing that prevention is better and cheaper than cure, we should take action to protect the environment against pollutants, even when scientific evidence may not wholly confirm such action.”
Regulation: ”Necessary regulations to prevent and control pollution….” “…the government will continue to explore other measures that may prove flexible or efficient in achieving environmental objectives.”
Polluter pays principle: “…gradually, the community makes a fair and reasonable contribution to the cost of providing services necessary to protect the environment.”
International co-operation: “As a community, we will endeavour to meet our obligations under international agreements and treaties aimed at preventing global pollution and conserving natural resources.”
Private sector involvement: “The government believes that the private sector is, for the most part, best placed to provide that facilities needed to clean the environment…”
“To meet our environmental obligations, we will need to fulfill these principles. They are therefore commended to the community.”
The rational for proposing an alternative planning approach for Yung Shue Wan is that few, if any, of the above principles have apparently been incorporated into the present government plan. In fact, there is widespread evidence, across the territory, that a major rift exists between policy making and implementation departments within government. Additional examples of government guidelines, which appear to have been overlooked in the present planning are included in Appendix I.
In particular, it is regrettable that the government’s Yung Shue Wan proposals have failed to address the following objectives:
The scheme does not begin with a basic objective of “ensuring the proper protection of the environment.” In fact, the Phase I scheme will encroach into a Countryside Conservation Area and remove a large section of natural foreshore, and the proposed centralization of waste management will have implications for the environment throughout the village area.
The scheme proposes to introduce unsustainable systems to the village, which will create an economic burden for the community in any situation where a “polluter pays principle” is properly introduced. The proposals perpetuate unsustainable practices and lifestyles.
The nature of the planning process and public “consultation procedure has failed to encourage and aspects of “community responsibility”. In fact, responses from government have suggested that safeguarding the environment of Yung Shue Wan is not an important issue. There has been no consultation, which has encouraged the public to “make informed choices”. Rather than uniting the community in developing a specific, appropriate, and democratically supported plan, the community has been divided: those that believe the short-term benefits of the government’s single option outweigh the disadvantages, and those that don’t.
Defining a “realistic approach” to development should be based on achieving appropriate solutions to specific locations. At Yung Shue Wan, it is apparent that survey and appraisal of the community’s requirements has not been thorough, and that innovative or customized solutions have not been properly considered. A “precautionary principle” approach to protecting the environment has not been taken, and the loss of the natural shoreline will be irreversible.
A review of waste management regulation has not apparently been included in the Yung Shue Wan proposals. Introducing regulations which encourage waste minimization, making appropriate guidelines for treatment of foul water from new buildings, and introducing the foundation for sustainable “polluter pays” waste management systems would have long-term implications for the community and begin to fulfill the government’s own principles. It could also fulfill international obligations.
Yung Shue Wan is a popular destination for local and foreign visitors, largely because it provides a “retreat” from the metropolitan city, and represents an easily accessible “rural” area of Hong Kong. To despoil locations such as this sends a clear message to visitors about the Hong Kong government’s attitude to the environment. Rather than strengthening the existing economy of Yung Shue Wan, the proposals threaten to undermine it and have apparently not explored the opportunities to gain private sector participation in mutually beneficial proposals.
2.7 In the following sections, some ideas for an alternative planning approach for Yung Shue Wan are proposed. These would fulfil the growing settlement’s immediate requirements whilst trying to fulfil the government’s own principles for sustainable development. In this way, it can be illustrated that acceptable solutions to the problems addressed by government are possible whilst maintaining the attractive aspects of Yung Shue Wan’s environment.
2.8 The issues addressed are not all-encompassing, and other aspects of the community’s future development still need to be looked at. However, the issues highlighted could facilitate many aspects of community involvement and the development of a sustainable economy.
(References in italics are from the Planning, Environment and Lands Branch publication: A Green Challenge for the Community, 1993)
3.0 Minimising domestic refuse
A large area of the new government proposed reclamation is provided for a refuse transfer station. This will provide an area, larger and further from the main village than the existing depot, for the loading of refuse onto boats or barges destined for one of the territory’s major new landfill sites.
The growing population has produced a corresponding growth in volumes of domestic refuse. The phasing out of incinerators over most of Lamma has meant that the RSD have been faced with escalating volumes of refuse which is largely gathered and transported to the waterfront loading jetty by handcarts. It is probable that if the community continues to grow, refuse transfer across the island would have to be in larger, motorized vehicles. This would inevitably lead to a need for wider, graded roads and enlarged refuse storage areas.
Transporting large volumes of domestic refuse to landfills is expensive and energy consuming. The present landfill policy for waste disposal in Hong Kong is an expedient short-term option, but is ultimately unsustainable and will leave three previously unspoilt parts of rural Hong Kong unusable except as “open space”. Even at conservative estimates of waste proliferation, the landfills are only expected to be able to serve Hong Kong for thirty to fifty years. Using the “polluter pays principle”, this waste management policy will subject residents of Lamma to escalating and unnecessary expense.
Instead, a sustainable approach to domestic waste management would be based on a policy of “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”. Whereas it is important that this strategy is territory wide, it could be particularly important in isolated communities such as Lamma, where waste transfer is complicated.
The principle of community responsibility could be brought into each home with public information and regulatory guidelines on refuse separation, recycling practice and waste minimization. An essential part of achieving community involvement will be education campaigns.
Waste separation at source has been introduced into many countries around the world and has been enthusiastically received by many people. In Hong Kong, Friends of the Earth have received wide support and praise for recycling pilot schemes on public housing estates.
The principle elements of a waste separation scheme on Lamma could ideally be introduced in two phases:
Remove all clean materials, which already have a defined recycling industry/market in Hong Kong (metal, clean paper and some plastics). A percentage of these materials is already recovered, but by separation at source the percentage could be substantially increased.
Remove all compostable organics. Compostible material is a large proportion of domestic refuse and could be a useful resource on Lamma. Lamma still has significant areas of agricultural land where an organic fertilizer would enable a break from the present reliance on artificial fertilizers. Lamma is home to one of the territory’s successful organic vegetable producers and the demand for this type of local producer should be encouraged. There is a shortage of good quality composts throughout the territory and composted refuse could be marketed to agricultural and landscape industries.
Secondly: Other materials, such as glass and most plastics, which are increasingly economical to recycle and are a substantial part of domestic refuse, could be separated as the facilities for their recycling are properly established in Hong Kong.
Specialist recycling facilities, such as for old appliances, batteries, wood, rubber and clothes and rags, will hopefully be introduced throughout the territory and require separation at source in future years.
Lamma, and perhaps Yung Shue Wan in particular, would be an ideal location to pilot a domestic recycling programme of this type. The settlement is relatively compact, residents already dispose of waste at centralized refuse points and waste transfer from the island is problematic. It is expected that the population of Lamma is a relatively well-informed and “environmentally aware” population who might take readily to a waste separation scheme.
Government incentives and policies could help to “prime” facilities and markets for a broader recycling industry in Hong Kong. Using a successful programme in a community like Lamma to promote similar schemes, the government could encourage the community involvement it has identified as a principle for protecting the environment. These schemes would also address international obligations.
Additional educational programmes could promote reducing consumption and the “throwaway” lifestyles presently predominant in Hong Kong and encourage reuse of materials.
In this way, it is believed a substantial reduction in refuse could be achieved and the need for a large waterfront loading facility could be reassessed. Sorted and partially compacted materials would be less bulky and easier to handle.
WASTE MINIMISATION ON LAMMA
The EPD estimate that by 2011 “Domestic/Commercial” waste arising from Yung Shue Wan will total 81 tonnes per day. This figure seems high given that present estimates for per capita refuse production is 1 to 1.5kg a day. There are 15-20 restaurants in the Yung Shue Wan area, but no other obvious “commercial” producers. Even if Lamma’s population reaches 10,000 by 2011, it seems unlikely that the amount of domestic refuse arising will exceed 15 tonnes a day. This issue aside, under the present waste management policies this refuse would all be shipped by transfer vessels to a “transshipment point” at Mui Wo, Lantau, and then on to the WENT landfill, 45 to 70 kilometres away depending on the preferred route around Lantau.
Assuming that the composition of the refuse will be much the same in 2011 as it was in 1988, the contents would break down as follows:
(Source: HKEPD, Monitoring of Municipal Solid Waste 1988)
If a waste separation scheme could recover 70% of all “putrescibles”, paper and metal, and aim at recovering 50% of plastics, textiles, glass, rubber and wood, it can be calculated that refuse transfer could be reduced by over 50%. This would represent 7.5 tonnes or a massive 40 tonnes a day by 2011, depending on which figures are used (see above). Additionally, the opportunity for new material sources, employment and community independence is created.
A large reduction in refuse weight could be achieved by recovering organic materials. It is presently estimated that an economically viable composting plant in Hong Kong might need 100 tonnes of sorted organic refuse a day. Lamma could not therefore support a full-scale plant. However, in many ways Yung Shue Wan is ideally suited for a home-based separation-at-source system where clean organic material could be composted on a much smaller scale. A system of this kind might work as follows:
Householders, restaurants and gardeners separate organic refuse at source and leave at local bin area.
RSD take separated organic refuse to a local composting point. (A schematic plan locates these in every village, see Figure 2).
The composting point would ideally be operated by local groups or individuals who would be free to market the compost on a profit-making basis.
The government could support a scheme of this kind by budgeting for the RSD assistance and providing the sites and composting bins to initiate the scheme. In return the reduction in waste transfer volumes would offer a large potential cost saving.
A composting plant, if properly operated, would have no major odour or leachate problems, and would not need a lot of space. Sites of 100m2 are proposed. By removing “putrescibles” from the waste stream, the size of the Yung Shue Wan transfer station could be considerably reduced. In addition, the facility could avoid leachate, odour and vermin control problems associated with mixed wastes.
End of Excerpt.
The full report evaluates the plans for the Stage 1 reclamation in Yung Shue Wan and puts forward alternatives that could have preserved the natural shoreline, yet still provided for community facilities. It highlights a major problem of the consultation process – that it exists only to pass an already agreed to plan, not to address any real, practical issues that might arise from the enquiry and which might require action beyond the scope of the proponents of the project. In this case, waste management was not relevant to the authorities charged with building the reclamation, though for a town planner thinking more holistically, it was an integral part.
Author: Tobias Forster