Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line
Reasons for not approving the EIA Report
and not issuing an Environmental Permit
Pursuant to Sections 8(3) and 10(2) of the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (the Ordinance), the Director of Environmental Protection (the Director) has decided not to approve the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (the Report) for the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line (the Project) and not to issue an Environmental Permit for the Project.
The Director has reached his decision after giving very careful consideration to:
(a) Relevant matters raised in the 225 sets of comments on the Report received from the public pursuant to Section 7 of the Ordinance;
(b) Relevant matters raised in the comments on the Report received from the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) pursuant to Section 7 of the Ordinance;
(c) The written submission received on 18 September from the Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation (the applicant) in response to a request for further information pursuant to Section 8 of the Ordinance;
(d) The Director's responsibilities to protect the environment under the various provisions of the Ordinance and the Technical Memorandum on the Environmental Impact Assessment Process (the TM) published under Section 16(5) of the Ordinance; and
(e) Advice received from the Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation, who is the relevant authority under the Ordinance on conservation and ecology matters.
In reaching his decision, the Director has noted the high ecological value of the areas that would be affected by the Project, and the high diversity of birds in these areas.
The Director has also noted that there would be potentially high direct environmental impacts arising from the Project. Whilst a number of mitigation measures have been proposed in the Report to address these impacts, the Director is of the view that several of these mitigation measures are unlikely to be effective or practicable, particularly those relating to the construction stage of the project, which would last for several years. He therefore has particular concern about the likely residual impacts arising from the lengthy construction phase of the Project.
The Director is of the view, in the light of comments received from the public and the ACE, that it has not been proven that there are no other practical and reasonable alternatives.
The Director has concluded that the environmental impacts to be caused by the Project are likely to be prejudicial to the health or well being of the flora, fauna or ecosystems in the areas.
The Director has had regard to the purpose of the Ordinance, which is to protect the environment.
Having regard to the above, and also other matters outlined below, the Director has therefore decided not to approve the Report and, hence, not to issue an Environmental Permit for the Project.
Long Valley is an area of high ecological value with a high diversity of birds. The Long Valley habitat supports a diverse range of flora and fauna, including a number of globally, regionally and locally threatened species of birds of conservation importance. The area is of particular ecological value because of its largely unfragmented nature and the area's capacity to support relatively large populations and varieties of species of conservation importance. About 210 bird species have been recorded in Long Valley, including 29 species of conservation importance. Without affecting the generality of the foregoing, and recognising that Long Valley is an area of high ecological value, and based on the comments received from the public and the ACE, the Director has the following reasons for not approving the Report and, hence, not issuing an Environmental Permit for the Project:
(a) The public, including various bird watching societies, environmental scientists and Green Groups, and also members of the ACE, have expressed serious concern about the adverse environmental impacts that are likely to arise from the implementation of the Project. They are particularly concerned about the potential fragmentation effect of the Project alignment, as it cuts through the geographical heart of Long Valley. The Director shares this concern. Whilst the Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation believes that the fragmentation effect is unlikely to be significant if considering only the operational stage of the Project, there is no doubt that serious fragmentation will indeed occur during the construction stage of the Project, which will last several years. The Director does not agree with the applicant's view given in the further written information that the physical fragmentation will be minimal. The central corridor of Long Valley will be turned into a major linear construction site, which will cause significant disturbance and habitat destruction during the construction stage. The Long Valley will be cut into two halves during construction. The areas within the Project's boundary in Long Valley, which is about 2.4 ha, will be subject to direct habitat loss and habitat destruction. In addition, because of the disturbance due to various construction activities related to the Project, there are likely to be extensive areas on both sides of the Project boundary where disturbance sensitive birds will be excluded or the density of birds will be reduced, resulting in adverse environmental impacts.
(b) In light of the concerns raised by members of the public, in view of the nature of the construction activities related to the Project and the environmental conditions surrounding the Project and having regard to the further written information submitted by the applicant, the Director has concluded that many of the measures proposed in the Report to mitigate adverse environmental impacts during the construction stage of the Project, such as those recommended for minimizing habitat fragmentation, controlling silty run-off and sedimentation, avoiding hydrological disruption and minimizing impacts from concrete washings and other pollutants, are unlikely to be practical or effective. The Director has therefore concluded that there are likely to be adverse environmental impacts during the construction stage of the Project. Because of the scale and location of the Project, the Director does not agree with the applicant's view given in the further written information that all the environmental problems during the construction stage can be overcome. In addition to the above, in view of the scale of the construction activities related to this Project and the need for construction materials storage and handling and transportation, the Director is of the view that the construction impacts are likely to be greater than predicted in the Report, and there are likely to be additional adverse environmental impacts. Also, in addition, because of the environmental conditions in Long Valley, because of the inherent nature of the construction activities related to the Project, because of the lack of proper drainage system in the Long Valley area, and because of the fact that heavy rainfall or flooding will likely exacerbate the silty runoff problem and other pollutants such as grease, concrete washings affecting nearby wetlands, the Director is of the view that there are likely to be additional adverse environmental impacts. Therefore, in overall terms, the Director has concluded that there are likely to be significant adverse environmental impacts during the construction stage.
(c) In light of the concerns raised by the public about the effectiveness of the proposed temporary wetland area, the Director is of the view that the proposed temporary wetland is unlikley to be effective or practical to compensate for the habitat loss during the construction stage of the Project. The temporary compensation area, which is a pond of about only 1.8 ha., will be within the overall construction site for the Project and will be required for the construction of a section of the viaduct cutting right across the pond including the corresponding columns and foundation works during the initial construction period. Moreover, when the area is reinstated as wetland, construction activities with various plant and equipment would still be carried out in its near vicinity including the viaduct construction just outside the reinstated pond. The Director is of the view that the compensation area will be highly disturbed and impacted by the construction of the viaduct within the pond area and by construction activity in the general vicinity of the pond. Silty run-off and sedimentation problems will be practically difficult to control. In view of these practical problems that are likely to arise during the construction stage, the Director believes that the proposed temporary wetland is unlikely to compensate adequately for habitat loss during the construction stage of the Project.
(d) Under the guidelines for ecological assessment set out in Annex 16 to the TM to the Ordinance, projects that are likely to result in adverse ecological impacts in areas of ecological importance should not normally be permitted unless the project has been shown to be necessary and it has been proven that no other practical and reasonable alternatives are available. As a result of the comments from the public and the ACE, the Director has concluded that there are likely adverse environmental impacts arising from the construction of the Project. In light of the comments from the public and members of the ACE and also the Director's conclusions concerning the likely residual environmental impacts of the Project, having regard also to the stated purpose of the Project, and having regard to the further written submission from the applicant, the Director is of the view that it has not been proven that there are no other practical and reasonable alternatives. The Director is not satisfied that all alternative means of achieving the purpose of the Project have been adequately explored and all practicable attempts to avoid the heart of Long Valley have been made. In the further written submission made by the applicant to the Director, the applicant has relied on assertive statements concerning various constraints, and the Director does not believe that all constraints claimed by the applicant are insurmountable, even though some of them might be difficult. In addition, one of the key principles stated in section 4 of the TM is that the methodologies proposed for mitigation shall give priority to avoidance of impacts. However, in selecting the railway alignment and in the further written information, the applicant has not given priority to the avoidance of adverse environmental impacts to Long Valley which is an area of high ecological value with the high diversity of birds.
(e) During the public inspection period, the public has raised concerns about the cumulative impacts arising from existing, committed and planned projects such as the existing river channelling works, Fanling By-pass, West Rail Phase II, and Strategic Growth Area for Kwu Tung North. The Director does not agree with the applicant's views given in his further written information that the cumulative environmental impacts of the Project together with other existing, committed and planned projects have been adequately addressed and the residual environmental impacts are negligible. The environmental impacts to be caused by the Project would likely add to the environmental impacts caused or to be caused by other projects in the vicinity of the areas. Some of the planned projects might affect the effectiveness of the environmental mitigation measures proposed for the Project, and the Project might affect some of the environmental mitigation measures proposed in other planned projects. Based on the information available and as a result of the comments received from the public, the Director is of the view that there are likely to be cumulative adverse environmental impacts and the environmental quality in the area as a whole is likely to be affected.