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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 53rd Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 27 July 1998 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, JP (Chairman)
Mr. Barrie COOK
Mr. CHAN Kwok-wai, JP
Miss Ann CHIANG
Professor Peter HILLS
Professor LAM Kin-che
Dr. LEONG Che-hung
Dr. NG Cho-nam
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Mr. Otto L. T. POON
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH
Ms Iris TAM
Mr. Tan Teng Huat
Mr. Plato YIP
Mr. Eugene FUNG (Secretary)


Absent with Apologies:

Mr. Julian BARCLAY
Mr. Clement Chen
Mr. Paul C. H. FAN
Professor Anthony HEDLEY, JP
Dr. Ho Kin-chung
Mr. Joseph LAU Man-wai, JP
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Miss Alex YAU



In Attendance:

 

Mr. Kim SALKELD Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment) (DS(E), PELB)
Mr. Mike Stokoe Acting Director of Environmental Protection (Ag. DEP)
Dr. P K S PUN Director of Planning (D of Plan)
Mr. S P LAU Assistant Director of Agriculture and Fisheries(Conservation), Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD) (AD(Cons), AFD)
Mr. David CHAN Principal Information Officer, Environmental Protection Department
 
In Attendance for Agenda Item 4 :
 
Mr. Joseph SHAM Senior Fisheries Officer, Agriculture and Fisheries Department (SFO, AFD)
 
In Attendance for Agenda Item 5 :
 
Dr. Mike CHIU Assistant Director (Local Control), Environmental Protection Department, EPD (AD(LC), EPD)
Mr. Murray Luo Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Territory West), EPD (PEPO(TW), EPD)


*********************



 

Action

 
   
The Chairman welcomed Mr. Tan Teng Huat, Director, Environmental Policy & Management Division, Ministry of the Environment of the Republic of Singapore, and Mr. Mike Stokoe, Acting Director of Environmental Protection, to the meeting.    
   
2.Members noted that Professor Anthony Hedley and Mr. Joseph Lau were appointed JPs with effect from 1 July 1998. As both were not at the meeting, the Chairman asked the Secretary to pass his congratulations to them after the meeting.

 



Secretary

 
   
Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 52nd Meeting held on 29 June 1998    
   
3.The minutes of the 52nd meeting were confirmed, subject to the amendments made to para. 32.
[Note : The revised para. 32 is enclosed.]
   
   
Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising    
   
Para. 3 : Informal meeting between ACE and EAC    
   
4.Members noted that the Secretariat had written to Professor Charles Kao, Chairman of the Energy Advisory Committee (EAC), proposing a joint meeting between EAC and ACE. The Secretariat was waiting for the latter's response.

 


Secretariat

 
   
Para. 15 : Stepped up monitoring of the Chinese White Dolphins    
   
5.Members noted the Airport Authority (AA)'s reply that since the ferry route between Tuen Mun and Chek Lap Kok was several kilometres away from the Chinese White Dolphin Sanctuary, it was unlikely that the marine traffic concerned would cause adverse environmental impact to the dolphins. A Member was of the view that an EM&A would be needed before the AA could ascertain that the increased marine traffic would have no impact to the Chinese White Dolphins. The Chairman therefore asked the Secretariat to write to the AA to request them to carry out the monitoring work.

 







Secretariat

 
   
Para. 16 : Tuen Mun - Chek Lap Kok Ferry Service Environmental Requirement    
   
6.Members noted that the Transport Department (TD) was the licensing authority for the ferry service between Tuen Mun and Chek Lap Kok. As advised by TD, the licence granted to the ferry operator had not included any condition concerning environmental requirements.    
   
Para. 18 : Environmental Yearbook for the New Airport    
   
7.The Chairman said that the Secretariat had conveyed Members' proposal for a consolidated environmental yearbook on the new airport to NAPCO for consideration.    
   
Para. 40 : "Hybrid" car    
   
8.A Member circulated a catalogue and a press release on "hybrid" cars for Members' reference. He informed Members that the car was produced in Japan and so far 150,000 of them had been manufactured. The Chairman requested the Secretariat to copy the catalogue and the press release to Members after the meeting.

[ Post - meeting Note : The information materials were issued to Members on 28 July 1998.]

 



Secretariat

 
   
Agenda Item 3 : Report of EIA Subcommittee
(ACE Paper 32/98)
   
   
9.The EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that the EIA Subcommittee had considered the EIA report on the Feasibility Study for Pak Shek Kok Development Area by circulation in July 1998. He said that a member had expressed concern about the construction waste from the public filling activities at Pak Shek Kok. Since the issue was outside the remit of this EIA study, the issue had been referred to the project proponent to follow up.    
   
10.DS(E), PELB told Members that when the Pak Shek Kok Reclamation Project was submitted to the July meeting of the Public Works Subcommittee (PWSC) of the Legislative Council for funding support, PWSC members had raised concern about the likely impact of the reclamation works to the water quality of the Tolo Harbour. As members had asked for additional information, the project had to be further considered by the PWSC at its September meeting. Ag. DEP supplemented that PWSC members were generally concerned about the water quality of the Tolo Harbour, which they believed were deteriorating. They were also concerned about the impact of the deteriorating water quality to the shellfish and other living organisms.    
   
11.DS(E), PELB said that even if funding approval for the project was obtained at the PWSC meeting in September, the project would commence later than originally scheduled. Because of this, the construction and demolition (C&D) wastes which were originally intended to be disposed of at the Pak Shek Kok reclamation site would have to be disposed of elsewhere, probably at landfills as there was nowhere to provide temporary storage to the C & D wastes and it was unlikely that another reclamation site could be identified to absorb the wastes earmarked for the Pak Shek Kok reclamation project. He said that this demonstrated the need to tie in the timetable of a reclamation project with the generation of C&D wastes for reclamation purpose in waste management. Ag. DEP said that he would explain to PWSC again at the September meeting that the water quality of the Tolo Harbour had improved rather than deteriorated over the last few years. EPD would also seek AFD's advice on PWSC's concern about the decrease in benthic population in the Tolo Harbour.    
   
12.The EIA Subcommittee Chairman clarified that the EIA report which the ACE had just endorsed related to the infrastructural developments at the Pak Shek Kok reclamation area rather than the reclamation project itself. He said that the EIA for the reclamation project was endorsed by the ACE in 1995.    
   
Agenda Item 4 : Recommendations of the APEC Workshop on the Impact of Destructive Fishing Practices on the Marine Environment
(ACE Paper 33/98)
   
   
13.The Chairman welcomed SFO, AFD to the meeting. SFO, AFD briefed Members on the recommendations of the APEC Workshop on the Impact of Destructive Fishing Practices on the Marine Environment (the APEC Workshop), which was held in December 1997.    
   
14.SFO, AFD said that, in response to APEC's recommendations, AFD would work with the Customs & Excise Department and the Census and Statistics Department to revise the Harmonised Code System to further divide Grouper into seven categories. AFD would also develop an instruction manual to assist government departments and traders to identify different species of fish. Moreover, Hong Kong would co-operate with USA, Australia and China Taipei to bid funds under APEC to conduct a project on Grouper Research and Development. Lastly, AFD would cooperate with international green groups, such as WWFHK, the Nature Conservancy and the International Marinelife Alliance, to take steps to discourage destructive fishing in the Region.    
   
15.Noting that there was at present no legislation in Hong Kong which controlled the catching and selling of undersized fish, the Chairman asked whether there were any effective mechanism for the Hong Kong government to control such activities. SFO, AFD said that undersized fish which was found selling in Hong Kong were either imported or caught locally. A total ban in the selling of undersized fish would not be possible unless we banned the import of such fish and prohibited the catching of them in Hong Kong waters. He said that there was at present no legislation in Hong Kong which controlled the catching or importation of undersized fish. The Fisheries Protection Ordinance (FPO), for example, prohibited the use of dynamite or toxic substances for fishing but did not regulate the size of the fish to be caught or the size of the fishing net to be used. That said, he told Members that amendments were in progress to expand FPO's ambit to control other types of destructive fishing , such as the dredging of shellfish and fishing with electricity, and increase the penalty level for destructive fishing.    
   
16.The Chairman asked and SFO, AFD said that AFD had conducted a consultancy study in 1996 to look into the status of fisheries resources and local fishing activities. The study had been completed and the Administration was considering its various recommendations. The Chairman said that the Administration should consult the community and this Council on the counsultant's recommendations as soon as possible so that worthwhile recommendations could be implemented as early as possible. Noting that ESB is the policy bureau responsible for formulating Hong Kong's policy on fishing industry, the Chairman requested the Secretariat to invite ESB to attend a future ACE meeting to brief Members on the consultancy report and discuss how Hong Kong could help control destructive fishing practices in the Region. A Member said that he would also press for the consultancy report at the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs. In this regard, the Chairman said that he would also raise this with the Chairman of the EA Panel when ACE pays a courtesy call to the Panel in the near future.

 








Secretariat

 
   
17.A Member asked why the Hong Kong government did not consider banning the import of undersized fish. SFO, AFD said that apart from practical difficulties, it was not advisable to do so as banning imports would be inconsistent with WTO principles and may affect Hong Kong's status as a free port.    
   
18.A Member was of the view that the paper should identify means for Hong Kong to effectively control the import of fish caught by cyanide fishing. He remarked that since cyanide residue would no longer be detected from fish 7-10 days after they were caught, there seemed to be no effective means for Hong Kong to find out whether a fish was caught by cyanide fishing if the test was not conducted timely. SFO, AFD agreed that it would be difficult to detect cyanide residue from fish if the tests were not conducted soon after the fish were caught. He said that was why most of the tests for cyanide residue were carried out at the exporting ports rather than the importing ports.    
   
19.In response to a Member's query, SFO, AFD explained that since the APEC Workshop's recommendations were not tailor-made for Hong Kong, not all of them would be applicable to Hong Kong. He concurred with that Member's observation that the recommendation for levying a value-added tax on tourism or other alternative sources of revenue to create a fund to support environmental efforts would not be suitable for Hong Kong.    
   
20.In response to that Member's query, SFO, AFD said that AFD had formulated an Action Plan in 1996 to tackle the problem of cyanide fishing through various means, including enforcement actions, legislative amendments, education and publicity. That Member commented that an effective means to discourage cyanide fishing would be for Hong Kong to ban the import of fish from areas where cyanide fishing was known to be prevalent. The Chairman was concerned that this would give rise to the issue of fairness since it was possible that only part of the fish which came from a particular place were caught by cyanide fishing. He said that a more practical means would be to require the importers to only place orders with suppliers which could demonstrate that their fish was caught in an environmentally-friendly manner.    
   
21.A Member said that where there was demand, there would be supply. As Hong Kong was an important market for live reef fish, government should strengthen its education to the public on the detrimental effect of destructive fishing to the marine environment so as to discourage people from consuming live reef fish.    
   
22.In response to a Member's query, another Member said that he would find out more about the situation in Singapore and let Members know after the meeting.

another Member

 
   
23.In response to a Member's query, SFO, AFD informed Members that the import of live reef fish into Hong Kong had dropped in the past few months. He attributed this to the earlier outbreaks of red tides and incidents of ciguatera poisoning after members of the public consumed live reef fish.    
   
24.A Member sought clarification on whether China was a member of APEC and whether China would be a party to the proposed project on Grouper. SFO, AFD replied that China was a member of APEC and the APEC Workshop held in Hong Kong last December was a collaboration between China, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei. However, China would not take part in the forthcoming APEC project on Grouper. He explained that Chinese Taipei was involved in the study because it was a world leader in breeding fish fry, especially Grouper fry.    
   
25.The Chairman asked and SFO, AFD informed Members that about 70% of live marine fish was imported to Hong Kong by air whereas the remaining 30% arrived by sea. He added that green grouper cultured in Thailand would normally come by air but Humphead Wrasse and Giant Garoupa would come by sea.    
   
26.A Member asked whether AFD had any concrete proposals to co-operate with the various international green groups to discourage destructive fishing in the Region. SFO, AFD said that since these green groups had established good relationship with the governments and fishing community of places such as Philippines and Indonesia, it would be beneficial if AFD could maintain close and regular contacts with them to exchange views on means to prevent destructive fishing. He told Members that AFD would be meeting some of these green groups in Philippines in August.    
   
27.A Member commented that Hong Kong should introduce legislation to ban the import of fish which was caught by destructive fishing. SFO, AFD reiterated that it would be difficult to prove whether the fish was caught by such means. Moreover, doing so may have far-reaching WTO implications. That Member said that where there is a will, there will be a way. Another Member also believed that banning the import of these fish would help deter destructive fishing. The Chairman said that while he was sympathetic to Members' request, he understood the difficulties the Administration was facing in tackling the problem. He added that the control of destructive fishing was a thorny problem which would require the full co-operation of other countries and economies in the Region. He said that since APEC had already made a good start on this issue, Hong Kong should, through its participation in APEC, co-ordinate with other countries to develop a regional plan for the control of destructive fishing.    
   
28.A Member was of the view that AFD should subsidize research at local universities to develop more reliable tests which was capable of identifying fish caught by cyanide fishing even if the test was conducted some time after the fish were caught. SFO, AFD said that this was a proposal worth considering.    
   
29.The Chairman thanked SFO, AFD for the presentation. He said that he looked forward to exchange views with the ESB on the consultancy study on local fishing policy and the control of destructive fishing.    
   
Agenda Item 5: Illegal Dumping of Waste
(ACE Paper 34/98)
   
   
30.The Chairman welcomed AD(LC), EPD and PEPO(TW), EPD to the meeting. AD(LC), EPD briefed Members on the concerted actions departments had taken in the past three months in tackling the problem of illegal dumping and the proposed further actions to be taken. He also briefed Members on the constraints and difficulties the Administration had encountered in taking enforcement actions against flytipping.    
   
31.AD(LC), EPD told Members that although the Administration was empowered under s.16A of the Waste Disposal Ordinance (WDO), s.4 and 9A of the Public Cleansing and Prevention of Nuisance By-laws (PCPNB) and s.4 of the Summary Offences Ordinances (SOO) to control flytipping, there were a lot of constraints in exercising these powers. For example, prosecution actions could only be taken when a fly-tipper was caught red-handed. Since flytipping activities normally took place during the small hours, EPD staff had to wait in ambush in the middle of the nights in order to catch the offenders on the spot. The level of penalties imposed by the court was often too low to deter waste collectors from disposing of their wastes improperly. Members noted that although the maximum penalty for breaching s.16A of the WDO was a fine of $200,000 and an imprisonment of six months and that for breaching s.4 and 9A of PCPNB was a fine of $25,000 and an imprisonment of six months, the average penalties imposed by the court was about $6,000 and $800 under WDO and PCPNB respectively. As regards SSO, the maximum penalty was so low that the Administration had hardly made use of it to take prosecutions against flytipping.    
   
32.AD(LC), EPD said that there were also constraints in the existing legislation regarding the cleaning up of illegal dumping sites. He explained that although the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (PHMSO) provided for the Municipal Councils (MCs) to require the waste owner or occupier of the land to clean up the waste, the MCs had to prove that the landowner was the owner of the waste, was responsible for the flytipping activities or was the occupier of the land before they could require the landowner to take remedial action. Likewise, if the Planning Department (Plan D) wanted to exercise their powers under the Town Planning Ordinance to require the landowners to stop the dumping activities and to clean up the waste dumped, they could do so only if a change of land use was involved. Moreover, it was outside the ambit of the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance to handle wastes dumped on private lands.    
   
33.AD(LC), EPD continued that, according to a territory-wide survey conducted by EPD in April 1998, there were about 150 illegal dumping sites in Hong Kong and a majority of them were located in the North West New Territories (NWNT). There were 47 illegal dumping sites in the NWNT which required clean-up operations. In this regard, a high level departmental meeting chaired by SPEL was convened and a Task Force made up of representatives from the Lands Department (Land D), Plan D, RSD, Hong Kong Police Force, WB, AFD and PELB was set up by EPD to oversee the clean-up operation. Under the steer of the Task Force, 26 illegal dumping sites had so far been cleaned up and 2700 tonnes of wastes had been removed. Moreover, three more illegal dumping sites would be cleaned up by end of July 1988 and government would invite tenders for cleaning up the remaining 18 such sites. It was estimated that about 60,000 tonnes of waste would be removed from these 18 sites.    
   
34.Members noted that one of the 18 sites to be cleaned up was the Sheung Pak Nai Site where about 40,000 tonnes of wastes had been illegally dumped. As 35% of the land belonged to two private owners, government had been requesting the private owners to clean up their land. AD(LC), EPD said that one of the owners had responded positively to the government's request. As regards the other one, the government intended to serve a notice under S. 20 of the PHMS to require him to clean up his own land in one month's time.    
   
35.AD(LC), EPD said that, on the basis of the experience of the Task Force in the last three months, the Administration would take the following further actions:

(a)

enforcement actions should continue to be stepped up. However, to do so on long term basis, some adjustment to existing priorities would be necessary;
 

(b)

as the Task Force had already expedited the clean up of the smaller sites and secured a definite programme for the very large ones with engineering and technical difficulties, it would be disbanded. Land D's Blackspot Task Force would take over from it the central co-ordination role in controlling flytipping and clean up for the whole territory;
 

(c)

PELB would conduct a review on the relevant legislation to see whether amendments were required to make enforcement and clean up operations easier;
 

(d)

WB would introduce the trip ticket system to ensure that C&D waste were disposed of properly;
 

(e)

RSD/USD would continue to provide efficient collection services for animal carcasses found or reported. They had been requested to consider providing collection services to farms;
 

(f)

The flytipping spotter scheme operated by the RSD/USD would be widely publicised so as to encourage members of the public to report illegal dumping activities;
 

(g)

consideration would be given to extending the operating hours of landfills to provide convenient outlets for those construction contractors/ drivers who work late to dispose of the C&D wastes properly; and
 

(h)

the Land D would, upon taking over the responsibilities for controlling flytipping activities from the Task Force, consider launching publicity programmes to educate the public on the importance of proper disposal of waste and the spotter scheme.
 
   
   
36.In response to a Member's query, AD(LC), EPD estimated that the cost for removing the 60,000 tonnes of waste from the 18 illegal dumping sites in NWNT would be around $15 million. He said that although S.20 of the PHMSO had provided the Administration the power to recover the cost from the landowners, the difficulties in proving that the landowner was the owner of the wastes, was the flytipper or was the occupier of the land had made it practically impossible to recover the costs. Another Member said that government should consider setting up an environmental fund along the line of US's superfund to pay for the cost for taking remedial actions to restore the environment to its original state. He also proposed that the government should make reference to US environmental laws when reviewing our own laws. A third Member remarked that the purpose of the superfund in the US was to assign cost to the chemical producers for cleaning up areas contaminated by these chemicals. He said that since the contamination of land by chemicals was not a serious problem in Hong Kong, it was not appropriate to apply the superfund concept to Hong Kong. The Chairman commented that the US legislation on environmental protection was too complicated for Hong Kong to follow. AD(LC), EPD said that since 88% of the waste generated in Hong Kong belonged to C&D waste, the introduction of the trip ticket system should help control illegal dumping activities.    
   
37.In response to a Member's queries, AD(LC), EPD said that no offenders had ever been sentenced to imprisonment for flytipping under WDO. He however said that there had been two cases of imprisonment relating to offences under the Water Pollution Control Ordinance. As regarding littering at the canopies of multi-storey buildings, he said that it would be USD/RSD's responsibilities to take enforcement actions.    
   
38.Two Members opined that the courts were too lenient towards flytipping offenders. Also, they believed that fines alone would not deter some potential offenders from flytipping and that the courts should consider sentencing them to imprisonment, particularly in the case of repeated offenders. The Chairman said that he would convey Members' concern to the Chief Justice and highlight to him the damages flytipping activities had done to the environment. Noting that EPD had organised a seminar six years or so ago and another one more recently to brief magistrates on the importance of environmental protection work, the Chairman requested EPD to consider organising a similar seminar for the magistrates again in the near future. Ag. DEP said that since EPD was the law enforcing authority, it would be more convincing to the magistrates if such a seminar could be organised by a neutral third party which had no direct vested interest on the issue, such as ACE. He also commented that a heavy penalty alone would not deter illegal dumping if there were ways for waste collectors to recover the fines by charging them to their customers. It was therefore crucial that there was a change in the attitude of the waste collectors.    
   
39.Noting that EPD staff had to wait in ambush during the small hours to catch fly-tippers, a Member proposed that automatic video surveillance system be installed at flytipping black spots. AD(LC), EPD explained that since a dumping site would be abandoned by fly-tippers once the site had been known to be staked out by EPD, it would not be useful and cost effective to install automatic surveillance system at these sites. It was also uncertain if the video tape would be accepted by the court as evidence since offenders had to be caught red-handed under the law.    
   
40.Noting that members of the public were able to report in writing illegal dumping activities under the existing spotter scheme, a Member proposed that a hotline be set up to make it more convenient for members of the public to report such activities. She also proposed that the Administration should devotail its publicity efforts on flytipping with the "Healthy Living into the 21st Century" Campaign, to make the proper disposal of waste an integral part of healthy living. AD(LC), EPD said that he would convey the Member's proposal for setting up a hotline to the Land's D for consideration. He also informed Members that the publicity against flytipping had already been incorporated into the "Healthy Living into the 21st Century" Campaign.

 







EPD

 
   
41.A Member said that flytipping was also a serious problem in Singapore, probably because of the high waste disposal charges. To tackle the problem, the Singapore government had been trying to convince the court to confiscate the vehicles which the offenders had used in carrying out the flytipping activities, but to no avail. This was because the court believed that doing so would only penalise the innocent vehicle rental companies rather than the flytippers. However, since all the waste collectors in Singapore were licensed by the government, the Singapore government would consider revoking the licence of those waste collectors who were connected with flytipping activities.    
   
42.Noting that the Aldrich Bay Public Fill Barging Point (PFBP), which was the only PFBP on the Hong Kong Island that accepted public fill, would be closed by the end of August 1998, a Member asked whether there would be a replacement facility on the Hong Kong side for waste collectors to dispose of public fill. AD(LC), EPD said that he would find out for Members after the meeting.

 





EPD

 
   
43.The Chairman thanked EPD for the strenuous efforts taken to tackle the flytipping problems in the past few months and requested that a progress report be submitted to ACE in six month's time. AD(LC), EPD said that he would convey ACE's request to Land D for co-ordinating the report, as the latter would take over from EPD the central co-ordinating role in controlling flytipping.

 



EPD

 
   
Agenda Item 6 : Any Other Business
Visit to Hong Kong Observatory
   
   
44.The Chairman informed Members that a visit to the Hong Kong Observatory would take place on 28 July 1998.    
   
Tentative Schedule of Work for ACE in 1998    
   
45.Members noted the Tentative Schedule which was tabled.    
   
Aircraft Noise at Tsing Yi and Shatin    
   
46.Noting that residents from Tsing Yi and Shatin had complained about the aircraft noise after the operation of the new airport, A Member asked whether it was possible for ACE to invite AA and the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) to explain how serious the noise problem was at these areas. The Chairman proposed that AA and CAD be requested to provide ACE with a report on this issue in two months' time.

 




Secretariat

 
   
Agenda Item 7 : Date of Next Meeting    
   
47.The next meeting was scheduled for 31 August 1998.    




Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau (Environment Division)
July 1998


 

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