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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 59th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 26 January 1999 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, JP (Chairman)
Mr. Barrie COOK
Mr. CHAN Kwok-wai, JP
Miss Ann CHIANG
Mr. Paul C. H. FAN
Professor Anthony HEDLEY, JP
Professor Peter HILLS
Professor LAM Kin-che
Mr. Joseph LAU Man-wai, JP
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Dr. NG Cho-nam
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH
Ms Iris TAM
Mr. Tan Teng Huat
Miss Alex YAU
Mr. Plato YIP
Mr. Danny TSUI (Secretary)

Absent with Apologies:

Mr. Clement CHEN
Dr. HO Kin-chung
Mr. Edwin Lau
Dr. LEONG Che-hung
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Mr. Otto L. T. POON

In Attendance:

 

Mr. Gordon SIU Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (SPEL)
Mr. Steve BARCLAY Acting Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment) (Atg. DS(E), PELB)
Mr. Rob LAW Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Mr. Bosco FUNG Director of Planning (D of Plan)
Mr. S P LAU Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD) (AD, AFD)
Dr. Constance CHAN Acting Assistant Director of Health
Mr. David CHAN Principal Information Officer, Environmental Protection Department (EPD)
Mr. Eugene FUNG Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment)
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer (Environment), Planning, Environment & Lands Bureau (PELB)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 3 :

 

Mr. J. GABAY Government Civil Engineer/Project Management, Civil Engineering Department (CED) (GCE/PM, CED)
Mr. S. LAU District Planning Officer/Kowloon, Planning Department (PlanD) (DPO/K, PlanD)
Mr. Steve SHANASY Study Manager, Maunsell Consultants Asia Limited (SM, MCA)
Dr. PONG Lai Environment Consultant, CES (Asia) Limited (EC, CES)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 4 :

 

Mr. Howard CHAN Principal Assistant Secretary (Environment)1, PELB (PAS(E)1, PELB)
Mr. W. C. MOK Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Motor Vehicle Emissions Group), EPD (PEPO(MVEG), EPD)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 5 :

 

Ms. Mabel MAK Community Relations Officer, EPD (CRO, EPD)
Mr. WONG Wang-fai Senior Curriculum Officer/Curriculum Development Institute, Education Department (ED) (SCO/CDI, ED)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 6 :

 

Mr. CHAN Chi-chiu Chief Engineer/Regional Administration, Water Supplies Department (WSD) (CE/RA, WSD)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 7 :

 

Mr. W. W. CHUI Senior Engineer 2/SSDS, Drainage Services Department (DSD) (SE2/SSDS, DSD)
Mr. Raymond TAI Senior Engineer 5/SSDS, DSD (SE5/SSDS, DSD)

 

  Action

On behalf of Members, the Chairman expressed the Council's sympathy to DEP for the recent loss of his five colleagues in a traffic accident. He then welcomed Mr. Gordon Siu, the new SPEL, Mr. Tan Teng Huat from Singapore and Mr. Bosco Fung, the new Director of Planning, to the meeting.
 

Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 58th Meeting held on 14 December 1998

2.The minutes were confirmed, subject to the proposed amendments to para. 9, 19 and 20 from two Members, and confirmation from a consultant that para. 19 as revised was acceptable.

 

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 3 : Visit to Shenzhen about wastewater treatment projects

3.The Chairman thanked the WWFHK for organising the visit. He said that the visit had provided an invaluable opportunity for him and Members to exchange views with the Shenzhen Environmental Protection Bureau (SZEPB) and obtain first-hand information regarding their plans for sewerage infrastructure. Members noted that sewage generated from different parts of Shenzhen received different levels of treatment, depending on where it was treated and disposed of. For instance, sewage at the Binhe Sewage Treatment Works received secondary treatment before discharged into the Shenzhen River. On the other hand, sewage from west Shenzhen received primary treatment before being discharged into the Pearl River through a short outfall at Shekou. According to the SZEPB, there was no need to build a longer outfall at Shekou since the water current there was strong enough to provide the desirable dilution effect to the sewage dispersed.

 

4.A Member supplemented that there were four sewage treatment works in Shenzhen and they were capable of removing 30% to 40% of the pollution loads from the domestic sewage. She said that the SZEPB was optimistic that their environmental protection work would bring long term improvements to the water quality in Shenzhen and achieve the objective of zero discharge of livestock waste into Deep Bay by 2000 through the relocation of all livestock farms out of the Deep Bay catchment area.
 

5.A Member supplemented that the SZEPB had confirmed that they had no plan to construct a channel linking the Mirs Bay and the Deep Bay.
 

6.Noting that the Hong Kong and Guangdong governments had been cooperating on environmental problems of mutual concern through the Hong Kong-Guangdong Environmental Protection Liaison Group (EPLG), the Chairman said that he would welcome an opportunity to meet with EPLG members from Guangdong when they came to Hong Kong to attend EPLG meetings in future.

Secretariat


Para. 4 : Information on six further issues related to SSDS requested by Chairman

7.DEP informal Members that EPD would provide a paper setting out what additional information EPD had in response to the Chairman's queries. The paper would be available before the next meeting

EPD


8.DEP took the opportunity to clarify ExCo's decision regarding Stage II of the SSDS and the second phase of the SSDS EIA Study. He said that as Members had already received from the Secretariat a Legislative Council Brief and a note on ExCo's decisions, he would only highlight a few salient points which deserved Members' attention. He said that ExCo had, apart from directing that the second phase of the EIA Study should assume that chemical treatment and disinfection be used and that the outfall be located to the east of Lamma Island, directed that the Administration should continue to liaise with the Mainland authorities, through the Expert Group on Sewage Disposal, to discuss the long term planning for the SSDS and that land should be reserved at the Lamma Quarry to retain the flexibility for upgrading the treatment levels or developing further outfalls, should this ever be shown to be necessary. In other words, how SSDS Stages II and III/IV would subsequently proceed had not yet been firmed up, pending the outcome of phase II of the SSDS EIA Study, further liaison with the Mainland authorities and the environmental conditions of the Pearl River Estuary in the coming years. In making these decisions, ExCo had taken into account views from this Council, academics, green groups, professional bodies, individual LegCo Members and the Mainland authorities. He said that the Mainland authorities also recommended that chemical treatment plus disinfection with a discharge to the east of Lamma be adopted, as they considered that to be the most cost-effective option (the marginal environmental benefits from adopting the other three options would be minimal whereas the marginal cost thus incurred would be substantial) and could be completed in the shortest timeframe. DEP added that the Administration would proceed with phase two of the EIA Study and start liaising with the Mainland authorities on the details of the further studies to be carried out.
 

9.In response to the Chairman's query, DEP said that the Administration would seek funds from the Finance Committee to start works for SSDS Stage III/IV later this year.
 

10.The Chairman emphasised the importance of retaining adequate flexibility in the work to be carried out for SSDS so as to enable future enhancement of the system or the construction of new outfall. DEP reiterated that the Administration had an open mind to all possible options for further enhancement of the Scheme. He said that should phase two of the EIA Study indicate that there would be insurmountable problems associated with the option which ExCo had endorsed, the Administration would not hesitate to reinvent the wheel.
 

Para. 6 : Invitation to ESB to send a representative to sit on ACE

11.Members noted that ESB had agreed to send a representative to attend future ACE meetings on a need basis. The Secretariat would send the agenda to ESB in advance of each meeting so that they could decide who should attend.

Secretariat


12.Noting that the sustainability of our transport policy would be a major concern to the Council in the coming years, a Member proposed that the Transport Bureau (TB) be invited to send a representative to attend ACE meetings in future. The Chairman further proposed that TB be invited to attend EIA Subcommittee meetings as well. Another Member however commented that it might be more appropriate for the Highways Department (Hy D) to be represented at the EIA Subcommittee. SPEL advised that it would be more appropriate for the Council to direct their request to TB for them to decide the appropriate representative at ACE.

The Secretariat


Para. 31 : Paper on legal liability of land decontamination

13.Members noted that the Secretariat would follow up on this and would inform them of the outcome in due course.

 

Para. 34 : Presentation of DSM Plans by the two power companies

14.Members noted that ESB would co-ordinate with the two power companies to work out an appropriate time to present their DSM Plans to this Council.

 

Para. 68 : Greening of AA's terminal building

15.The Chairman said he was disappointed that the Airport Authority (AA) would only start looking at the issue of greening the terminal building this year. He asked the green groups to consider providing greenery to the AA in the interim. A Member commented that the planting of trees was a sensitive issue to the AA as trees would attract birds, which would affect the landing and taking off of aircrafts. The Chairman agreed that it might not be desirable to plant trees in the open areas of the airport or along the runways but saw no harm in displaying plants indoors. He said that it was the lack of greenery inside the Airport Terminal Building which he was bothered about.

 

Agenda Item 3 : Report of the EIA Subcommittee for January 1999
(ACE Paper 1/99)

16.The EIA Subcommittee Chairman reported that the EIA Subcommittee had considered two projects in January, namely The EIA Report on Dredging an Area of Kellet Bank for Reprovisioning of Six Government Mooring Buoys and The EIA Report on Planning and Engineering Feasibility Study for Development at Anderson Road. The recommended the former report be endorsed without conditions. As regards the latter, he said that some members had initially expressed concern about the details of the ecological mitigation measures to be adopted and the possible cumulative visual impact of the project. However, after deliberations, all but one member agreed to recommend to this Council that the report be endorsed with the condition set out in para. 14 of ACE Paper 1/99. He reported that a Member was concerned about the cumulative visual impact of this project and another potential housing development project to the ridgeline of the Tai Sheung Tok and had declined to endorse the EIA report.

 

17.The Chairman said that, to facilitate discussion, he had invited the project proponent, the consultant and the Planning Department (Plan D) to this meeting to answer Members' queries. He welcomed GCE/PM, CED, DPO/K, PlanD, SM, MCA and EC, CES to the meeting.
 

18.With the aid of transparencies, a Member illustrated to Members how the proposed Anderson Road Development Stage II, which was the subject of this EIA Study, and the more remote Stage I development, would block the ridgeline of the Tai Sheung Tok, thereby breaching the Metroplan Guidelines on Principal Ridgelines. He said that the breach was unacceptable since the Tai Sheung Tok Ridgeline was a prominent part of the skyline of Hong Kong and the visual impact thus created would be seen by millions of people everyday, including local residents and tourists.
 

19.In response to that Member's concern, DPO/K, PlanD explained that although there was a long term plan to develop the existing quarry site after the quarry had been decommissioned in January 2012 and had undergone another two years of rehabilitation programme, there was no concrete proposals as to what types of developments would take place there at this stage. He said that the site could be used as an open space or housing site or a combination of both, though one could envisage that there would be strong pressure to build houses on top of it so as to cater for the increasing population growth and housing demand.
 

20.The Chairman asked what the "worst case" development scenario would be under the Anderson Road Development Stage I. DPO/K, PlanD responded that the worst possible scenario would be the turning of the entire quarry site into high-rise residential blocks to accommodate 35,000 people. He however emphasised that any future development proposals at the decommissioned quarry site would have to undergo detailed EIA study, which would take into account the overall visual impact
 

21.A Member pointed out that the visual impact of this project could be worse than what was shown in the picture in the EIA Report, as the latter was only a photomontage view and had not been drawn to scale. Another Member said that "visual impact" was a very subjective issue and its effect could be different to different people, depending on where one looked at the whole development. She said that the quarry operation had already left a big scar to the landscape and the proposed development could add aesthetic values to the landscape, particularly if there was not going to be a comprehensive rehabilitation programme for the quarry site. She asked and GCE/PM, CED said that since the slope behind the proposed Stage II development was unstable, CED would cut it back and revegetate the slope afterwards. As regards the quarry site, it would be restored to a platform which could accommodate a lot of community facilities. However, since the quarry would only cease operation in January 2012, restoration work could only take place by that time. That other Member remarked that, as a town planner, she was of the view that the Council should look at the issue of "visual impact" flexibly.
 

22.The Chairman asked and SM, MCA responded that the ridgeline which the developments would affect could be seen from the Central and Wanchai Waterfront, Causeway Bay and Quarry Bay. He however said that while part of the ridgeline would be obscured by the proposed development when one looked at it from Causeway Bay or Quarry Bay, it could still be seen in entirety if viewed from Central and Wanchai, or from a ferry between Central and Tsimshatsui. Therefore, the visual impact would not be too severe.
 

23.The EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that Members could look at the "visual impact" issue from two perspectives. First, whether the project being studied, together with any other known projects in that vicinity, would create unacceptable visual impact, and, second, how should the project proponent and ACE handle projects which would likely breach the Metroplan Guidelines on Principal Ridgelines in future. Regarding the former, Planning Department had explained that there were no known projects to be developed in the vicinity of Anderson Road at this stage. He said that as far as the Stage II development per se was concerned, the EIA Subcommittee was satisfied that the visual impact thus created was acceptable. DPO/K, PlanD reiterated that Stage I development was not yet a committed project. As regards the latter, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman proposed that project proponents should in future be required to consult ACE once they became aware of any possible breach of the Metroplan Guidelines on Principal Ridgelines, rather than voice it out when they consulted ACE on the EIA reports. This would provide adequate time and flexibility for the project proponent to make changes to his development plans and before they had put in too much resources and efforts in the detailed design work.
 

24.D of Plan assured Members that Plan D was as concerned about the visual impact of a development project as Members were. He said that any future development proposals under Anderson Road Development Stage I would have to carry out EIA which would, inter alia, look into the "visual impact" issue and, if necessary, propose mitigation measures. He also undertook to convey Members' request for early notification of and consultation on projects which would lead to possible breach of the Metroplan Guidelines on Principal Ridgelines to the Town Planning Board.
 

25.In view of D of Plan's assurance and undertaking, the Chairman proposed that the EIA Report on the Planning and Engineering Feasibility Study for Development at Anderson Road be endorsed with the condition as recommended by the EIA Subcommittee. Members agreed.
 

Agenda Item 4 : Proposed Amendments to Air Pollution Control (Motor Vehicle Fuel) Regulation 1999 (Cap. 311, sub.leg.)
(ACE Paper 2/99)

26.The Chairman welcomed PAS(E)1, PELB and PEPO(MVEG), EPD to the meeting. PAS(E)1, PELB briefed Members on the proposed amendments.

 

27.In response to the Chairman's written queries made before the meeting, PAS(E)1, PELB said that the legal advice was that the standard of proof for a defendant was on a balance of probability. In other words, the defendant would only need to prove before the court that it was more likely than not that he was innocent, rather than having to prove that he was innocent beyond reasonable doubt.
 

28.In response to the Chairman's two other written queries, PEPO(MVEG), EPD explained that all newly registered vehicles in Hong Kong, including those brought in from overseas, had to use unleaded petrol in order to comply with the latest fuel standards. Boats which were equipped with petrol outboard engines would also use unleaded petrol because they obtained their petrol from petrol filling stations. He said that those petrol outboard engines in boats that were not designed to run on unleaded petrol could do so with the aid of the lead-free additives to be provided by the oil companies.
 

29.Noting that diesel vehicles were the main and worst source of air pollution in Hong Kong, a Member remarked that the ban of leaded petrol alone would not achieve much in improving Hong Kong's air quality. He asked, apart from the LPG taxi trial scheme, what other actions the government had taken or would take to further improve the air quality. PAS(E)1, PELB said that the government had in the past few years been tightening our fuel and emission standards for diesel vehicles to the latest Euro standards. In this regard, Hong Kong had some of the most stringent standards in Asia. PEPO(MVEG), EPD supplemented that, to reduce the number of smoky vehicles running on the roads, EPD was implementing the smoky vehicle control programme to spot smoky vehicles and require them to pass a smoke test before allowing them to be driven on the roads. To improve the general maintenance standard, EPD would introduce a new technology adopting the use of a chassis dynamometer to test the smoke emission of a vehicle. This new technology would help raise the maintenance standards of motor vehicles as a vehicle could pass the test only if it was fully maintained and well tuned. As regards buses, PEPO(MVEG), EPD said that EPD was exploring the feasibility of retrofitting in-use buses with catalytic converters to reduce their emissions.
 

30.A Member queried why buses which were found to be generating black smoke did not have to pass any smoke tests before they were allowed to run on the roads again. PEPO(MVEG), EPD clarified that smoky buses, just like any other smoky vehicles, had to be properly repaired and pass the smoke test before they could operate on the roads again. The only difference was that the test was conducted in the bus depot of the respective bus companies under the supervision of a Transport Officer stationed in the depot, rather than in a designated testing centre.
 

31.PAS(E)1, PELB added that enforcement was only one of the measures which could be adopted to tackle air pollution problem caused by vehicle emission. Government also intended to address the issue through the formulation of transport policy which would support a better environment. He said that PELB would work closely with the Transport Bureau in the Third Comprehensive Transport Study to ensure that our future transport policy would meet our future transport needs in an environmental-friendly and sustainable manner.
 

32.DEP said it was wrong to think that only smoky vehicles caused pollution. Rather, all diesel vehicles, including the latest models which were designed to meet the most stringent emission standards, were, to a certain extent, pollutors. Given the sheer number of diesel vehicles running on the roads in Hong Kong, the pollution caused by them was indeed serious. He said that EPD had been and would continue to identify new emission control technology and cleaner fuel for introduction into Hong Kong. For instance, discussions with the local oil companies were in progress on the possibility of introducing "city diesel", which is a cleaner fuel used in some European countries, into Hong Kong.
 

33.A Member said he had learnt from the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau that the Guangdong Province was still adopting emission standards of the 1970s. As a result, air pollution caused by vehicle emission was very serious in Guangdong. Since the air quality in Hong Kong was directly affected by the air quality in the Guangdong Province, that Member asked how the government would co-operate with the Guangdong side to tackle the cross boundary pollution problem. PAS(E)1, PELB said that Hong Kong and Guangdong side had been co-operating to tackle cross-boundary pollution problems through EPLG. As far as air quality was concerned, both sides would start carrying out a joint study on the Air Quality in the Pearl River Delta Region later this year. He said that the study would form the basis for the formulation of a joint action plan between Hong Kong and Guangdong to protect and improve the air quality in the Pearl River Delta Region. The Chairman said that since it was already obvious that a significant part of our air pollution problem was caused by the air pollution in the Guangdong Province, there seemed to be no practical need to spend additional money and time to carry out the study. He said that what was needed was prompt actions from both sides to resolve the problem. DEP explained that although both sides were well aware of the problem, they needed to identify the major sources of the pollutants and their relative importance in contributing to the pollution problem so that the most appropriate actions could be taken and with the right priority.
 

34.A Member said that the latest competition between the bus companies had led to a drastic increase in the number of buses running on the roads, particularly along the major routes which were also the busiest roads. Apart from causing traffic congestion and wastage of resources, such an irrational increase in the number of buses had further worsened the roadside air quality. The Chairman concurred and said that he had already drawn this to the attention of the new head of the Central Policy Unit, requesting him to consider how to strike a balance between improvements in the bus services and cut-throat competition.
 

35.Noting that cross boundary vehicles could have their fuel tanks filled with petrol or diesel from the Mainland before they returned to Hong Kong, a Member asked whether he was a loophole for local vehicles to use the less expensive but more polluting fuel from the Mainland in Hong Kong. He also asked whether EPD had any idea on how serious the problem was. PEPO(MVEG), EPD said that they did not have the exact number of local vehicles which used fuel supplied by the Mainland locally. He however said that since places such as Shenzhen and Zhuhai had already banned the supply and sale of leaded petrol, the problem was more about the use of diesel fuel from the Mainland which had a higher sulphur content. Members noted that the Central Government intended to implement a country-wide ban on the supply and use of leaded petrol by mid-2000.
 

36.The Chairman proposed and Members agreed to endorse the proposed amendments to the Regulation.
 

Agenda Item 5 : Environmental Education (EE) in Hong Kong
(ACE Paper 3/99)

37.The Chairman welcomed CRO, EPD and SCO/CDI, ED to the meeting. CRO, EPD briefed Members on the paper.

 

38.Noting that the government had injected $50 million as the start-up capital for the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) and the Wheelock Woo Fund had also donated $50 million to the ECF, the Chairman queried why the ECF had so far only spent $7.6 million on environmental projects in the past four years or so. The ECC Vetting Subcommittee Chairman (A Member) clarified that ECF was set up to fund two types of activities, namely research related projects and environmental education and community action (EECA) projects. He said that the amount of $7.6 million only covered the amount which ECF had, upon the advice of the Environmental Campaign Committee (ECC), spent on EECA projects but did not cover those spent on research projects. The Chairman asked and PAS(E)2, PELB said that the total amount which ECF had spent on both types of projects should be about $30 to $35 million. He added that the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau had successfully applied to the Finance Committee for an additional $50 million injected into the ECF last year, in order to ensure that ECF had sufficient fund to fund worthwhile projects.
 

39.Noting that only $2 million out of $7.6 million was granted to green groups for carrying out EECA projects, the Chairman remarked that green groups did not seem to have benefited much from the Fund. He said that this seemed to be contrary to the Administration's original intention of making use of the ECF to provide financial assistance to green groups. A Member asked how much out of the $7.6 million was granted to activities organised by the ECC. CRO, EPD explained that ECC did not organise projects or activities on its own and the entire amount of $7.6 million was spent on worthwhile EECA projects organised by successful applicants, including green groups.
 

40.A Member said it was disappointing that the paper had not acknowledged the contribution of green groups in promoting environmental education over the past two or three decades. He asked whether the government would, in view of the significant role which green groups had played in promoting environmental education and enhancing the environmental awareness of the public, consider providing subvention to them. He said that in Australia, green groups received government subvention for as much as 70% of their costs for organising environmental projects, through a "green community chest". Atg. DS(E), PELB said that ECF was established under the ECF Ordinance, which specified that the fund could only be used to sponsor environmental research or EECA projects. The money could therefore not be used to subsidise the daily operation of green groups. He added that in Hong Kong, government's subvention would only take the form of subsidising projects organised by various bodies rather than providing them with a lump sum to sustain.

[Post-meeting Note from CRO, EPD: The ACE Paper 3/99 was prepared in response to a Member's request for an update of the efforts the government had made on environmental education. The paper had therefore only covered the work of EPD, ED and ECC.]

 

41.The ECC Vetting Subcommittee Chairman said that the subvention issue was an issue which had been much debated at the ECF in the past decade. He said that the ECC Vetting Committee had, since its inception, vetted no less than 280 applications and had approved about 180 of them, most of which were submitted by green groups. He said that while the relatively high successful rate of projects submitted by green groups was due to the fact that most of them were large-scale projects, it was also due to the fact that, more often than not, ECC would receive very similar projects from different green groups around the same period of time, thereby leaving little choice to ECC but to fund them all in order not to be seen as discriminating against any one of them. He said that this was not the most cost-effective way of spending the money or deploying resources and had also highlighted the problem of the existing system whereby there were different green groups with more or less the same objectives but perhaps slightly different emphasis engaging themselves in duplicating efforts. He said that it was arguable whether it was cost-effective for the government to subsidise individual green groups. A Member clarified that , all along, green groups in Hong Kong were only seeking funding support from the government to finance their EECA projects rather than to sustain their operation.
 

42.A Member said that one of the constraints of the ECF was that it did not cover the staff cost of a project. He also said that, given the acute demand for ECF funds, government bodies such as the ECC should not compete with green groups and other organisations for funding support from the ECF. The ECC Subcommittee Chairman clarified that the amount which ECF would grant to a project did cover the staff cost of that project and sometimes as much as 20% of the administration costs and a contingency allowance. DEP pointed out that the ECC was not a government body but was made up of outside members including green groups. Being members of the ECC, green groups had a strong say on how the ECC should be run and the role it should assume. He said that since the ECC was reviewing its terms of reference and role, green groups should forward their views to the ECC on how it should be run. The Chairman hoped that the review would come up with recommendations that would enable ECC to take up a more robust role.
 

43.A Member asked whether the government had any medium or long-term environmental education strategy in mind and, if so, what its ultimate objectives or targets were. Atg. DS(E), PELB said that the Administration would publish a Green Paper some time this year to consult the public at large on what issues they would expect the government to address in the White Paper on Environment, which was due for issue in 2000. One of the key areas which the Administration would be consulting the community in the Green Paper was the strategy for environmental education. The Chairman said that the government should also establish a set of indicators to measure how successful their environmental education strategies were. Also, he said that the ultimate goal for carrying out environmental education should be "to make every resident an environmentally conscious and friendly individual".
 

44.A Member asked how much the government as a whole had been or would be spending on environmental education. He said that while he could obtain bits of information from the Controlling Officers' Reports of departments such as EPD and ED, which had a more direct role to play in promoting environmental education, that did not give him a complete picture as he did not know the remaining amount which were spent by other non-core departments on this aspect. AD, AFD said that AFD's Controlling Officers' Report had listed out the amount of subvention which AFD had granted to NGOs in carrying out conservation education in the Mai Po Ramsar site. He however said that AFD's other expenditures on environmental education had not been as clearly spelt out as this one since they did not form a separate expenditure item on their own. Atg. DS(E), PELB said that although PELB could try to provide an estimate by pooling together the amount known to be spent by different departments on environmental education, the figure thus derived would be a ballpark figure only and would not be good enough for Members to make comparison.
 

45.A Member commented that environmental education was important not only to children but also parents. Another Member concurred and said that environmental education should not just be targeted at students at schools but rather people from all walks of life through various channels. In this connection, he said that green groups had an important role to play in disseminating the message on environmental protection to people at the grassroot level and motivating them to take an active part, as volunteers, in promoting environmental education in the district level. He therefore hoped that ECC would give more favourable consideration to funding applications from green groups for organising EECA projects which were targeted at the grassroots. Noting that the Housing Authority (HA) would launch a programme to beautify all public housing estates in phases, the Chairman said that he would suggest to the HA to set aside certain amount of the sum for organising publicity activities with a view to enhancing their tenants?environmental awareness.
 

46.A Member commented that although environmental education was covered under various subjects in the school curriculum, the materials contained in the textbooks were rather boring and, given the already heavy syllabus which teachers had to cover during normal classroom lessons, there were little incentives for teachers to spend time on them. She therefore proposed that environmental education at schools should be taught outside the classrooms and that teachers should be encouraged to make use of long school holidays to teach environmental education through extra curricular activities. This would make the whole subject more lively and integrate it more closely into our daily life.
 

47.The Member from Singapore shared with Members Singapore's experience in promoting and implementing environmental education, particularly in educating the public against littering. He said that the Ministry of the Environment had started to educate the public against littering for some 25 years but the problem still remained to-date. He said that a survey conducted a few years ago in Singapore had produced some interesting findings. First, it was people at the age range of 15 to 35 years old in Singapore who most often littered. Second, these people littered not because there were no litter bins around but rather because they had a tendency to do so when nobody was watching, a psychological factor which was difficult to explain and even more difficult to deal with. He said that he fully appreciated the difficulties which the Hong Kong government had been and would be encountering in promoting environmental education in the community .

 

48.The Member from Singapore informed Members that the Ministry of the Environment and the Singapore Environmental Council were the two principal government bodies responsible for promoting environmental education in Singapore. The former had set up a Public Education Department and an Environmental Resources Centre to help promote environmental education and the latter provided grants of about $2 million to green groups in Singapore every year for promoting environmental education.
 

49.The Chairman said that he attended a seminar the day before on how to revamp the education system in Hong Kong. There had been discussion at the seminar on whether environmental education would yield its best effect through textbook teaching at schools or through teachers or parents setting a good example in their daily life for students to follow. A Member opined that first-hand experiences and empirical observations of students and children seemed to have far greater impact on them than textbook doctrines. He was concerned that the effect of government's deliberate efforts to instill environmental awareness to students at schools had been offset by the negative image which our youngsters had been receiving by looking at things which happened around them day in, day out. These undesirable things included the recent recycling paper saga and the sight of vehicles emitting black smokes on the roads, as they made our youngsters feel that whatever they did to protect the environment would not help to change the entire picture at all. He said that it was time for government to show the public that individual efforts to protect the environment did pay.
 

50.A Member emphasized the importance of providing proper training to teachers so that they knew what tactics to deploy in teaching environmental education rather than just having the enthusiasm to teach but did not have the knowhow to do so. He also said that government should treat green groups as a partner in the course of promoting environmental education. As regards the ECC, he was of the view that ECC should start thinking of doing something more subtle rather than simply relying upon campaigns and carnivals to get the environmental message cross.
 

51.SCO/CDI, ED informed Members that ED was fully aware of the need to provide teachers with the necessary knowhow in teaching environmental education and had been running no less than 120 training courses for them. Some of them were short courses whereas the others were of a longer duration. There was therefore no dearth of in-service training. As regards pre-service training, he said that local tertiary institutions had been playing an important role in providing full-time and part-time courses to meet the demand. Also, he said that ED was aware of the importance of co-ordination and cohesiveness in integrating environmental education into the existing syllabus and was currently reviewing the teaching guidelines on environmental education. The revised guidelines, which would be issued in September this year, would encourage teachers to adopt the action-prompt and activity-based approach in environmental education. He said that some schools had joined a pilot teaching scheme which required the school authorities to devote two regular lessons every week to what was known as an "integrated subject", which would include environmental, civic and social education. Parallel efforts were also made by ED to produce more lively educational TV programmes and CD-ROM as complementary teaching kits. The Chairman said that he supported the proposal as outlined in ACE Paper 3/99 which asked for more emphasis on an "issue-enquiry" approach in the teaching of environmental education at schools, whereby students would be guided to explore into the causes of and different views towards an environmental issue and make informed judgement.
 

52.In response to a Member's comment on ECC's over-reliance on carnivals and campaigns, CRO, EPD said that ECC had also organised various types of activities to convey environmental messages e.g. workshops, visits to nature reserve and environmental facilities, carnivals and campaigns. Experience from overseas showed that over 80% of the people who had taken part in environmental activities such as the above would tend to remember what they had been 'taught' about environmental protection even after a considerable period of time. EPD and ECC had also participated in a carnival organised by FoE in November 1998 and it was a successful event. The Chairman concurred that sometimes there were simply no other means to reach out to the grassroots except through campaigns and carnivals. That said, he agreed that ECC should, if possible, adopt a multi-faceted approach in implementing environmental education.
 

53.In response to a Member's query, CRO, EPD said that the school wastepaper collection programme had been temporarily suspended since March 1998, due to failure to identify wastepaper recyclers to collect the wastepapers. She however told Members that a private company had recently agreed to sponsor the programme and USD and RSD had agreed to collect wastepapers from 100 schools. The programme would therefore be resumed after the Lunar New Year. That Member asked and CRO, EPD explained that the wastepapers thus collected would be exported for recyling.
 

54.A Member commented that Hong Kong should follow the example of the U.S. and designate a day as our Environmental Day. CRO, EPD responded that Hong Kong honoured the World Environmental Day on 5 June and also organised its own Environmental Protection Festival, which would last for a few days to a fortnight, between late November and early December each year. Each year, the Festival would build on a different theme and green groups and other NGOs from all over the territory would help organise and participate in the Festival.
 

55.The Member from Singapore said that Singapore had been organising a "Clean and Green Week" on the first Sunday of November each year since 1991. This was a major event involving the Singapore Environmental Council, various government departments, green groups and schools. To add weight to the event, the Prime Minister of Singapore or his Deputy would officiate at the opening ceremony. CRO, EPD said that the Chief Executive (CE) and the Chief Secretary had been showing support to the Environmental Protection Festival by giving congratulatory messages which were published in the official publicity materials. A Member said that it would be a good idea if our top senior government officials would also show up at the Environmental Protection Festival, as it would demonstrate to the public that the whole government supported environmental protection from top to down. The Chairman agreed and advised EPD to invite CE to officiate at this year's Festival.
 

56.SPEL said that the "Clean Hong Kong Campaign" which the government had launched during the early 1970s was very successful in raising the community's concern and awareness in keeping the environment clean. The "Litter Bug" dummy, a gimmick then used in the campaign to catch people's attention, was still remembered by the public to-date. Probably because of the results that the campaign had achieved and for some good reasons, the government had then diverted much of its attention to a few other equally worthwhile campaigns, such as the anti-corruption campaign. He said it was a pity that our environment had over the past few years deteriorated and had now reached a serious state that either a man on the street or CE's international adviser could tell what the problem was. It was therefore hightime that government revitalised the whole momentum again soon and let both the local and international community know that we were making bold move to tackle our pollution problems. He said that unless the government did something dramatic in the months ahead, we were not going to have much credentials for our environmental protection work in the eyes of the public. He said that both ACE and the government should sit back and think the matter through and that he looked forward to working with ACE to work out some practical solutions.
 

Agenda Item 6 : Ways to Reduce Water Consumption
(ACE Paper 4/99)

57.The Chairman welcomed CE/RA, WSD to the meeting. CE/RA, WSD briefed Members on the efforts of the Water Supplies Department in promoting water conservation.

 

58.Noting that about half of the population in Hong Kong lived in public housing estates and home ownership scheme flats, the Chairman asked whether the Water Supplies Department (WSD) would co-operate with the Housing Authority (HA), the Housing Department (HD) and the Housing Society (HS) to identify suitable plumbing system and water supply facilities that would help reduce the consumption of water in public housing units. CE/RA, WSD said that WSD had regular liaison meetings with the HD to exchange views on plumbing design including the toilet flushing system. The latter supported in principle the reduction of the minimum flush volume of the valveless syphonic flushing cisterns to 7.5 litres. He also recalled that a trial had been proposed by HD or HS to fit out an environmentally friendly building, including the use of water-saving fittings. A Member supplemented that FoE had successfully convinced a five-star hotel in Tsimshatsui to replace all the conventional shower taps in their guest rooms with water-saving ones which were no less effective in terms of performance than the conventional ones. As a result of the switch, that hotel managed to save 30 to 50% of their water consumption and about $0.5 million from their water bills per year.
 

59.DEP said that EPD was very concerned about how the community as a whole could reduce water consumption. This was because the greater the volume of water consumed, the greater the volume of sewage being generated. This would mean more requirements for sewerage infrastructure and more expensive sewage treatment costs. He commented that in some countries, it was indeed an offence under the law to install and use high volume shower taps.
 

60.A Member said that the government of Queensland in Australia had been very successful in introducing water-saving flushing system. He told Members that toilets there had two different settings for the volume of flushing water to suit different purposes. The system was reliable and worked well. He said that government should consider introducing similar flushing system into Hong Kong. Another Member said that similar flushing system was also used in Taiwan. A third Member told Members that FoE had tried a simpler system in selected public housing flats to save flushing water. He said that one of FoE's directors had in fact installed such a system in his flat.
 

61.A Member said that the use of low flush toilets had also been discussed at the Energy Efficiency Subcommittee (EESC) of the Energy Advisory Committee. HD's representative told the EESC that they had shelved the introduction of low flush toilets into Hong Kong. That Member said that he was a supporter of low flush toilets. However, he had been told by some U.S. consultants that while many of the toilet products in the market claimed to be low flush toilets, only about 20% of them could actually qualify that. He therefore cautioned that whichever development or organisation had decided to introduce low flush toilets to their system had to be very careful about the specifications of the products so as to ensure that they were reliable and effective. DEP remarked that in order for the low flush cistern to function optimally, the bowl had to be designed in such a way as to match the hydraulics of the flush. CE/RA, WSD said that he would find out for Members HD's latest position regarding the introduction of low flush toilets after the meeting.

CE/RA, WSD


62.A Member asked whether there were major changes in the per capita water consumption in Hong Kong over the last decade and whether leakage in the water pipes was a serious problem here. He also asked whether the comparison of the per capita water consumption between Hong Kong and other major Asia Pacific cities in paragraph 2.3.3 of the paper was made on a like-to-like basis. To provide incentives for the public to save water, he proposed that a rebate system be adopted because most domestic water consumers were insensitive to the current tiered water billing system.
 

63.CE/RA, WSD responded that, in spite of rapid population growth, domestic water consumption per capita in Hong Kong had managed to be maintained at a stable level over the last decade. With the aging of the water supply infrastructure, WSD envisaged that leakage would be more of a problem in the coming years than in the past. He said that the comparison of the per capita water consumption between Hong Kong and other Asia Pacific cities in paragraph 2.3.3. had not yet taken into account the fact that Hong Kong was the only place in the region which used sea water for flushing purpose. However, since the volume of fresh water which other Asia Pacific cities had used for flushing purposes constituted about 20% of their total water consumption only, the per capita water consumption in Hong Kong was still lower than most cities in Asia, after discounting the amount of water which other Asia Pacific cities had used for flushing purposes. Also, CE/RA, WSD said that WSD would consider the feasibility of the rebate proposal.
 

64.The Member from Singapore said that water conservation was an important agenda in Singapore because Singapore relied on Malaysia's supply for 50% of its water consumption. He said that Singapore had taken all possible means which the paper had also mentioned to reduce water consumption. For instance, the leakage problem had been brought to a minimum level and all public housing developments under the Singapore Housing Department Board had replaced large volume cisterns with 4.5 litre cisterns instead. Other means to further save water included adding an adjuster to the head of the water tap to attain optimal water flow, thereby saving additional 10?5% of water. However, it was necessary to change the attitudes and bad habits of individuals in the society.
 

65.A Member said that since it was common that families in Hong Kong would employ domestic helpers from Philippines or Indonesia and the latter would be doing most of the cleansing and washing at home, it was important that these domestic helpers be educated on the importance of water conservation. The Chairman concurred.
 

66.In response to a Member's queries, CE/RA, WSD said that the two Municipal Councils were using fresh water for watering plants and cleaning streets at present. However, they would, as far as possible, use stream and well water first. Fresh water was therefore only used when there was a need to top up the difference. He said that although there had been a study by a private organisation on the use of treated sewage for watering plants, he was not aware of a favourable outcome. As regards swimming pools, he told Members that an operator of a swimming pool was allowed to replace and drain away the entire body of water in the swimming pool only once a year. In the interim, an operator was only allowed to refill water to restore the swimming pool to its original level, which had been lowered due to natural wastage or evaporation.
 

67.A Member commented that in other countries, people used desalinated water or treated sewage for watering plants. CE/RA, WSD said that only places which were affected by drought or had severe water shortage problem would resort to desalinated seawater, since the desaltation process was very expensive. He told Members that Hong Kong used to have a desaltation plant during the 1970s but the plant had been decommissioned and subsequently pulled down due to its exorbitant operating costs.
 

68.A Member asked and CE/RA, WSD said that he did not know off-hand the financial implications of the present leakage problem. He undertook to provide Members with a ballpark figure after the meeting.

CE/RA, WSD


69.Noting that, at present, a household or premises did not have to pay for the first 12 m3 of water consumed, a Member was of the view that WSD should consider lifting the subsidies in order to force people to economise the use of water. The Chairman said that this issue had been thoroughly discussed and debated by the Legislative Council in the past and LegCo subsequently decided that the subsidy should stay. He envisaged that, under the current political and economic climate, there would be strong opposition from the LegCo, the business sector and the public to lift the subsidies. He said that as it was a complicated issue, he would welcome a separate discussion rather than discussing it here.
 

70.A Member asked whether WSD had data on the amount of fresh water which had been dumped into the sea as a result of oversupply from the Mainland or overflow from reservoirs. CE/RA, WSD clarified that WSD had never dumped water supplied by the Mainland into the sea. However, rain water collected at the reservoirs did overflow into the sea when the reservoirs had reached their full capacity after heavy rainfall. With regard to Members?concern about oversupply of Dongjiang water from the Mainland, he said that the agreement between Hong Kong and Guangdong on the supply of Dongjiang water was flexible enough for WSD to request the latter to make adjustments to the daily amount of water to be supplied to Hong Kong, with the undrawn quantity to be recouped later in the year.
 

71.A Member asked whether WSD had long term plans to identify additional sources of potable water or enhance its water supplies infrastructure in order to cope with the increasing population in Hong Kong. CE/RA, WSD said that WSD would expand and upgrade its water distribution networks and water treatment works to cope with future population growth. Also, WSD would continue with its efforts in promoting water conservation. The Chairman commended WSD for being able to maintain the local water consumption at a stable level, in spite of the rapid growth in population and living standards in Hong Kong over the last decade.
 

72.In response to a Member's concern, CE/RA, WSD explained that cryptosporidium, which was found in the potable water in Sydney, did not cause any harm to the Sydney public. They had also been advised to boil the water before drinking. He assured Members that the level of cryptosporidium occasionally found in Hong Kong's water was not a cause for concern.
 

73.The Chairman said that he appreciated the efforts of WSD in promoting water conservation and hoped that they could keep it up.
 

Agenda Item 7 : Quarterly Report on Progress of SSDS Stage I Works (as at early January 1999)
(ACE Paper 5/99)

74.The Chairman welcomed SE2/SSDS, DSD and SE5/SSDS, DSD to the meeting. SE2/SSDS, DSD briefed Members on the progress of the SSDS Stage I works.

 

75.In response to a Member's proposal for visiting the works sites of the six deep underground tunnels, SE5/SSDS, DSD explained that the tunnels were over 100m deep in the ground and were about 3m to 4m in diameter only. Moreover, since there were works being carried out, it was not advisable at all for ACE to visit the sites. Instead, he proposed that Members had a look at the photographs taken at these works sites and raise whatever queries they had about the tunnelling works first. If they still felt that a visit was necessary after seeing the photographs, he would then arrange a visit for Members. The Chairman concurred.

[Post-meeting Note: SE5/SSDS, DSD deposited the photographs with the Secretariat for Members?inspection.]

 

76.In response to the Chairman's query, SE5/SSDS, DSD said that, in spite of the delay in the tunnelling works, DSD hoped to be able to contain the construction costs of the SSDS Stage I within the approved budget. However, the ground conditions to be encountered is a factor which may affect the final construction costs.
 

77.In response to a Member's query, SE5/SSDS, DSD said that the method for constructing the tunnels and the types of machines to be deployed would have to depend on the ground conditions and the length of the tunnels. He said that the tunnel between Kwai Chung and Tsing Yi was the only one out of the six remaining tunnels which made use of blasting method. The other five tunnels were constructed by using tunnel-boring machines.
 

78.The Chairman thanked DSD for the report and hoped that works would progress smoothly in the coming months.
 

Agenda Item 8 : Any Other Business

Tentative Schedule of Work for ACE in 1999

79.Members noted the tentative schedule of work tabled.

 

Visit to Tsim Bei Tsui and Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve

80.Members noted that the visit to Tsim Bei Tsui and Mai Po was scheduled for 30 January 1999.

 

Exchange Visit to the State Environmental Protection Agency and Other Environmental Agencies

81.The Chairman proposed that this Council visit the State Environmental Protection Agency in Beijing around September or October this year. A Member proposed that the visit should also include an exchange with Prof. Qu Geping, Chairman of the Environmental Advisory Committee of the National Peoples' Congress. Members agreed. The Chairman requested the Secretariat to make the necessary arrangements.

82.A Member proposed that this Council also visit Shanghai. The Chairman agreed but proposed that this be separated from the Beijing visit. The Council would visit Beijing this year and then Shanghai next year.

Secretariat


Agenda item 9 : Date of Next Meeting

83.The Chairman reminded Members that the next meeting had been re-scheduled to 2 March 1999.

 


Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
February 1999


 

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