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Advisory Council on the Environment

 

Confirmed Minutes of the 65th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 30 August 1999 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)
Mr. CHAN Kwok-wai, JP
Mr. Barrie COOK
Mr. Paul C. H. FAN
Professor Peter HILLS
Mr. Joseph LAU Man-wai, JP
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Dr. NG Cho-nam
Mr. Otto L. T. POON
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH
Ms Iris TAM
Mr. Plato YIP
Mr. Danny TSUI (Secretary)

 

Absent with Apologies:

Mr. Clement CHEN
Miss Ann CHIANG
Professor Anthony HEDLEY, JP
Professor LAM Kin-che
Mr. Edwin LAU
Dr. HO Kin-chung
The Hon. Dr. LEONG Che-hung
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Miss Alex YAU
Mr. TAN Teng Huat

In Attendance:
 

Mr. Kim SALKELD Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment) (DS(E), PELB)
Mr. Rob LAW Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Mr. Raymond CHIU Assistant Director of Planning (Technical Services)
Mr. S P LAU Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD)
Mr. David CHAN Principal Information Officer, Environmental Protection Department (EPD)
Mrs. Philomena LEUNG Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment)3 (Designate)
Mr. Eugene FUNG Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment) 4 (AS(E)4, PELB)
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer (Environment), Planning, Environment & Lands Bureau (PELB)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 3:
 
Mr. Y K POON Assistant Commissioner (Control and Intellectual Property), Customs & Excise Department (C&ED) (AC/CIP, C&ED)
Mr. W S CHAN Deputy Head, Marine & Land Enforcement Command, C&ED (DH/MLEC, C&ED)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 4:
 
Miss Dora FU Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services (C) (PAS(C), ESB)
Mr. Keith WILSON Senior Fisheries Officer (Artificial Reef), AFD (SFO/AR, AFD)
Ms. Shelley CLARKE Consultant, ERM-HK (Con(1), ERM)
Dr. Robin KENNISH Consultant, ERM-HK (Con(2), ERM)

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

 

Action

The Chairman welcomed Mrs. Philomena Leung to the meeting. Mrs. Leung would take over from Mr. Danny Tsui as Secretary to this Council upon the latter's transfer. The Chairman said that he would like to place on record Mr. Tsui's contributions to this Council.

Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of 64th Meeting held on 19 July 1999

2.Noting that the draft minutes were issued to Members rather late, the Chairman said he would seek Members' confirmation of the minutes at the next meeting.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 2 : Visit to the Environmental Protection Bureau of Guangdong

 
 

3.Members noted that the visit had been postponed to October 1999. The Secretariat would inform Members of the confirmed dates in due course.

[Post-meeting Note : The visit will take place in November 1999.]


  Secretariat
 

Para. 30 : Shotcreted Slopes

4.Members noted that the visit had been postponed to October 1999. The Secretariat would inform Members of the confirmed dates in due course.




  Secretariat
 
Para. 60 : Briefing session on the Third Comprehensive Transport Study

5.Members noted that the Secretariat was liaising with the Transport Bureau on the timing for the briefing.

Agenda Item 3 : Progress Report on Illicit Use of Diesel Oil
(ACE paper 34/99)

6.The Chairman welcomed AC/CIP, C&ED and DH/MLEC, C&ED to the meeting. AC/CIP, C&ED briefed Members on the efforts taken by C&ED in combating the illicit use of diesel oil.

7.In response to the Chairman's query, AC/CIP, C&ED said that it was difficult to estimate the total amount of dutiable diesel that was being used in the community. He however said that since the sale of light diesel oil (LDO) had increased in spite of a decrease in the number of registered diesel vehicles in Hong Kong, there was reason to believe that the problem on the illicit use of LDO had become less acute recently, probably due to effective enforcement actions taken by C&ED.

8.A Member said that from the limited data known to him, duty was not paid in respect of about 30% to 40% of LDO used by vehicles on the roads in Hong Kong. Noting that more and more illegal diesel filling stations were found in urban areas, such as inside commercial carparks, he expressed concern about the potential fire and explosion hazard these illegal operations posed. Also, he asked whether, apart from the illicit use of LDO, there was a tendency for the illicit use of petrol as well.

9.AC/CIP, C&ED said that C&ED was aware of the fire hazard associated with the operation of illegal diesel and petrol filling stations and would crack down any such known operations. He admitted that the amount of illicit petrol that was being seized by C&ED had increased substantially from a low base in the past few months but believed that the problem was not as serious as the illicit use of LDO. This was because petrol vehicles were mainly private vehicles rather than commercial vehicles and there were less financial gains but higher opportunity costs for individual car owners to use illicit petrol. He said that although illicit petrol filling stations were not as numerous as illicit diesel filling stations, the former would pose a far greater fire hazard to the community than the latter.

10.A Member said that since the use of illicit LDO was most common among commercial vehicles, the Hong Kong Coalition of Business had approached Hon. Mrs. Miriam Lau, who represented the transport constituency, to solicit her support and assistance in encouraging the transport trade to stop using illicit fuel. He said that although the average level of fines imposed on recent convictions were higher than that of previous convictions, they were still insignificant when compared to the lucrative profits that the offenders could obtain from the sale of illicit LDO. He said that the forfeiture of the offenders' vehicles would be a more effective deterrent and asked whether this had ever been done before. AC/CIP, C&ED said that the court had recently forfeited a goods vehicle which was found using illicit diesel for the second time. He undertook to find out the exact number of convictions which involved the forfeiture of vehicles and report back. The Chairman remarked that the revocation of the driving licence of the convicted would also be an effective deterrent.

[Post-meeting note : Between January and August 1999, 141 vehicles had been forfeited. 140 of them were forfeited because they were involved in the supply and distribution of illicit LDO. The remaining one was forfeited because it was caught red-handed twice for using illicit LDO.]

11.AC/CIP, C&ED said that the establishment of the Special Task Force earlier on had enabled C&ED to step up on-road inspection of vehicles. A Member asked and AC/CIP, C&ED explained that on-road inspections would only be effective if they were carried out on a territory-wide basis. This was because if only one roadblock was set at a specific location, it would not take long before all the commercial drivers were informed of the operation by their counterparts and the problematic ones would take alternative routes to avoid being caught red-handed. Members noted that during an inspection the week before, C&ED had spot-checked 300 vehicles. Six were found using illicit LDO.

12.Noting that the use of illicit LDO among vehicles in Hong Kong could be as high as 30% to 40%, a Member asked why the hit ratio of C&ED's latest inspection was only 2%. Another Member said that if C&ED had focused on inspecting taxis and public light buses which were the most common users of illicit LDO, the hit ratio might be greater. AC/CIP, C&ED said that commercial diesel vehicles were their main target during their on-road inspections.

13.Noting that there were drastic increases in the volume of LDO seized by C&ED at sea from April to June this year, a Member asked what measures C&ED would take to stop the smuggling of illicit LDO from the Mainland to Hong Kong by sea. AC/CIP, C&ED said that apart from smuggling LDO from the Mainland, some local vessels were also smuggling back into Hong Kong diesel oil that they had shipped out of Hong Kong under export permits issued by C&ED. C&ED had been co-operating closely with their counterparts in the Mainland with a view to cracking down on such smuggling activities at both ends. As a result of the concerted efforts of both sides, the number of smuggling cases between the Mainland and Hong Kong had dropped significantly recently. The Chairman said that it could be because of Guangdong's ban on fishing within the South China Sea in the past few months that had led to the temporary dying down of the smuggling activities. As the ban had already been lifted, he urged the C&ED to be vigilant against the revival of such smuggling activities in the coming months.

 
 
14.In response to a Member's query, AC/CIP, C&ED said that C&ED was exploring the possibility of amending the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance so that they could presume that the LDO inside the oil tank of a vehicle to be dutiable if it was found to have more than 0.05 % sulphur by weight in content. He however emphasized that C&ED had just started looking at the proposal and it was too early to tell whether, and if so when, the proposal would be implemented. He said that Members would be consulted on the details of the proposal in due course. Another Member said that industries were at present allowed to use industrial diesel which had slightly higher sulphur content than that used by vehicles. He was concerned that the proposed amendment to the legislation would provide an excuse for the oil companies to only import diesel oil with sulphur content of 0.05 % so that industries would be forced to use auto diesel oil which was more expensive than industrial diesel. AC/CIP, C&ED said that C&ED would take this into account in considering the proposal. C&ED
 
15.The Chairman said that since the price of diesel was lower in the Mainland than in Hong Kong, vehicle drivers that plied between Hong Kong and the Mainland, such as coach, lorry and container vehicle drivers, would have their oil tanks fully filled up in the Mainland every time before they returned to Hong Kong. This posed a serious environmental problem to Hong Kong since diesel from the Mainland had higher sulphur content (about 0.3 %) than that sold in Hong Kong (about 0.05%). He asked whether C&ED would consider following the example of Singapore which required all vehicle drivers to have three quarters of their oil tanks filled up before departing Singapore for Malaysia. AC/CIP, C&ED said that vehicles were allowed to have their oil tanks filled up in the Mainland before they returned to Hong Kong so that they would not run out of fuel on the way back to their destinations in Hong Kong. The quantities currently allowed had taken into account the size of the vehicles and the longest possible journey that they might have to make after returning through the boundary checkpoints.

16.A Member commented that as taxi-drivers who used illicit LDO could save about $160,000 in two years, which would then enable him to buy a new taxi, there was therefore strong financial incentives for taxi drivers to resort to illicit LDO. On the other hand, the government was losing a substantial amount of revenue in terms of diesel duty. Another Member asked and AC/CIP, C&ED undertook to provide Members with the estimated amount of revenue that the Government had lost as a result of illicit use of LDO in the next progress report.

C&ED

 
 
17.A Member did not consider it appropriate for the Government to follow the example of Singapore which required each and every driver to have their oil tanks filled up by three quarters before leaving for Malaysia. He said that C&ED should inspect the oil tank of each and every vehicle that returned from the Mainland and measure the sulphur content of the diesel used by them. Once the measurement had indicated that the sulphur content was higher than the permitted level, prosecution actions could be taken against the drivers. AC/CIP, C&ED said that given the volume of traffic that crossed the boundary checkpoints every day, it was not practical for C&ED to inspect the oil tank of each and every vehicle. Another Member said that the inspection time per vehicle could be substantially shortened if C&ED would adopt the new testing method which tested the SO2 content of the vehicle emission. AC/CIP, C&ED said that C&ED would consider this proposal together with other viable proposals that would help detect the use of illicit LDO by vehicles.

18.The Chairman thanked AC/CIP, C&ED for the detailed presentation and urged C&ED to keep on taking effective measures to combat the illicit use of diesel oil.

Agenda Item 4 : Consultation Document on the Artificial Reef Deployment Study
(ACE Paper 35/99)

19.The Chairman welcomed PAS(C), ESB, SFO/AR, AFD, and two consultants of ERM-HK to the meeting. With the aid of a video, Con(1), ERM presented to Members the findings of the Study.

20.In response to the points raised by a Member in writing on 27 August 1999, SFO/AR, AFD said:

 
 
  1. subject to the outcome of the public consultation, AFD intended to gazette the proposed artificial reef (AR) deployment sites by June 2000 and award the AR deployment contracts by end 2000. A copy of the executive summary of the Study, which contained the detailed implementation timetable, would be provided to that Member for reference;

     

  2. as part of the Study, the consultants had consulted interested parties, including the fishermen community, on the recommendations. Of the three management options proposed by the consultants for the proposed MSAs, most of the fishermen representatives the consultants had so far consulted had opted for Option 1, which involved the closure of the entire MSA to fishing;

     

  3. the existing Fisheries Protection Ordinance (FPO) did not enable the Director of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) to deploy different management options for different parts of Hong Kong waters. Since it was intended that different management options would be deployed to the five proposed MSAs, the FPO would have to be amended to empower DAF to do so;

     

  4. representatives from the fishermen community would be invited to join the proposed MSA Management Advisory Groups; and

     

  5. to pave way for monitoring the performance of the ARs in future, AFD had started carrying out baseline monitoring at the five proposed MSAs a year ago.


  AFD
 
21.The Chairman asked whether there was any traditional fishing ground within the five proposed MSAs, and if so, whether AFD had sufficient baseline monitoring data that would show their present utilization rate in order to work out a reasonable basis for determining the amount of compensation to be paid to the fishermen at a later stage. SFO/AR, AFD said that AFD was aware of the possible claim for compensation from the fishermen upon the designation of the five areas of waters as MSAs. He said that the utilization rate of these areas by the local fishing community would be higher this year than previous years due to the Mainland's banning of trawling and fishing in the South China Sea early this year. As a result of the ban, the waters of Hong Kong had become the fishing bases of about 450 local shrimp trawlers in the past few months. He said that AFD was discussing issues regarding trawling in the Pearl River Estuary with the Guangdong counterparts. Seasonal shrimp trawl grounds had been designated within the Pearl River Estuary by the Mainland authorities and the latter had undertaken to provide AFD with further information regarding the exact boundaries of these sites.

22.In response to a Member's query, SFO/AR, AFD said that AFD's intention was to designate all the five MSAs as no-take zones. However, they would have to take into account the outcome of the public consultation before determining the actual number of MSAs to be designated and the exact areas to be covered.

23.A Member said that AFD should consider imposing restrictions on the mesh size used by fishermen. SFO/AR, AFD said that the Fisheries Resources and Fishing Operation Study, which was commissioned by AFD, had considered the effect of limiting the mesh size. He said that while the use of the mesh size to control fishing activities was one of the recommendations of the study, it was not considered to be as effective as other recommendations such as the introduction of a licensing system. Moreover, there were practical difficulties in setting a large mesh size in a multi-species tropical fishery as many of the target species were very small even as adults. He said that AFD would consider the control of the mesh size as a possible long term measure.

24.In response to a Member's query, SFO/AR, AFD explained that the primary objective of the MSAs was to control fishing. There was no intention for AFD to also control activities such as diving, mooring and anchoring inside the MSAs.

25.In response to a Member's query, SFO/AR, AFD said that many trawl fishermen who were not supportive of the programme were not operating within Hong Kong waters. Their objections therefore would not carry as much weight as those who were operating within Hong Kong waters.

26.In response to the Chairman's queries, PAS(C), ESB said that AFD had maintained liaison with the Mainland authorities over measures for protection of fisheries resources (such as fishing moratorium).

27.A Member was concerned about the possible occurrence of red tides within the proposed MSAs. SFO/AR, AFD assured Members that the water quality of the five proposed MSAs was among the best in Hong Kong. Moreover, the presence of ARs underneath the water would help purify the water there. Given the strong current there and the high mobility of fishes, it was highly unlikely that the proposed MSAs would be hit by red tides.

28.The Chairman said that this Council supported the recommendations of the Study and hoped that these recommendations could be brought into place as early as possible.

Agenda Item 5 : Any Other Business

Tentative Schedule of Work for ACE in 1999

29.Members noted the tentative schedule of work.

Letter of 22 July 1999 from Mr. Albert Chan Wai-yip on aircraft noise

30.The Chairman asked how the NEF 25 contour was derived and whether it was correlated to the decibel level. DEP said that NEF was partially based on theoretical calculation and actual measurement. The contour was plotted after taking into account factors such as the types of aircrafts that would visit an airport regularly, the types of engines those aircrafts were using and the total number of flights each type of aircrafts would be making every day. The NEF contour was commonly used by most of the developed countries as their planning standards, to indicate the boundary of restricted residential developments. He said that NEF was correlated with community reaction of aircraft noise in general rather than the reaction of an individual towards the noise level of an individual flight. Moreover, since all the studies that had been carried out for developing the NEF were conducted on population that lived around an existing airport, NEF was not a typical indicator of the reaction of a population that was not exposed to aircraft noise before. Since people who were not used to noisy environment had the lowest tolerance over new noise source, this explained why the residents along the flightpaths of the new airport had been complaining about the aircraft noise. He anticipated that some of those who were complaining about the aircraft noise would stop doing so after they were more accustomed to the noise level. He added that NEF had no direct correlation with the decibel level, as it was not a measurement of individual aircraft noise.

31.DEP supplemented that he had explained the concept of the NEF contour to Mr. Chan and the latter understood the concept. He said that Mr. Chan would however like the Civil Aviation Department to make further efforts to minimize the noise impact by requiring all landings and departures that took place during certain period of time, such as after midnight, to take those routes that would affect the least number of residents.

Interim Report on River and Marine Water Quality

32.The Chairman thanked EPD for the timely report. Noting that the final phase of the Livestock Waste Control Scheme (LWCS) had commenced in July 1999, he asked whether all the livestock farms had managed to comply with the discharge standards of 50 Biochemical Oxygen Demand : 50 Suspended Solids. AS(E)4, PELB said that there were at present about 250 livestock farms that discharged livestock effluent. 100 of them had already complied with the aforementioned standards. As regards the remaining 150 farms, 80 of them were located at areas where the final phase of the LWCS had just come into effect in July this year. Most of these 80 farms were trying hard to comply with the discharge standards. For those which should have met the discharge standards long time ago but had still failed to do so, EPD had stepped up enforcement against them.

 
 
33.The Chairman asked whether EPD had any target dates for Hong Kong's major rivers and marine waters to meet their water quality objectives. DEP undertook to provide Members with the relevant information. He however emphasized that, apart from livestock waste, sewage from unsewered villages was also a major source of pollution to the waters in Hong Kong.

Agenda Item 6 : Date of Next Meeting

34.The next meeting was scheduled for 27 September 1999.



  DEP
 
 
 

Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
September 1999


 

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