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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 70th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 31 January 2000 at 2:30 p.m.

Present: Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)
Mr. Barrie COOK
Mr. Paul C. H. FAN
Professor Anthony HEDLEY, JP
Dr. HO Kin-chung
Professor LAM Kin-che
The Hon. Dr. LEONG Che-hung
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Dr. NG Cho-nam
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Mr. Otto L. T. POON
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH
Ms Iris TAM
Miss Alex YAU
Mr. Plato YIP
Mrs. Philomena LEUNG (Secretary)


Absent with Apologies:
Mr. CHAN Kwok-wai, JP
Mr. Clement CHEN
Miss Ann CHIANG
Professor Peter HILLS
Mr. Edwin LAU
Mr. Joseph LAU Man-wai, JP
Mr. TAN Teng Huat


In Attendance:

 

Mr. Gordon SIU Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (SPEL)
Mrs. Lily YAM Secretary for the Environment and Food (SEF)
Mr. Gordon SIU Secretary for Planning and Lands (SPL)
Mr. Kim SALKELD Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment) (DS(E), PELB)
Mr. Rob LAW Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Mr. S P LAU Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD)
Mr. Raymond CHIU Assistant Director (Technical Services), Planning Department (Plan D) (AD(TS)/Plan D)
Dr. Constance CHAN Assistant Director (Health Adm & Planning), Department of Health
Ms. Polly LEUNG Principal Information Officer, Environmental Protection Department (EPD)
Mr. Maurice LOO Assistant Secretary (Environment) 4, PELB
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer (Environment), PELB
 
In Attendance for Agenda Item 4:
 
Mr. W S Chan Deputy Secretary (Works Policy), Works Bureau (DS(WP)/WB)
Mr. H I Kwong Chief Assistant Secretary (Technical Services), WB (CAS(TS)/WB)
Mr. Hugh Phillipson Director of Water Supplies (DWS)
Mr. P W Chan Deputy Director of Water Supplies (DD/WSD)
Mr. C C Ku Assistant Director (Supply & Distribution), Water Supplies Department (AD(SD)/WSD)
Mr. T L Cheung Chief Chemist, WSD (CC/WSD)
 
In Attendance for Agenda Item 5:
 
Mr. John Rockey Assistant Director (Waste Facilities), EPD (AD(WF)/EPD)
Dr. Ellen Chan Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Facilities Planning), EPD (PEPO(FP)/EPD)
 
In Attendance for Agenda Item 6:
 
Mr. Edmond Ho Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Strategic Infrastructure), EPD (PEPO(SI)/EPD)
Mr. K. T. Lam Senior Engineer (Mainland South 3), Drainage Services Department (SE(MS3)/DSD)
Mr. K. B. To Senior Engineer (Project Management), DSD (SE(PM)/DSD)

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The Chairman welcomed Mrs. Lily Yam, who was attending the meeting for the first time. He reminded Members that following the re-organisation of the Government Secretariat on 1 January 2000, the newly established Environment and Food Bureau would assume responsibility for environmental issues whereas the renamed Planning and Lands Bureau would be responsible for planning and land issues. Members noted that Mr. Gordon Siu, Secretary for Planning and Lands, would continue to attend future meetings. The Chairman also welcomed Mr. Raymond Chiu, who was standing in for Mr. Bosco Fung. Action
    
Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 69th Meeting held on 20 December 1999  
2. Regarding para. 24 of the minutes of the 68th meeting, Members noted that the Secretariat had clarified with ERM the meaning of "chat room" and the paragraph had been amended accordingly.  
3. The minutes of the 69th meeting were confirmed subject to two Members' amendments (copy attached).  
4. The Chairman briefed Members about the Secretariat's proposal to distribute the minutes of meeting via e-mail in future in order to save paper. He supplemented that hard copies would still be provided to those Members who did not have access to e-mail facilities. Members agreed with the proposal.  
    
Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising  
Para. 20 : Special meeting on CTS-3  
5. The Chairman informed Members that Transport Bureau was in the process of setting up a monitoring and audit programme to review the existing transport strategies. The Bureau had indicated that they would brief Members on the progress of the review in the near future.  
Para. 21 : Briefing session on sustainability indicators and CASET  
6. The Chairman said that the session was held on 25 January 2000 and he recalled that the main discussion was on whether population was a suitable indicator for sustainability.  
Para. 79 : Briefing on Sludge Treatment and Disposal Strategy  
7. Members noted that the briefing was held on 12 January 2000 and a note summarising the discussion at the briefing was circulated for Members' information.  
Opportunities for discussion of Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS) and cross-boundary pollution issues  
8. Considering that this Council would, in the near future, be consulted on the findings of the review of the SSDS and other issues related to cross-boundary pollution, the Chairman suggested conducting dedicated meetings to have thorough discussion on these issues. In particular, he proposed arranging for a trip to Northern Europe to study their experience on sewage and sludge treatment and other environmental protection issues, particularly trans-boundary issues.  
9. SEF said that the Administration could arrange for additional meetings with Members to have full discussion on these issues if need arose. The possibility of organising a study trip would need to be examined in more detail.  
10. If a trip to Northern Europe materialised, a Member said that the delegation could also study overseas experience in dealing with other environmental issues, such as air pollution, in additional to sewage treatment. The Chairman, however, said that it would be better to focus on a few issues only given the time constraint of the trip. Another Member supported the suggestion of a study trip and said that it would be a valuable opportunity to learn the experience of Northern Europe on the integration of water supply and sewage treatment.  
Special Meeting on Disney EIA  
11. The Chairman reported that the special meeting was held on 29 December 1999 and it was agreed that the Disney EIA report would be submitted to the EIA Subcommittee for discussion on 5 April 2000 and followed up at the full Council meeting on 17 April 2000. In case the Council required additional information, it was suggested that a special meeting could be held on 26 April 2000.  
Symposium on Sustainable Development - Cooperation among Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau  
12. Members noted that the symposium would be conducted in Guangzhou, Macau and Hong Kong between 3 to 7 April 2000 and copies of the programme, registration form and guidelines on paper submission were tabled for their reference. A Member thanked SPL and SEF for accepting to be the opening and closing speakers for the symposium.  
Declaration of Interest  
13. The Chairman declared his interest in the Disney EIA report because his company was the consultants to the Walt Disney company and the Hong Kong branch of the company also provided tax services to them. He considered that it would not be appropriate for him to discuss the topic and asked the Secretariat not to pass to him any related papers in the future. Secretariat
    
Agenda Item 3 : Report of the 51st EIA Subcommittee Meeting
(ACE Paper 1/2000)
 
14. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman reported that the EIA report of "Village Flood Protection for Yuen Long, Kam Tin and Ngau Tam Mei, NWNT - Stage II" and the EIA report of "Route 10 - North Lantau to Yuen Long Highways (Southern Section)" had been circulated and endorsed by Members with conditions before the meeting. He said that the Subcommittee suggested the setting up of a mechanism to monitor the progress and development of the findings of the Third Comprehensive Transport Study (CTS-3) regularly so that the transport strategy could be adjusted in response to dynamic changes in environmental conditions as a result of future developments. The Chairman said that the Transport Bureau (TB) was in the process of setting up a monitoring and audit programme to review the existing transport strategies and would brief Members on the progress of the review soon. In response to the Chairman's request, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman agreed that the EIA Subcommittee would discuss with TB the detailed arrangements on the setting up of the programme and would report to the full Council on the outcome of their discussion in due course. EIA Subcommittee
15. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman added that the Subcommittee also suggested that the future Sustainable Development (SusDev) Council should discuss the issue of a sustainable transport strategy for Hong Kong because it was probably not appropriate for this Council to oversee the sustainability of individual transport strategies. In response to the Chairman's query on the timing of the setting up of the SusDev Council, SEF said that the Environment and Food Bureau was working closely with the Planning and Lands Bureau on the establishment of the SusDev Council as well as the SusDev Unit in the Administration. She anticipated that major progress would be achieved in the next few months.  
16. The Chairman said that Members were looking forward to having a high-level advisory body in place to advise on the sustainability of major developments in Hong Kong. SEF agreed with the Chairman and said that the purpose of setting up the SusDev Council was to advise on development proposals from a more long-term and strategic perspective.  
17. In the light of the discussion on the Route 10 project, a Member requested the Administration to consider reviewing the existing EIA Ordinance to prevent project proponents from deliberately circumventing proper scrutiny by splitting EIA submissions into different phases. DEP agreed that project proponents should provide Members with a comprehensive overview of the development plan in the subject area to enable Members to assess the overall sustainability of the project. However, he noted that the EIA Ordinance was not designed to assess the sustainability of projects. For the Route 10 case, he was satisfied that the project proponent had divided the EIA submission into two phases in view of the enormity of the project and because of programming constraints.  
18. A Member asked whether the EIA Ordinance empowered Members to challenge the sustainability of a project. DEP replied that it would be more appropriate for the future SusDev Council to advise on the sustainability of projects because the need for a project could be justified on social, economic and political grounds in addition to taking into account environmental factors.  
19. A Member suggested that a mechanism should be established upon the setting up of the SusDev Council to ensure that the need for a project was fully assessed before any financial investments were committed. DEP said that the SusDev 21 Study already suggested that project proponents should assess in reasonable depth the effect of their proposals on all sustainability indicators before proceeding with the projects.  
20. A Member, on behalf of the business community, urged that the SusDev Council be set up as soon as possible. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman shared that Member's view about the need for the early establishment of the SusDev Council. He also urged the Administration to allow sufficient time for planning of major projects in future to avoid the need to divide the submission of projects into phases for discussion at the Council.  
Proposal on Tai Ho Valley Development  
21. The Chairman informed Members that he had received an offer from a Swire Properties-Sun Hung Kai joint-venture to brief Members on their development plan for Tai Ho Valley. He invited Members' views on the acceptance of such offer.  
22. A Member declared his interest on the subject because his company was linked with Cheung Kong Holdings.  
23. SPL said that the joint venture's development plan was drawn up in response to the new town development plan prepared by the Territory Development Department (TDD) and the PlanD a few years ago. SPL suggested inviting the two departments to brief Members on the development plan and the Administration's latest thinking on the proposed developments before considering the joint venture's offer. Two Members agreed with SPL's suggestion.  
24. The Chairman requested the Secretariat to invite TDD and Plan D to present the new town development plan at a future meeting. Secretariat
    
Agenda Item 4 : Use of Water Purchased from Guangdong Province
(ACE Paper 2/2000)
 
25. The Chairman welcomed DS(WP)/WB, DWS et.al. to the meeting. DWS briefed Members on the background of the Administration's water supply arrangement with the Guangdong side as well as on the use of fresh water purchased from Guangdong Province.  
26. The Chairman suggested that the Mainland could save the cost of pumping excessive water to Hong Kong and retain the water for its use. Concurrently, Hong Kong could also save the cost of dumping the extra water. DWS said that although it had been suggested to the Guangdong side that both parties could save energy by pumping less water which could be retained and utilised by the Guangdong side, they rejected the idea out of concern of potential loss of revenue. He said that the only flexibility Hong Kong had at the moment was to reduce daily intake of water by up to 25% when Hong Kong reservoir storage was high.  
27. A Member suggested that the Administration should look for alternative ways to utilise the surplus water, for example as cooling agent for air-conditioning systems. Noting that water-cooled air conditioning systems were more cost-effective and environmentally friendly, DWS said that the Administration was already considering this possibility. However, he noted that the existing water treatment works (WTW) had insufficient capacity for treating the surplus water for the purpose. DS(WP)/WB supplemented that a study was conducted in 1995 to investigate the feasibility of utilising the surplus water for air conditioning purposes and it was concluded that the proposal could be implemented by 2001 when two new WTWs were scheduled for completion. He further said that at district level, the local distribution network would also need to be upgraded for allowing water to be used for air-conditioning systems.  
28. Noting that the closed aqueduct was anticipated to be completed by 2002, a Member asked when would the other water quality improvement programmes be implemented. That Member also asked whether the figures on water quality quoted in the paper were acceptable or desirable, and whether there was room for further improvement.  
29. In response to that Member's first query, DWS said that the closed aqueduct could substantially improve the quality of raw water by avoiding the pollution sources along the Dongjiang-Shenzhen supply route. He added that the dredging of the sludge at Shenzhen Reservoir was in progress and would be completed before 2004. AD(SD)/WSD supplemented that the improvement of water quality in the upstream of Dongjiang would rely on the Guangdong side's efforts in exercising more stringent control on the effluent discharged from industrial plants. He added that the Administration would liaise closely with the Guangdong side in monitoring the quality of Dongjiang water.  
30. As regards that Member's second query, DWS confirmed that the quality of raw water was of desirable standard. He emphasised that the WTWs were well within capacity to purify Dongjiang water to a standard which was safe for drinking.  
31. The Chairman suggested that if the quality of water supplied by Guangdong side could be improved, the savings from treatment costs could be passed on to them as a premium. DWS said that similar proposal had been made to the Guangdong side; they indicated that they were trying their best to improve the water quality.  
32. A Member recalled that during the last ACE visit to the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau, officials there expressed their determination to improve their water quality. He was puzzled by the Guangdong side's seeming reluctance in co-operating with Hong Kong. DWS said that the Guangdong side had shown goodwill but they were at the same time anxious that the Hong Kong side should honour their original contractual agreement given the amount of investment which they had already made to increase the system capacity.  
33. SPL said that improving water quality of Dongjiang was one of the six priority work items agreed between the Chief Executive of the HKSAR Government and the Governor of the Guangdong Province in October 1999. He added that the Administration was in the process of setting up a working group with the Guangdong side, with the participation of related agencies from both sides to discuss the protection and improvement of the quality of Dongjiang water.  
34. A Member confirmed that potable water in Hong Kong was safe for drinking according to a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Open University. However, there was concern about a general trend of deterioration of water quality. He added that the Guangdong side's stepped up control on sewage treatment and industrial effluent discharge had proved very effective in reducing the point source pollution load in Dongjiang. However, the survey suggested that there was an increase in non-point source pollution load in the area and soil erosion had resulted in an increase in the contamination of the river by pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. DWS assured Members that the pesticides concentration in Dongjiang was below the level of detection, but agreed that this pollution source should be closely monitored.  
35. A Member emphasised that notwithstanding that there were alternative ways to utilise excessive water, one should not forget the importance of conserving water.  
36. A Member said that from the sustainability point of view, Hong Kong was relying too heavily on water supplied by Guangdong. He urged that the Administration should explore other alternative sources of water by conducting a cost-effectiveness analysis between different options like water recycling and building more reservoirs. DWS said that since Hong Kong used mainly salt water for flushing, the resulting effluent had limited potential for recycling.  
37. The Chairman pointed out that the issue was touched upon during the discussion on the sludge treatment and disposal strategy, and the consultant had indicated that using fresh water or salt water for flushing would make little difference to the chloride content of the resulting effluent. He said that the cost benefits of using fresh water or salt water for flushing should be re-examined. DS(WP)/WB supplemented that the Administration had been actively looking for opportunities for water recycling. He said that the possibility for recycling of effluent from sewage treatment works had been explored in the process of developing new towns such as Shatin and Tai Po. He said that the Administration would continue its efforts in this aspect.  
38. DD/WSD supplemented that WSD had commenced a consultancy study on future water resources for Hong Kong which included investigations on the feasibility and effectiveness of water recycling and better utilization of storm water, etc. Initial results of the study would be available by June 2000. The Chairman requested WSD to brief Members on the findings and recommendations of the study in due course. WSD
    
Agenda Item 5 : Annual Review - Waste Reduction Framework Plan
(ACE Paper 3/2000)
 
39. The Chairman welcomed AD(WF)/EPD and PEPO(FP)/EPD to the meeting. The Chairman of the Waste Reduction Committee (WRC) (ACE Member) briefed Members on the work of the WRC and the progress of the implementation of the Waste Reduction Framework Plan (WRFP).  
40. In response to the Chairman's comments about the total amount of waste paper recycled by public housing estates, PEPO(FP)/EPD said that there was a high fluctuation in the amount of waste paper recycled by different housing estates. As such, the figures set out in the Report were averaged out. She added that the figures for the last two months had not yet been included. The Chairman of WRC said that the amount of paper recycled was on a rising curve and he would keep this Council updated on recent development.  
41. Noting that the Waste Recycling Campaign would be implemented in three phases, a Member asked how the waste recycling could be promoted in between the phases and whether the Campaign would continue after the end of Phase III. PEPO(FP)/EPD said that the recycling bins would still be provided between phases and according to her understanding, the organisers would continue the Campaign after the end of Phase III. The Chairman of WRC added that the WRC would extend the Campaign to other public and private housing estates, and the Task Force for the Housing Estates would soon launch their own waste recovery programmes. AD(WF)/EPD said that education on waste recycling and reduction was a long-term process and the Administration was committed to continue its efforts in this area.  
42. A Member opined that one of the priorities in promoting waste reduction was to convince legislators to support landfill charging schemes. He also urged the Administration to set an example in waste reduction through cooperation with the construction industry because half of the houses in Hong Kong were provided by Government.  
43. DS(B)/EFB said that the Administration had, on several occasions, presented to the Legislative Council proposed measures and legislative amendments regarding waste reduction and recycling, especially on construction waste. Although legislators generally agreed that waste reduction was crucial for the sustainable development of Hong Kong, they were reluctant to contemplate any scheme which would involve introducing fees and charges. To tackle the problem of increasing waste generation, he said that the Administration had been exploring other alternatives like waste incineration. However, it was clear that the amount of waste generated could not be reduced without introducing any sort of economic incentive. DS(B)/EFB said that the Administration would continue their lobbying work with legislators about the landfill charging scheme. However, he anticipated that the Administration had no prospect of gaining support from the legislators about such scheme, particularly in an election year, without increasing their awareness of the urgent need for reducing waste generation.  
44. The Chairman opined that there was a possibility that legislators would support the landfill charging scheme if opinion surveys indicated that the public would support such a scheme. As such, it was important to generate the grassroots' support for the scheme. A Member suggested that the Administration could remove some of the legislators' resistance to the scheme by using part or all of the funds generated from landfill charging on improving the environment. SEF said that EFB would reassess the situation and decide on the best timing for introducing the scheme to Legislative Council. Another Member suggested that the Administration work more closely with WRC and green groups in promoting the message of waste reduction to the general public.  
45. A Member suggested that the Administration could consider following other countries' example to impose landfill charges to polluters and at the same time offer tax rebate as an incentive to those practising waste reduction or recycling. He also suggested imposing a requirement for the putting of recycling bins at busy spots like MTR stations and shopping malls to provide a means for the public to separate waste. Lastly, he urged the Administration to expedite the process of raising community awareness in waste reduction.  
46. A Member said that the Conservancy Association supported the Polluter Pays Principle and hence a landfill charging scheme to reduce waste. However, he noted that the community seemed to be confused about the charging scheme and he asked whether the scheme would only apply to the commercial and industrial sectors in the first phase of implementation. DS(B)/EFB explained that the charging scheme would first be applied to the commercial and industrial sectors since it was easier to quantify the amount of waste generated by these two sectors. However, the Administration would consider extending the scheme to the domestic sector in later phases.  
47. A Member said that it might be easier to solicit legislators' support to the scheme if it was targeted at only the commercial and industrial sectors. The Chairman of WRC commented that the overall concept of waste reduction was welcomed by the majority of legislators and it was only the technicalities of the landfill charging scheme which had caused uncertainties among the legislators. AD(WF)/EPD concurred with the Chairman of WRC and supplemented that the legislators were sensitive about whom the landfill charge would be levied on.  
48. SEF said that she agreed that environmental issues were often so complicated that the general public could not fully comprehend how the principle worked. Therefore, in order to get the public's support for the scheme, it was important for the Administration to present the scheme in such a way so that it would not be perceived as introducing unreasonable additional charges on the general public.  
49. The Chairman said that the issue of waste reduction would best be discussed in more detail by the WRC.  
50. A Member said that Green Power would stand ready to assist the Administration's lobbying work with legislators on the landfill charging scheme. Now that the EPD and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department were both under the auspices of EFB, that Member suggested that the Bureau could consider combining rubbish bins with recycling bins in the streets. SEF said that EFB had already started to examine possible co-operation between the two departments in the work of waste recycling and collection. That Member also suggested assisting the newspaper industry to set up a task force in promoting waste reduction within the sector.  
51. In response to a Member's suggestion, PEPO(FP)/EPD said that EPD had been discussing with the Task Force for the Construction Industry about incorporating waste reduction and recycling training into the Green Card System. She said that EPD would continue to discuss with the Construction Industry Training Association on how to take forward the suggestion.  
52. The Chairman of WRC concluded that without a charging scheme, it was difficult to increase the awareness of the public on waste reduction. He thanked AD(WF)/EPD, PEPO(FP)/EPD, Members of the WRC and various Task Forces for their hard work during the past year. If the present trend of waste generation was allowed to continue, he noted that one of the strategic landfills would be exhausted within six years. As such, he said that the WRC would endeavour to expedite the waste reduction process.  
53. The Chairman thanked the Chairman of WRC, AD(WF)/EPD and PEPO(FP)/EPD for the briefing as well as their hard work in the past year.  
    
Agenda Item 6 : Review on the Implementation of the Water Pollution Control (Sewerage)(Amendment) Regulation 1998
(ACE Paper 4/2000)
 
54. The Chairman welcomed PEPO(SI)/EPD, SE(MS3)/DSD) and SE(PM)/DSD to the meeting. PEPO(SI)/EPD briefed Members on the findings of the review.  
55. The Chairman and Members were satisfied that the rights of individuals to be informed of or to air grievances on the sewerage works had not been compromised or deprived of as a result of the enactment of the Amendment Regulation. As such, they agreed that there was no need for the Administration to report to the Council on the implementation of the Amendment Regulation in the future.  
56. In response to a Member's query, DEP said that he was not aware that the treated sewage from the Shek Wu Hui Sewage Treatment Plant had been used by Sheung Shui Slaughter House as cooling agent for the air-conditioning system. DEP suggested that Member to clarify with the responsible authority.  
    
Agenda Item 7 : Any Other Business  
Tentative Schedule of work for ACE in 2000  
57. Members noted the tentative schedule of work.  
Disney EIA  
58. A Member enquired about the latest development of the progress of the Disney EIA. He noted that there were some reports indicating that the consultants conducting the EIA Study of the Disney Theme Park could not obtain the lot owner's consent to carry out site investigation of the study area. DEP clarified that the issue was actually related to the EIA on the decommissioning of Cheoy Lee Shipyard instead of the Disney EIA.  
    
Agenda Item 8 : Date of Next Meeting  
59. The Chairman said that the date of the next meeting was tentatively scheduled for 21 February 2000. He wished attendees a prosperous Year of the Dragon.  
Environment and Food Bureau
Frebuary 2000
 


 

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