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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 75th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 26 June 2000 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. CHAN Kwok-wai, JP  
Mr. Barrie COOK  
Professor Peter HILLS  
Professor LAM Kin-che (The EIA Subcommittee Chairman)  
Mr. Edwin LAU  
Mr. Joseph LAU Man-wai, JP  
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming  
Dr. NG Cho-nam  
Ms Iris TAM  
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH  
Miss Alex YAU  
Mrs. Philomena LEUNG (Secretary)  



 

Absent with Apologies:
Mr. Clement CHEN
Miss Ann CHIANG
Mr. Paul C. H. FAN
Professor Anthony HEDLEY, JP
Dr. HO Kin-chung
The Hon. Dr. LEONG Che-hung
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Mr. Otto L. T. POON
Mr. TAN Teng Huat
Mr. Plato YIP



 

In Attendance:

Mrs. Lily YAM Secretary for the Environment and Food (SEF)
Mr. Steve Barclay Acting Deputy Secretary (B), Environment and Food Bureau
Mr. Mike Stokoe Acting Director of Environmental Protection (Atg. DEP)
Mr. Raymond Chiu Acting Deputy Director of Planning
Mr. S P LAU Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AD(Cons)/AFCD)
Mrs. Pauline LING Chief Information Officer, EFB
Miss Petula POON Chief Executive Officer (B), EFB
Ms. Natalia LEUNG Senior Information Officer
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer (B), EFB



 

In Attendance for Agenda Item 5 :

Mr. Wan Man-lung Principal Assistant Secretary (7), Transport Bureau (PAS/TB)
Mr. Matthew Ho Chief Engineer (Railway Planning), Highways Department (CE(RP)/Hy D)
Mr. H M Wong Acting Principal Environmental Protection Officer, EPD (Atg. PEPO/EPD)
Mr. Martin Read Director, MVA (Director/MVA)
Mr. Jon Colclough Principal Consultant, ERM (PC/ERM)
Mr. Steve Laister Executive Director, ERM (ED/ERM)

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


Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 73rd Meeting held on 17 April 2000 and Minutes of the 74th Meeting held on 29 May 2000

The Chairman said that a Member, who was out of town when the Council had the last meeting, had proposed an amendment to the minutes of the 73rd meeting. The proposed amendment was set out in the post-meeting note under para 3.
Action

2. The Chairman suggested that if Members had no objection, the proposed amendment be accepted and the minutes of the 73rd meeting be re-confirmed. Members agreed.
 

3. The Chairman informed Members that no proposed amendment to the draft minutes of the 74th meeting was received. The draft minutes were confirmed.
 

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 5 : Planning of Lantau Island

4. The Chairman said that the Secretariat had passed a copy of ACE Paper 12/2000 entitled "Planning of Lantau Island" to that Member.
 

Para. 10 : Briefing by Fill Management Committee

5. The Chairman informed Members that since April 2000, the Fill Management Committee had been re-organised into the Marine Fill Committee and the Public Fill Committee, each responsible for different areas of work. Having regard to Members' general concern on fill management matters, the Secretariat had extended an invitation to the two committees to brief Members on the management of fill resources and dredged/excavated sediment disposal. The date of the briefing(s) would be finalized upon receipt of their replies.



Secretariat

Para.32 : Copy of FC and PWSC papers to Members

6. Members noted that the Secretariat had started sending copies of FC and PWSC papers to Members for information. For Members with e-mail accounts, papers would be sent through e-mail. For those without e-mail accounts, hard copies would be delivered to them.
 

Para 67 : HK-BEAM - An Environmental Assessment for New Residential Buildings

7. The Chairman said that at the last meeting, it was agreed that the item should be brought forward for discussion at this meeting. Unfortunately, both the Chairman of the HK-BEAM Steering Committee and the Assessor were unable to attend this meeting as well as the next meeting in July to present the paper. The Secretariat would arrange for the item to be discussed at the meeting in August.
 

Para. 73 : Opening ACE meetings to the public

8. ACE Paper 22/2000 would be discussed under agenda item 3.

Para. 74 : Petition letters from a group of Lantau bodies

9. Members noted that the letters were re-circulated to them on 7 June 2000.

Agenda Item 3 : Opening ACE to the public
(ACE Paper 22/2000)
 

10. A Member said that he did not feel strongly either way. The current practice of uploading minutes of meetings on the Internet was already a move to enhance transparency of the Council. While he supported greater transparency, he was worried that discussion at Council meetings might become politicized.
 

11. A Member said that there was growing pressure for greater accountability and transparency of Government. Any arguments against opening Council meetings to the public should be carefully considered.
 

12. A Member said that he had no strong views on opening Council meetings to the public. However, he was concerned about opening EIA Subcommittee meetings to the public. He preferred maintaining the status quo for the Subcommittee because that would allow more room for negotiation and mediation.
 

13. A Member suggested that since the Country and Marine Parks Board only opened its full Board meetings to the public, but not the meetings of the committees under it, the same could apply to ACE and the EIA Sub-committee.
 

14. The Chairman said that since the EIA Sub-committee did not make any decisions in respect of EIA reports, it was not necessary for it to open its meetings to the public. Members agreed.
 

15. The Chairman further suggested that for greater accountability, the Council could produce an annual report at the end of the year and that a meet-the-press session could be arranged for the Chairman to answer any questions the media would have.
 

16. SEF said that with the setting up of the Council on Sustainable Development, likely before the end of the year, ACE's terms of reference might need to be reviewed to see how the two councils would complement each other. It might be prudent to await such development before making a decision on opening ACE meetings to the public. That said, she did not have any strong views on the issue. Her only concern was that Members should continue to express their views freely at meetings. As regards the proposed annual report, since the Chairman already conducted press briefings after each Council meeting, the contents of any such report might not be of sufficient interest to the media.
 

17. A Member said that the question of whether Council meetings should be open to the public had been discussed several times before. Members were fully aware of all considerations. He suggested that Members vote on the issue. Another Member supported the suggestion.
 

18. A Member said that in principle she supported opening Council meetings to the public. However, since the Council on Sustainable Development would be set up soon, she felt it would be preferable to defer the decision to next year.
 

19. A Member said that in view of the short duration of the remaining term of Members' office, it might not be appropriate to make any change at the moment. He suggested deferring the decision to early next year for new Members of the Council to make a decision. The Chairman and other Members agreed to the proposal.
 
 
Agenda Item 4 : The Report of the 54th EIA Subcommittee Meeting
(ACE Paper 23/2000)


Tai O Sheltered Boat Anchorage

20. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman briefed Members on the EIA findings as well as the views and recommendations of Subcommittee Members. Members endorsed the EIA report as recommended by the Subcommittee.
 

Widening of Tolo Highway/Fanling Highway between Island House Interchange and Fanling

21. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman briefed Members on the Subcommittee Members' views on the EIA findings. He said that Members were concerned about the incremental approach of the project proponent in dealing with highway projects. Two years ago, the section of Tolo Highway south of Island House was widened. Now the project involved the section north of Island House. Members felt that such a fragmented approach would deprive them the benefit of taking a comprehensive look at the overall project. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that the proponent's explanation was that at that time the need for the present project did not exist.
 

22. In reply to the Chairman, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that the proponent had confirmed that there was no plan to widen the section to the north of Fanling. Atg. DEP commented that the inclusion in the current widening project of substantial noise barriers along each side of the roadway would limit the opportunity for further incremental widening.
 

23. In reply to a Member's enquiry, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that the proponent had only proposed widening the road to dual-3 lane.
 

24. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman pointed out that Sub-committee Members were also concerned about the absence of a long-term transport strategy in Hong Kong. Without such a strategy, it would be difficult for Members to comment on road projects. The Chairman noted the views and agreed to forward them to the Transport Bureau for consideration. Members endorsed the project as recommended by the Subcommittee on the understanding that there would be no further widening of the Tolo Highway to the north of Fanling.

Secretariat

Quorum and Workload of EIA Subcommittee

25. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that the EIA Subcommittee's attendance was sometimes thin and a Member raised the issue of quorum at the last EIA Subcommittee meeting. A Member commented that because of Members' heavy commitments, they might not be able to attend all Subcommittee meetings. He was uneasy about the fact that sometimes a decision was made by only half of the Members and he therefore raised the issue of quorum for discussion. Furthermore, the current practice for Subcommittee Members to select projects for consideration also gave rise to concern. Possibility would exist that they might have missed some of the smaller but important projects. On membership, Prof Hills said that existing Members joined the EIA Subcommittee on a voluntary basis. Despite the fact that the existing membership was quite balanced, the Administration, in reviewing the structure of the Council and the Subcommittee, should ensure that a balance of membership was maintained.
 

26. The Chairman commented that given the number and complexity of projects, the work of the EIA Subcommittee had become very heavy.
 

27. A Member said that some government committees like the Town Planning Board would set up two subcommittees each responsible for a specific area of work. Perhaps the Council could consider devising a similar system.
 

28. A Member pointed out that sometimes there was confusion among Members about the role of the Subcommittee. In addition to environmental issues, Members sometimes questioned the need for the project. Very often that would make the issues under discussion even more complicated.
 

29. On the subject of improvements, a Member suggested that the Technical Memorandum under the EIA Ordinance should be reviewed. Another Member said that the review should also cover the whole EIA mechanism to make it easier for Members to contribute.
 

30. Atg. DEP informed Members that the Technical Memorandum was developed in 1998 as part of the subsidiary legislation of the EIA Ordinance. The whole EIA mechanism was reviewed in 1999 after one year's operation. EPD was now in the process of conducting a second review. Written comments from Members on the EIA process including the Technical Memorandum would be welcome.
 

31. SEF said that she had discussed the work-load of the Subcommittee with the EIA Subcommittee Chairman a few months ago. Following the discussion, the Bureau sought legal advice on the possibility of co-opting members to the Subcommittee. The legal advice was that it was not legally proper to do so. The reason was that the Subcommittee was created under the Council to assist the Council in its work. As such, the Subcommittee had no separate identity. Since the Council and the Subcommittee were to discharge statutory functions in providing advice on EIA reports, such functions could only be lawfully discharged by members of the Council who were properly appointed to it. That said, the Department of Justice saw no problem for the Council to seek outside professional support should such a need arise. SEF suggested that the Secretariat put forward a number of options for addressing the work-load for Members' consideration at the September meeting.

Secretariat

32. A Member suggested that the Subcommittee should participate in the review process and offer comments on the existing EIA mechanism. SEF agreed that the Secretariat should consult and work together with the Subcommittee before submitting recommendations for consideration. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman indicated that he would conduct a session with Subcommittee Members with a view to working out recommendations for the consideration of the Council.
 

KCRC Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line

33. A Member informed other Members that he was unhappy about a statement given by a staff of the KCRC at a press conference on the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. It was said that if the Spur Line project could not proceed, the KCRC would consider calling off the other two East Rail extension projects that ran from Hung Hom to Tsim Sha Tsui and from Tai Wai to Ma On Shan. He felt that such a statement was akin to intimidation of the EIA Subcommittee.
 

34. In response, the Chairman said that the Council would not be intimidated by any organization. He suggested putting the issue to the Transport Bureau. If the KCRC did make such a statement, he was prepared to take the matter up at a very high level or invite the Chairman of KCRC to the next Council meeting for a discussion.
 

35. A Member cautioned that what was reported in the press might not be 100% correct. He suggested that the Council should find out what was actually said before deciding on the next course of action.
 

36. A Member said that Members should not be unduly affected by what the KCRC would say or do. The EIA Subcommittee should focus its attention on the environmental considerations of the project. That would make things easier for Members.

(Post-meeting note: Mr. James Blake, Senior Director (Capital Projects) of KCRC, clarified at the EIA Subcommittee meeting held on 27 June 2000 that the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line was a stand alone project in itself and that it would not affect the other two East Rail extension projects in Tsim Sha Tsui and Ma On Shan.)
 

Agenda Item 5 : The Second Railway Development Study (RDS 2)
(ACE Paper 24/2000)


37. The Chairman welcomed PAS/TB and the presentation team to the meeting. PAS/TB then briefed Members on the Railway Development Strategy 2000 followed by a presentation by ED/ERM on related environmental considerations that would have impacts on RDS 2. An example of the considerations mentioned by ED/ERM was the ecological values of Long Valley, as a result of which one of the alignments was refined.
 

38. In response to the Chairman's enquiry, PAS/TB said that there was no common yardstick for the comparison of road and railways because their functions were not exactly the same and their operation and financing were also different. Anyhow, the Administration was moving towards the right direction in providing more railways. At present, six railways were under different stages of implementation and a further six were recommended in the Strategy.
 

39. In reply to a Member's question on the decrease of rail/MTR commuters, PAS/TB said that to attract railway commuters, the Administration would encourage more residential developments along the railway lines and provide more feeder buses as far as possible.
 

40. Upon enquiry from the Chairman on the increasing competition from estate buses, PAS/TB said that people should be given freedom of choice. If they found it more comfortable and efficient to travel by rail, they would gradually change to this mode of transportation. Between 1998 and 2016, the number of rail passengers would be expected to double whilst other public transport passengers, including bus passengers, would grow by 25% to 30%. According to their forecast, rail would take up about 43% of passengers in terms of the number of boarding and 60% in terms of passenger-kilometres.
 

41. A Member commented that there should be a comprehensive and integrated transport strategy. Unless there was control on the growth of vehicles, the road and air pollution conditions would not improve. In reply, PAS/TB said that Transport Bureau was working on a comprehensive transport strategy and would certainly look for ways to control the growth of cars on a continuous basis. The present target was to control the growth rate to below 2% to 3% per annum. He further said that in terms of road per capita, Hong Kong was one of the lowest in the world.
 

42. Upon enquiry from the Chairman on the sustainability of the growth of cars by 2% on a year on year basis, ED/ERM said that continuous growth of car numbers was not sustainable as far as the environment was concerned. However, it was difficult to discourage car ownership in Hong Kong.
 

43. A Member said that according to figures he had, private cars in Hong Kong constituted only a small percentage in terms of mileage travelled. In view of the cost of car ownership in Hong Kong, the current trend was to travel on mass transit.
 

44. A Member supported RDS 2. He favoured support even for less viable rail projects. He considered that cargo trucks should be discouraged from using major roads and that the Railway Development Strategy 2000 should be implemented as far as possible.
 

45. A Member pointed out that cargo traffic across the border was extremely heavy. He asked when would a plan be developed for a heavy rail for cargo. In reply, PAS/TB said that a heavy rail for cargo would only be financially viable if the goods were to be carried over a long distance.
 

46. To gauge the performance of RDS 2, a Member requested the project proponent to provide the following information-
  1. the total length of existing railways in Hong Kong;
  2. the number of passenger-kilometres travelling in existing railways;
  3. the percentage of the above in relation to the total passenger-kilometres of roads and railways in Hong Kong;
  4. the total length of railways planned under RDS 2;
  5. the number of passenger-kilometres forecast to travel in planned RDS 2 railways; and
  6. the percentage of (d) and (e) above in relation to the total passenger-kilometres of planned roads and railways in Hong Kong.

PAS/TB agreed to provide the information as soon as possible.
















Transport Bureau

47. SEF referred to the population projection of 8.9 million adopted in RDS 2 and asked whether that had taken into account a recent survey which indicated that about one million Hong Kong people would move and live in Shenzhen. In response, PAS/TB said that the population projection was taken from the medium growth planning scenario provided by Planning Department. The Department had revised the population distribution to take into account more people living in northeast and north west of the New Territories but the overall population estimate remained unchanged. The survey forecast that one million people would live in Shenzhen explained the need for the Regional Express Line.
 

48. The Chairman asked whether it would be possible to connect the Airport with the Pearl River Delta. If so, that would make Chek Lap Kok the real aviation hub of Asia. He also queried the need to have two railway companies each with different standards. He also appealed that all the passenger railways planned under RDS 2 should adopt the same mode so as to provide greater convenience for passengers to change routes.
PAS/TB noted his views.
 

49. SEF referred to the guiding principle that there should be improved co-ordination between Government departments and asked how it would be implemented. PAS/TB explained that in planning strategic growth areas, there was constant dialogue between Lands Department, Planning Department and Transport Department so that the residential areas would be as near to the railway stations and transport interchanges as possible.
 

50. In response to a Member, Director/MVA agreed that the Port Rail Line was important in expanding Hong Kong's competitiveness in carrying freight across the border. He and PAS/TB confirmed that both the East Rail and the West Rail would have capacity to support the Port Rail Line in carrying cross border freight since freight could be conveyed during non-peak hours.
 

51. A Member commented that the EIA Subcommittee had earlier considered the Route 7 project which appeared to be quite controversial. He asked why the South Island Line was included in the Long Term Strategy Scheme but not the RDS 2. In response, PAS/TB said that the project was not included in RDS 2 because the estimated small passenger flow did not justify a heavy rail in that area in the time frame covered under RDS 2. Furthermore, the construction of the South Island Line could not replace Route 7 altogether. Upon request from the Chairman, he undertook to prepare a paper on the comparison between Route 7 and the South Island Line for Members' consideration.

Transport Bureau

52. Upon request from a Member, PAS/TB agreed to provide the planning parameters adopted in the RDS 2 in respect of the border traffic to Shenzhen.

Transport Bureau

53. In reply to the Chairman, PAS/TB confirmed that Transport Bureau had already consulted the LegCo Panel on Transport on RDS 2 and the Railway Development Strategy 2000.
 

54. A Member said that the Conservancy Association fully supported RDS 2 and welcomed the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). By having a SEA, future developments could avoid impact on environmentally sensitive areas. He was pleased to see that the report recognized the ecological value of Long Valley and that arrangements were in place to rezone the area to a classification of "other specified uses (nature park)". Finally, he asked whether any railways planned under RDS 2 would cut into Long Valley. In reply, ED/ERM said that while he could not comment on the existing Spur Line project, the alignment of the Northern Links freight connection in the RDS 2 Report avoided cutting into Long Valley but that would have to be looked into in greater detail in the feasibility study stage.
 

55. A Member commented that the SEA of RDS 2 was not the first report that recognized the ecological value of Long Valley. The river drainage project as well as the Fanling By-pass project had come to the same conclusion. The alignment of the Fanling By-pass was even revised to avoid Long Valley. He was puzzled as to why the project proponent of the Spur Line project had adopted a different view.
 

56. In response, ED/ERM said that RDS 2was undertaken on the basis of existing and committed projects including the Spur Line. PAS/TB supplemented that as far as traffic and passenger forecasts were concerned, RDS 2 was planned on the assumption that the committed projects would go ahead. Whether the Spur Line would proceed in its currently proposed alignment or a different alignment would not affect RDS 2. RDS 2 assumed that Long Valley should be avoided as far as possible in view of its ecological importance for the new railway lines.

57. A Member enquired whether, in undertaking the study, RDS 2 had adopted any baseline regarding the ecological value of Long Valley. In reply, ED/ERM said that they had to go by the direction given in the Recommended Outline Development Plan which was being revised to rezone the Long Valley area to a classification of "other specified uses (nature park)" and they had taken that on board in RDS 2.
 

58. The Chairman thanked PAS/TB and his team in conducting a very informative briefing.
 

Control of vehicle number

59. SEF took the opportunity to inform Members that an Inter-department Task Force had been set up to tackle air pollution. An issue that the Task Force would consider was vehicle growth. To facilitate consideration, EPD would provide forecast figures on how the growth in vehicle number would affect the target in improving air quality. In the final analysis, the community would need to make a decision on whether the growth of private cars should be controlled.
 

Agenda Item 6 : Any Other BusinessTentative Schedule of Work for ACE in 2000

60. Members noted the tentative schedule of work.
 

Bio-diversity survey

61. The Chairman said he received a letter from Professor David Dudgeon and Dr. Richard Corlett about a bio-diversity survey, enclosing a copy of their recommendations. He hoped that AFCD would consider the recommendations and come up with a plan in due course.



AFCD

Task Force on the Use and Conservation of the Countryside

62. A Member noted that last year, the Task Force on the Use and Conservation of the Countryside had come up with some recommendations and he asked about the present position. SEF said that the recommendations were being considered with a view to producing a consultation document on conservation.

Site Visit to the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line

63. The Chairman invited more Members to join the site visit arranged by KCRC so they would have a better understanding about the Spur Line project. In response to Members' request, the Chairman agreed that the Secretariat would find out from Members how many of them could not join the visit on 8 July but would like to have a second visit on another day.

(Post-meeting note: KCRC had agreed to arrange another visit on 6 July 2000. Members had been informed of this arrangement.)
 

Agenda Item 7 : Date of Next ACE Meeting

64. The Chairman informed Members that the next Council meeting was advanced from 31 July to 17 July to ensure that more Members would be available to discuss the Spur Line project.


Environment and Food Bureau
July 2000
 


 

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