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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 76th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 17 July 2000 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. Chan Kwok-wai, JP  
Miss Ann Chiang  
Mr. Paul C. H. Fan  
Professor Anthony Hedley, BBS, JP  
Dr. Ho Kin-chung  
Professor Lam Kin-che (EIA Subcommittee Chairman)  
Mr. Joseph Lau Man-wai, JP  
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  
Mrs. Philomena Leung (Secretary)  




Absent with Apologies:
Mr. Clement Chen
Mr. Barrie Cook
Professor Peter Hills
Mr. Edwin Lau
Mr. Plato Yip



 

In Attendance:

Mrs. Lily YAM Secretary for the Environment and Food (SEF)
Mr. Gordon Siu Secretary for Planning and Lands (SPL)
Mr. Kim Salkeld Deputy Secretary (B), Environment and Food Bureau (DS(B)/EFB)
Mr. Mike Stokoe Acting Director of Environmental Protection (Atg. DEP)
Mr. P C Chan Acting Director of Planning (Atg. DoP)
Mr. S P Lau Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AD(Conservation)/AFCD)
Mrs. Pauline Ling Chief Information Officer, EFB
Miss Petula Poon Chief Executive Officer (B), EFB
Ms. Polly Leung Principal Information Officer, Environmental Protection Department
Miss Cora So Executive Officer (B), EFB




In Attendance for Agenda Item 3

Mr. William Shiu Principal Assistant Secretary, Transport Bureau (PAS/TB)
Mr. James Blake Senior Director, Capital Projects, KCRC(SD(CP)/KCRC)
Mr. K K Lee Director, East Rail Extension, KCRC (D(ER)/KCRC)
Mr. Steven Chik General Manager, Capital Works Planning, KCRC
Mr. Vic McNally Environmental Manager, KCRC (EM/KCRC)
Ms. Lisa Poon Senior Environmental Specialist, KCRC
Mr. Roy Fan Environmental Specialist, KCRC
Mr. Raymond Wong Corporate Affairs Manager, KCRC
Mr. Michael Leven Binnie Black & Veatch HK Limited (Con1/Binnie)
Dr. Lynn Smith Binnie Black & Veatch HK Limited (Con2/Binnie)
Mr. L T Ma Acting Government Engineer/Railway, Highways Department
Mr. P K Chan Acting Chief Engineer/Railway Division (2), Hy D
Mrs. Shirley Lee Acting Assistant Director (Environmental Assessment), EPD
Mr. H M Wong Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Territory Assessment), EPD (PEPO(TA)/EPD)
Mr. Tom Tam Acting Senior Environmental Protection Officer (Territory Assessment), EPD
Mr. Dennis Mok Acting Senior Nature Conservation Officer, AFCD
Ms. Ginger Kiang Senior Town Planner (Sub-region Planning), Planning Department

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Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 75th Meeting held on 26 June 2000
Action

2. The Chairmaninformed Members that no proposed amendment to the draft minutes of the 75th meeting was received. The draft minutes were confirmed.
 

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 5 : Briefing by Fill Management Committee

3. The Chairman informed Members that the Civil Engineering Department would conduct a briefing for ACE on fill management matters in September 2000.
 

Para. 32 : Recommendations on relieving the EIA Subcommittee's workload

4. The Chairman said that the Subcommittee would discuss the matter in August with a view to offering suggestions to the Council in September 2000.




EIA Subcommittee

Paras. 46, 51-52 Additional information regarding the Second Railway Development Strategy (RDS-2)

5. Members noted that the additional information on RDS-2 requested at the last meeting was set out in the information paper (ACE Paper 27/2000) tabled.
 

Para. 61 : Bio-diversity survey

6. Members noted that AFCD was examining the recommendations of Prof. David Dudgeon and Dr. Richard Corlett and was in the process of verifying the land status and checking the site conditions. AD(Conservation)/AFCD said that the Department would present a consolidated plan to the Council in six months' time.



AFCD

Agenda Item 3 : Report of the 55th EIA Subcommittee Meeting

KCRC Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line
(ACE Paper 23/2000)


7. The Chairman said that the discussion of the report on briefing on SSDS Stage II would be deferred to the next meeting. For the current meeting, Members would focus on the discussion of the EIA report on the KCRC Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line project.

8. The Chairman reminded Members that they should not feel obliged to reach a decision on the item today. The statutory deadline for the Council to forward comments to DEP was 10 August 2000. If necessary, Members could continue discussion on the item at another meeting and 24 July 2000 had been reserved for this purpose. The Chairman also referred to the unprecedented number of communications received from local as well as overseas people over the present proposal to use the Central Alignment in Long Valley.

9. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman briefed Members on the deliberations of the Subcommittee. He said that despite having had three meetings, the Subcommittee could not come to a consensus as to whether or not the EIA report should be recommended for endorsement. He then summarized the major concerns of the Subcommittee as follows


  (a) all Members agreed that Long Valley had significant ecological value. This point was included in the EIA report and was reiterated in the Strategic Environmental Assessment of RDS-2 which was presented to the Council last month;
 
  (b) the proposed Central Alignment would cut across the heart of Long Valley and this was not acceptable to some Members;
 
  (c) some were of the opinion that the EIA report had not seriously considered all reasonable and practicable alternative alignments;
 
  (d) the executive summary had not fully reflected the findings in the EIA report;
 
  (e) some Members considered the EIA report flawed because there was no baseline information on amphibians, reptiles and mammals;
 
  (f) some Members were not convinced that the equivalent functional value of the proposed compensatory measures had been scientifically established;
 
  (g) the proposed mitigation measures were inadequate and the outcome was not certain; and
 
  (h) there was confusion over the Town Planning Board (TPB) guidelines on compensation for wetland lost. There was disagreement on whether the principle should be no net loss in terms of both area and function or in terms of either area or function.
 

The EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that it was important that the Council should consider the EIA report from the angle of protecting the environment and on the basis of information available.

Town Planning Board Guidelines
 

10. Atg. DoP referred to the TPB guidelines on wetland compensation and said that so far, the TPB had not approved any development schemes in the Deep Bay area on the basis of those guidelines. It would be up to individual landowners to submit planning application to TPB which would then seek expert advice before making a decision. Thus far, the TPB had not deliberated on the issue of whether compensation should be made in terms of both area and function or in terms of either area or function.
 

11. Atg. DEP pointed out that the Council's examination of the EIA report should be conducted on the basis of the EIA Ordinance and the relevant Technical Memorandum (TM). The TM stated that off-site mitigation measures should be on a "like-for-like" basis, to the extent that was practicable. Either the same kind of species or habitats of the same size should be compensated, or the project proponent should demonstrate that the same kind of ecological function and capacity could be achieved.
 

12. The Chairman asked whether EPD would consider it acceptable if the off-site mitigation proposed by the proponent was smaller in area terms but might be adequate in functional terms. Atg. DEP said that he was not in a position to say categorically whether or not he was satisfied. However if Members were happy that the functionality of the wetland would not be affected, there was no reason why they should reject the mitigation proposed just because it was smaller in area.
 

13. AD(Conservation)/AFCD recalled that the issue was discussed at the EIA Subcommittee and some Members considered that there were discrepancies between the TPB guidelines and the TM of the EIA Ordinance. Having regard to Atg. DoP and Atg. DEP's explanation, it was now clear that the TM and the TPB guidelines were consistent.
 

Black-faced Spoonbill

14. A Member informed Members that other than the lack of baseline information on amphibians, reptiles and mammals in Lok Ma Chau and Chau Tau area, the EIA report had missed out a species of conservation importance, i.e. the Black-faced Spoonbill. According to the report of a survey conducted by World Wide Fund For Nature (Hong Kong), 38 Black-faced Spoonbills, equivalent to 5% of the entire world population of the species, were spotted in Sam Po Shue area. The EIA report admitted that Black-faced Spoonbills might use the project area as habitat. But because the ERM report had not mentioned the Black-faced Spoonbill, the EIA report had no recommendation in respect of that species. As a result, the mitigation measures which were designed on the basis of the baseline information available failed to propose any mitigation for this important species. On the basis of this omission alone, the Council could reject the EIA report.
 

15. A Member said that other than the omission of survey on Black-faced Spoonbill, the project proponent had not dealt with two other aspects, namely the use of mitigation areas under the Main Drainage Channel project and the impingement of the Lok Ma Chau station on the Shenzhen River Regulation Project Stage II mitigation area.
 

16. A Member was of the opinion that the consultant had used a lot of second hand information and they had over-relied on such data. As such the conclusion of the ecological assessment was far from certain.
 

Boundary of Long Valley

17. A Member enquired about the boundary of Long Valley and which part of it was considered ecologically important. In reply, another Member said that from the point of view of protecting avian diversity, the central part of the Valley and the river channel were the more important areas: some 250 bird species had been recorded in that area. AD(Conservation)/AFCD said that Long Valley was usually referred to as the triangular area bounded by the Sheung Yue River, Shek Sheung River and the arbitrary line crossing Yin Kong and Tsung Pak Long. As far as wet agricultural land was concerned, some would include the Ho Sheung Heung area as well.
 

Status of the Spur Line Project

18. A Member said that though KCRC had clarified at the EIA Subcommittee meeting on 27 June 2000 that the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line was a stand-alone project, he was of the understanding that a member of the KCRC intimated publicly that if the Spur Line project could not proceed, they would consider calling off the other two East Rail extension projects. The Chairman suggested that that Member should raise this with the KCRC team after they joined the meeting.
 

19. The Chairman then invited the project proponent team in.
 

Remarks by Transport Bureau

20. PAS/TB said that he was grateful for the views and comments of the EIA Subcommittee expressed at the last three meetings. He stressed that since Lo Wu Station was over-stretched, there was no doubt that a second railway crossing was urgently needed. That said, they had full regard to the importance of environmental protection. Transport Bureau was committed to having an environmentally friendly transport system. Through the exchange of views, he hoped that the Council and the project proponent could come to a practicable solution and that should the EIA report be endorsed, the Bureau would ensure that KCRC would strictly abide by the conditions of the environmental permit.
 


21. In reply to the Chairman, PAS/TB confirmed that from the transport angle, there was a demonstrated need for a second railway crossing to address the ever-increasing passenger demand at Lo Wu. According to record, the average daily cross boundary passengers on a weekday in May 2000 was about 210,000. During the last Easter holidays, there was a record high of 335,000 cross boundary passengers in one day. Due to physical constraints, Lo Wu Station could not be further expanded. RDS-2 estimated that by the year 2006, the daily cross boundary passenger demand would increase to a level of 270,000 to 320,000 which would stretch the capacity of Lo Wu to its limit. Indeed the present situation at the Lo Wu station during holidays had given rise to concerns about safety and operation.
 

Presentation by KCR

22. SD(CP)/KCRC then briefed Members on the constraints of the various alignments, the proposed mitigation measures to be implemented for the gazetted alignment and how construction work would be carried out on viaduct to minimize impact on Long Valley.
 

23. A Member requested KCRC to clarify once again whether KCRC would consider calling off the other two East Rail extension projects if the Spur Line project could not proceed as planned. He said that despite SD(CP)/KCRC's clarification at one of the EIA Subcommittee meetings, he had heard that the same notion about the dependency of the two East Rail extensions upon the Spur Line project was raised during a telephone call to some Council Members. In reply, SD(CP)/KCRC said that as far as equity and commercial viability were concerned, the three East Rail extensions were viewed as one entity. It was clear that compared to the Spur Line, the Tsim Sha Tsui and Ma On Shan extensions were not as strong from the commercial point of view. That said, from an operational and construction point of view and in the context of the EIA procedure, the Spur Line project was a stand-alone project. Given the background mentioned, the KCRC Managing Board would seriously consider the situation if the Spur Line project was not to proceed.
 

24. The Chairman said that it was not within the Council's purview to question the need for the project but it was important that KCRC should not in any way coerce the Council in accepting its EIA report.

Secretariat


25. Upon enquiry from a Member, the Chairman said that in the event the Council refused to endorse the EIA report, it would be up to DEP to decide whether the report should be accepted and an environmental permit issued after considering the views of the Council and comments received from the public.
 

26. In reply to a Member, Con1/Binnie said that by carrying out the measures stated in the EIA report, they could double the carrying capacity of the existing 28.5 ha of fishponds in Lok Ma Chau. The principle of enhancement was valid but the exact calculation was theoretical to a certain extent. Hence, they would allow for an error margin of 20% in their plan. Though he could not guarantee the level of enhancement, he was confident that the enhancement measures would work. That Member further asked whether the plan was the result of subjective estimation or whether it was backed up by scientific data. Con1/Binnie said that it was a combination of the two.
 

27. A Member followed up and asked whether there was concrete data of enhanced habitat in Hong Kong and whether such data was included in the EIA report. In reply, Con1/Binnie said that they did not have direct comparable data in Hong Kong because such comparable enhancement had not been undertaken locally.
 

28. The Chairman referred to the low reported success rate of 27% in wetland re-creation overseas and asked about the fallback position if the measures failed to work. In reply, Con1/Binnie said that the US research covered a wide range of habitats, some were relevant to Hong Kong and some were not. A very high failure rate was recorded for those wetland compensations which were provided on a one-off basis without any subsequent management. Some other re-created wetlands were unsuccessful because of a lack of resources. In the present case, KCRC was fully committed to the proposed compensations. They would provide funds and would ensure that there would be proper management of the mitigation areas. Upon request from the Chairman, SD(CP)/KCRC undertook to achieve the highest standard in restoring the functionality of the habitats affected.
 

29. A Member said he was doubtful of Con1/Binnie's theory of enhancing the function of the habitat. He considered that though certain features of the habitat could be enhanced, say the increase of food reserve, the loss of other characteristics such as aerial space could not be compensated. Indeed, aerial space was very important for bird activities and for mating of certain species of birds. In reply, Con1/Binnie said that that Member's point was valid and he agreed that there was a limit to what can be done. However in Lok Ma Chau area, the species concerned were not particularly sensitive to changes in aerial space.
 

30. A Member asked what could be done to conserve the area in the event the alignment could avoid Long Valley. Given the experience of Sha Lo Tung, she was not confident that zoning could bring about the necessary conservation. She appreciated the difficulty of the project proponent in getting land under the Railways Ordinance for mitigation purpose. She wondered whether the Administration could assist the proponent in that respect. Another Member said that keeping Long Valley as it was would at least preserve what we had at present. To build a viaduct there would definitely destroy the ecology of the area.
 

31. SEF said that the Environment and Food Bureau was working on the formulation of a conservation policy. As a first step a document would be prepared for public consultation. She then referred to page ES-2 of the Executive Summary of the EIA report and asked what KCRC would do with regard to the longer term management of the ecological compensation areas. In reply, SD(CP)KCRC said that as far as implementation of the mitigation measures and the setting up of re-created wetland were concerned, KCRC had full responsibility. It would work closely with green groups and ensure that the plan would work. In the longer term, KCRC would commit to providing a sum and setting up a Trust to cover expenditure needed for the management of the compensation areas.

Secretariat

32. Upon enquiry from a Member on KCRC's specified objectives for mitigation, Con1/Binnie said that they would first identify the species which would use the habitats in question and prioritize them in terms of conservation importance. The objective was to ensure that the species would not suffer adverse impacts. On that Member's follow-up question on quantifiable objectives, Con1/Binnie said that they had drawn up a table on each target species with detailed information on the area of direct habitat lost, the degree of potential disturbance, the value of each habitat types, the area of habitat to be re-created, the total equivalent habitat value and the compensation calculation for each target species. That Member noted that the information was not included in the EIA report. In response, Con1/Binnie said such a table was omitted at the request of the proponent. The Chairman said that it should be re-inserted.
 


33. A Member said that according to a recent survey, there were up to 38 Black-faced Spoonbills in Sam Po Shue area. He queried the absence of such information in the EIA report. Since the Black-faced Spoonbill was not one of the targeted species, there were no mitigation measures proposed. He considered such omission unacceptable. In reply, Con1/KCRC explained that the survey mentioned by that Member fell outside the data collection period of the EIA study. That said, during detailed design for the mitigation measures, he would take into account the case of Black-faced Spoonbill. In fact, the proposed mitigation measures for some other bird species would be suitable and relevant for Black-faced Spoonbill as well. The Chairman and Members expressed grave concern on such apparent omission and the implications involved.
 

34. EM/KCRC said that in his experience with the West Rail project, it was necessary to formulate a habitat creation and management plan. That plan could be revised to take into account any new information which came to light subsequently. He was prepared to work closely with the green groups on this.
 

35. PEPO(TA)/EPD said that in the light of comments received from the public and from the Council, DEP may ask the proponent to provide supplementary information. After taking into account the additional information, DEP would form a view on the EIA report.
 

36. In reply to a Member's enquiry on the deadline for DEP to give a definitive reply to the proponent, PEPO(TA)/EPD said that according to the EIA Ordinance, the Council would have until 10 August to comment on the EIA report. Within 14 days of receiving comments from the Council, DEP may ask the proponent to give him additional information to decide whether or not to approve the EIA report. Within 30 days of the receipt of such information, DEP would have to decide whether to approve, approve with conditions, or reject the EIA report.
 
 

37. A Member said that in her view the EIA report had failed to identify the ecological and physical baseline data. She had grave reservation on the quality of the EIA report.
 

38. A Member said that there seemed to be arguments on whether the mitigation measures proposed were adequate. Given that the Council would unlikely be able to reach a decision today, he suggested the proponent to reflect on the measures proposed and consider additional mitigation so Members would be in a better position to decide at the next meeting.
 

39. The Chairman asked whether there was any fall back such as additional land for compensation. SD(CP)/KCRC said that they had constraints in that respect.
 

40. The Chairman said that Members had had much discussion on the ecology. If Members had no further question, it would be time to take a view on whether the Central Alignment was acceptable and if so, what mitigation would be required.
 

41. In response to a Member's enquiry that according to scientific paper which suggested that it was possible to have a turnout from a curve main line, D(ER)/KCRC explained that it would be possible if the curve tracks were of the same direction or in an area of low traffic density such as inside a station or depot. But in the case of the Spur Line, the tracks were of opposite directions and were in the main line and not inside a station or depot.
 

42. In response to a Member's enquiry in respect of noise problem near Kwu Tung SGA, SD(CP)/KCRC said that the viaduct multi plenum had noise barriers built into it to trap noise and vibration. The actual noise emanated from the viaduct would be minimal. However, there might be gaps and to resolve this, further noise barriers could be built above the concrete parapets. As a result of these measures, KCRC was confident that the noise problem could be resolved.
 

43. A Member asked whether it would be possible to turn the temporary wetland during construction into permanent wetland. In reply, EM/KCRC said that the land for the temporary wetland was taken as a temporary occupation area during the construction period and had to be restored to its original state and handed back to the landowner on completion of the project.
 

44. In reply to the Chairman's enquiry whether KCRC could buy land on the open market for compensation purpose, SD(CP)/KCRC said that funds available to KCRC must be used for the purpose of railway construction. On a Member's follow-up question on the source of the seed money for the Trust Fund mentioned earlier, SD(CP)/KCRC said that if it was made a condition under the environmental permit, then KCRC could made available such seed money.
 

45. A Member pointed out that there was discrepancy in the size of the temporary mitigation wetland in Long Valley as reported in the EIA report and the executive summary. Con1/Binnie said that the temporary wetland was 1.3 ha in area. It was meant to compensate for the disturbance during the construction period which would affect only a limited number of species. Hence, a smaller area would suffice. Con2/Binnie added that the temporary mitigation area was primarily to mitigate for construction impacts to the marsh area in the centre of Long Valley (about 1 ha in area), an area which was particularly important as a feeding and resting area for the Greater Painted-snipe. Con1/Binnie supplemented that the main objective of this mitigation was to mitigate against loss of population of those species which used the marsh area most (i.e. Greater Painted-snipe). Other species may be affected by loss of feeding area due to disturbance but this would not put the population of these species at risk.
 

46. A Member pointed out that the temporary wetland which fell within the Kwu Tung SGA would be surrounded by high-rise buildings when the Kwu Tung SGA development was completed. There appeared no point making such wetland permanent.
 

47. A Member was doubtful how the proponent could claim that the functions of the Beas River meanders would be doubled when Territory Development Department had not yet completed work in the meanders. In reply, SD(CP)/KCRC said that they had already provided detailed written answer to that point.
 

48. A Member asked Con1/Binnie whether taking into account the uncertainties and the unquantified functional value of the habitat, in his professional judgment the ecological mitigation measures proposed were adequate or whether it was the best given the constraints it had to operate. Con1/Binnie said that in Long Valley, the proposed mitigation measures were the best given the constraints. It would likely be proved adequate if all the on-site and off-site mitigations could be implemented. In the Lok Ma Chau area they had more leeway to implement mitigation measures.
 

49. In reply to a Member's enquiry, Con1/Binnie confirmed that 1.4 ha of the Lok Ma Chau station footprint would directly impinge upon the Shenzhen River Regulation Stage II mitigation area. The total impingement area would be 3 ha if the associated works area was taken into account.
 

50. A Member asked whether the piling work in Long Valley would have permanent damage on the soil and the water table, etc and whether the Administration should help KCRC to provide land for compensation. Con1/Binnie said that the ecologist would ensure that the contractor would work within the area permissible to the south side of Long Valley. They would purge the water table and plant shallow rooted trees.
 

51. On a Member's latter question, SPL said current policy did not allow government to buy land in the market for ecological compensation. The proponent may however acquire land through resumption for a purpose related to railway development.
 

52. In response to the suggestion to expand the Railways Ordinance's ambit to enable resumption of land for conservation purpose, PAS/TB informed Members that under the Railway Ordinance, resumption of land must be strictly for railway development purpose. While Transport Bureau would be prepared to consider the views expressed by Members on the Spur Line, which was an urgently required railway project, enactment of any proposed legislation for conservation would take time and would not be able to be in force in time for this project.

(Note : The proponent team and the accompanying government officials withdrew from the meeting at this juncture whilst Members proceeded on internal discussion.)
 

53. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman summed up the remaining issues for consideration of Members as follows-
         (a) whether Members were satisfied with the EIA report;
 
  (b) whether all issues were adequately addressed;
 
  (c) whether the Central Alignment was indeed the only option feasible;
 
  (d) whether Members were satisfied that compensation could be made in terms of functionality; and
 
  (e) whether the problem of land constraint should be further explored.
 

The EIA report

54. A Member was not satisfied with the EIA report and considered it flawed. In reply to another Member on whether the EIA report was acceptable to DEP, Atg. DEP said that the substantive Director of Environmental Protection, Mr. Rob Law, had indicated in writing that the EIA report met the requirements of the study brief and the TM, and was suitable for public inspection and submission to this Council. The EIAO provided that DEP, having taken account of any views expressed by this Council, or members of the public who had commented on the EIA report, may approve, approve with conditions or reject the report. However, if he felt that there was still not sufficient information to decide on the report, he might ask the applicant in writing to give him supplementary information.
 

55. A Member said that there were a lot of uncertainties in the EIA report. No one, not even the consultant, could say in definite terms whether the mitigation measures would work. On alignment options, he would like to know more about the constraints of the Northern Route. He was not sure to what extent were the rail geometry problems linked to the perceived problems of the Shek Wu Hui Sewage Treatment Works (SWHSTW) and the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse. He wondered whether the problems there should be looked at in greater details to establish whether they were genuine.
 

56. SEF asked whether the Council had in the past sought third party advice on the engineering constraints put forward by the project proponent. In reply, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that the Council did not have the resources required, nor would time allow them to do so.
 

57. A Member said that unless the Council could commission experts from overseas, it would be very difficult to argue that the other alignments were feasible. The problems alleged by the proponent were related to railway safety and engineering constraints and they were difficult to verify unless there was expert advice.
 

Whether Central Alignment was acceptable

58. A Member said that if the constraints outlined by KCRC were genuine, he agreed that the Central Alignment was the most viable route. He noted that the SWHSTW were there for some 25 years and seemed to be in need of improvements anyway. If the problem related to the SWHSTW could be resolved, the Northern Route should be feasible as well.
 


59. SEF asked whether Members would consider having a second meeting so that the Council could ask the Drainage Services Department for its views on the feasibility of the Spur Line encroaching on SWHSTW. At the same time, KCRC might explain in greater detail constraints other than the SWHSTW in the Northern Route.
 


60. A Member said that she was not in a position to judge whether the constraints mentioned by the proponent were genuine engineering constraints or not. A further meeting with the proponent would unlikely be useful unless there was to be an independent expert review. She preferred to wrap up the matter at this meeting. Her view was that the EIA report was not acceptable. Another Member said that if Members preferred other alignments, the proponent had to do another EIA report.
 


61. Comparing the Central Alignment with the option of selecting another alignment which would involve additional cost and time to the proponent, a Member asked whether it would be preferable to ask the proponent to invest the time and money to improve the Central Alignment instead, say to buy land for more mitigation measures. Another Member did not think the suggestion feasible.

62. A Member said that if Members were not comfortable with the Central Alignment and the mitigation measures, they should say so and look at other alignments. Personally, he thought the Northern Route was feasible.
 


63. A Member favoured the River Beas Route. Another Member concurred with his views.


64. In reply to SEF's enquiry on EIA procedures, Atg. DEP said that if the Council would like to have supplementary information on the other alignments, that could be done but the Council would have to give DEP formal notification of their comments on the current EIA report before the statutory deadline.

Proposed adjournment of the meeting

65. Given that Members were unlikely to be able to come to a decision at the present meeting, a Member suggested the Chairman to fix the date of the next meeting. He also proposed that Members should list all the questions for the proponent to answer one by one at the next meeting.

66. The Chairman sought Members' views on that Member's suggestion to adjourn the meeting. The majority of the Members indicated that they wanted to continue with the discussion.

The issue of area or functionality

67. A Member said that the proponent was unable to benchmark the function of the existing areas proposed for mitigation. As such it would not be possible to judge whether the intended enhancement had been achieved. He stressed the need to maintain the principle that compensation should be in terms of both area and function. n.

Whether the mitigation measures were adequate

68. A Member said that the agricultural land in Long Valley was privately owned and could be turned into storage area anytime. If the proponent could improve the ecological value of the land and improve the diversity of habitats, that would sound attractive.

69. In response to that Member's remarks, another Member explained that the proponent's proposal was to add value to the habitats in question. However, the proponent had not defined what the baseline value was and what the compensation value should be. Moreover having regard to the West Rail experience, she had doubts on the commitment and capability of the proponent. She said that in the Kam Tin marsh, the target species which the proponent planned to protect decreased from 13 to 1 in just 10 days. She was not convinced that proposed measures would be effective to fully mitigate the impacts.

70. A Member informed Members that a number of ecological experts and academics had written in to raise objections to the Central Alignment and express grave concerns about the effectiveness of the mitigation measures. They considered that Long Valley too important ecologically to risk any damage.

Summing-up

71. The Chairman summed up the discussion of the meeting as follows-


           (a) Members had no doubt about the high ecological value of Long Valley and at the same time appreciated the constraints faced by the project proponent.
 
  (b) Considering that the project would impinge on an area of ecological importance and that freshwater wetlands were diminishing in Hong Kong, some members opined that a cautious approach should be taken. Accordingly, the onus lay with the proponent to demonstrate that all reasonable and practicable attempts to avoid Long Valley had been made and that the mitigation measures were adequate and capable of achieving desired results with a high degree of certainty.
 
  (c) Certain parts of the EIA report particularly that relating to ecological baseline information needed to be strengthened and updated; for example, there had been no field survey on reptiles, amphibians, and mammals and little information on the Black-faced Spoonbill which was found in the Lok Ma Chau area. The availability of such additional information might have bearing on the selection of design and alignment, and might even necessitate revision of the mitigation measures proposed which should be target and species specific.
 
  (d) Some members including those representing the green groups had much concern that the Central Alignment would bring serious ecological impacts and significant habitat fragmentation to Long Valley. They felt that cutting into the centre of Long Valley was not acceptable and were not convinced that the project proponent had exhausted all possible alignment options and that the constraints (e.g. the problem with the SWHSTW) mentioned in the alternative alignments explored were indeed insurmountable. To minimise the impact on Long Valley, they would prefer an alignment either running close to River Beas or to the north of the River.
 
  (e) Some members were concerned about the lack of information on benchmark functional value, both for the meanders and for the existing Lok Ma Chau fishponds which were proposed for compensation. In the case of the meanders, the mitigation proposed to be carried out by Territory Development Department had not yet been implemented; there was therefore no way to measure the benchmark value there. Given the lack of information on the benchmark ecological value, some members therefore preferred ecological compensation on a "like-for-like" basis in terms of area.
 
  (f) Some members were not satisfied that the proponent had produced sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the proposed mitigation measures would work and could attain with certainty the stated ecological functionality, noting in particular information available overseas that the failure rate of re-created wetland has been as high as 50% to 73%. In view of this high failure rate overseas and the lack of comparable experience in Hong Kong, the proposed mitigation measures, which allowed for an error margin of only 20%, were considered insufficient. The project proponent had also failed to provide adequate contingency or fallback plans in the event of failure.


The Chairman suggested that there was no need to vote on the matter and said that if the above was the consensus of Members, this would be conveyed to DEP.

72. A Member supported the Chairman's suggestion that the above should be conveyed to DEP. Another Member seconded the proposal.

73. The Chairman welcomed the project proponent team and the accompanying government officials back to the meeting and informed them of the above views.

Agenda Item 4 : Any Other Business

Tentative Schedule of Work for ACE in 2000

74. Members noted the tentative schedule of work tabled.

Agenda Item 5: Date of Next Meeting

75. Members noted that the next meeting would be held on 28 August 2000.
 


Environment and Food Bureau
July 2000
 


 

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Friday, 28 April, 2006