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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 85th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 21 June 2001 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. Barrie COOK  
Mr. Daniel M. C. CHENG  
Prof. Anthony HEDLEY, BBS, JP  
Prof. Peter HILLS  
Dr. HO Kin-chung  
Mr. Edward S. T. HO, SBS, JP  
Mr. KWOK Kwok-chuen, BBS  
Mr. Edwin C. K. LAU  
Mr. Peter Y. C. LEE, SBSt.J  
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming  
Dr. NG Cho-nam  
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP  
Mr. Otto L. T. POON (The Deputy Subcommittee Chairman)  
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH  
Ms Iris TAM  
Prof. WONG Yuk-shan  
Miss Alex YAU  
Ms. Jessie WONG (Secretary)  




Absent with Apologies:
Prof. LAM Kin-che
Prof. Dennis S. C. LAM
Dr. LEONG Che-hung, JP
Mr. LOH Ah Tuan
Mr. Plato YIP



 

In Attendance:

Mrs. Lily YAM Secretary for the Environment and Food (SEF)
Mr. Thomas CHOW Deputy Secretary (C), Environment and Food Bureau (EFB) (DS(C)/EFB)
Mr. Donald TONG Deputy Secretary (B), EFB (DS(B)/EFB)
Mr. Rob LAW Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Mr. Raymond CHIU Assistant Director (Technical Services), Planning Department (AD(TS)/PlanD)
Mr. C C LAY Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AD(Cons)/AFCD)
Miss Petula POON Chief Executive Officer (C), EFB
Ms. Cora SO Executive Officer (C), EFB



In Attendance for Agenda Item 4

Ms. Annie CHOI Principal Assistant Secretary (B)2, EFB (PAS(B)2/EFB)
Mr. T F LEUNG Acting Chief Engineer (Port Works), Civil Engineering Department (Atg. CE(PW)/CED)



In Attendance for Agenda Item 5

Mr. Patrick HO Principal Assistant Secretary, Transport Bureau (PAS/TB)
Ms. Zina WONG Assistant Commissioner (Buses & Railways), Transport Department (TD) (AC(BR)/TD)
Ms. Carolina YIP rincipal Transport Officer (Buses & Railways)2, TD (PTO(BR)2/TD)

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


The Chairman welcomed Mr. Donald Tong who had replaced Mr. Kim Salkeld as Deputy Secretary (B) of EFB and Ms. Jessie Wong, Principal Assistant Secretary (C)2 of EFB who had taken up the duty as the Secretary of the Council. The Chairman thanked Mr. Salkeld for his contribution to the Council during his service in EFB.

Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 84th Meeting held on 23 April 2001

2. Members noted the proposed amendments which were tabled and confirmed the draft minutes subject to those amendments.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 2: Timetable for the work of the monitoring group on Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS)

3. DS(B)/EFB informed Members that the membership of the monitoring group on HATS had been finalized. The group included three local members of the 2000 International Review Panel (IRP) on Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme, four Members nominated by the Council, two District Council members and one secondary school principal. The group would meet on 23 June to discuss the scope of work of various trials and studies recommended by the IRP.

4. While on the subject of sewage treatment, DS(B)/EFB said that four members of the Legislative Council Panel on Environmental Affairs (EA Panel) visited Europe in April this year to study sewage and waste treatment facilities, particularly the use of Biological Aerated Filter (BAF) technology in sewage treatment plants. The EA Panel meeting discussed the visit report on 21 June. The key findings and recommendations of the report were as follows:

 

  1. The BAF technology should be viable for Hong Kong due to its compactness, small land requirement, high-rate treatment characteristics, and flexible operation. However, pilot tests had to be undertaken before design and construction of the plants;
  2. the four EA Panel members were in favour of a partially distributed system with BAF treatment plants set up at Stonecutters Island, Lamma Island and Tseung Kwan O. They noted that decentralized system would be less effective but considered that it would allow more room for expansion to handle future increases in sewage flow;
  3. incineration might be a possible option for disposal of sewage sludge. Members noted that incineration was popularly adopted in Europe and technology was available to remove harmful substances generated in the incineration process such as dioxin and nitrogen oxides;
  4. the Administration should promote public awareness on environmental protection and the need to save water so as to reduce sewage; and
  5. the Administration should consider various tendering options for the BAF treatment plants, including privatization.


DS(B)/EFB emphasised that the findings and recommendations had yet to be endorsed by the LegCo EA Panel.
 
 

5. The Chairman requested the Secretariat to send a copy of the report to those Members who would join the study visit to Europe in August. Other Members could ask the Secretariat for a copy if they were interested. The Chairman said that after the visit to Europe, it would be beneficial for the Council to have a meeting with the EA Panel to exchange views on sewage treatment and sludge disposal. SEF observed that the Council might wish to draw any conclusion only after the trials and studies of the HATS had been completed.

[Post-meeting note : A copy of the report was sent on 22 June to Members who would join the visit to Europe.] Para. 3 : Information paper on the work of the Guangdong-HongKong Joint Working Group on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection

6. Members noted that ACE Paper 18/2001 entitled "Guangdong and Hong Kong Cross-boundary Cooperation in Environmental Issues" was circulated to them on 12 May 2001.

7. The Chairman said that the questions raised by a Member on the paper had been addressed in ACE Paper 25/2001 which was circulated to Members prior to the meeting.

Para. 13 & 14 : Visit to Europe

8. The Chairman said that the progress of arrangements for the visit was reported in ACE Paper 23/2001 which would be discussed under Agenda Item 6.

Para. 37 : North East New Territories Development Plan

9. Members noted that a copy of the plan was circulated on 27 April 2001.

Para. 41 : Briefing by Prof. McCorry on Marine Parks

10. The Chairman informed Members that the presentation was tentatively scheduled for the next meeting.

Para. 56 : Amendment Bill on Noise Control Ordinance

11. Members noted that the amendment bill was circulated to them on 20 June 2001.

Para. 67 : Progress on Air Quality Improvement Measures

12. The Chairman said that the information paper, ACE Paper 26/2001, was circulated to Members on 20 June 2001. He was glad to see the improvements in air quality.

Secretariat

Para. 69 : Realignment of Route 10

13. Members noted that ACE Paper 21/2001 prepared by the Transport Bureau was circulated on 24 May 2001. As regards the letter received earlier from the Action Group Against Siu Lam Works, the Chairman informed Members that the Secretariat was liasing with the Bureau and Department concerned on the follow-up and would keep Members informed.

Agenda Item 3 : Report of the 59th EIA Subcommittee Meeting
(ACE Paper 22/2001)


14. The Deputy Subcommittee Chairman briefed Members on the paper.

15. The Chairman referred to traffic accidents related to the Light Rail in the New Territories and hoped that the project proponent of the Comprehensive Feasibility Study for the Revised Scheme of South East Kowloon Development would pay particular attention to the safety of the proposed Light Rail in the study area. The Deputy Subcommittee Chairman said that the Subcommittee had touched on that subject during the Subcommittee meeting and the proponent had taken note of it.

16. Noting that the consultation process on the EIA report and the Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) would take place at the same time, a Member was concerned whether the comments received on the EIA report would be made known to the Town Planning Board (TPB). In response, DEP said that the consultation process on the EIA report would finish before TPB would make decision and EPD would keep TPB informed of the feedback received.

Agenda Item 4 : Management of Construction and Demolition Materials
(ACE Paper 24/2001)


17. The Chairman welcomed PAS(B)2/EFB and Atg. CE(PW)/CED to the meeting. PAS(B)2/EFB briefed Members on measures set out in the paper to tackle the disposal problems associated with C&D materials and the initiatives already taken by the Government to deal with this issue.

18. A Member welcomed the package of measures, in particular the study to examine long-term arrangements to deal with inert C&D materials in the next three decades. He said that as the private sector was considering shipping C&D materials to off-shore quarries for repository, the Bureau should find out more from the private sector with a view to incorporating this option in the study. On a separate front, he called for the early introduction of a landfill charging scheme so that the trades concerned would step up their efforts to minimize and recycle C&D materials. On the proposed fill banks, he was concerned about the estimated operating cost in view of the double handling process, i.e. stock-piling and subsequent re-directing for disposal. Referring to Annex B to Paper 24/2001, that Member asked whether the difference between the amount of C&D materials generated and the capacity to receive the materials was equal to the amount to be stock-piled in the proposed fill banks. Finally, he urged the Government to ensure that adequate mitigation measures should be provided for impacts caused by construction and related activities.

19. In response to that Member's comments and questions, PAS(B)2/EFB clarified that in Annex B to Paper 24/2001, the C&D materials to be generated between mid-2002 and end-2005 was estimated to be 69 million tones. Of this amount, about 14.8 million tonnes would be stock-piled in fill banks whereas the rest would either be recycled or used in reclamation projects. The estimated cost for handling one tonne of C&D materials in fill bank would be about HK$30. On the point about shipping C&D materials to off-shore quarries for repository, PAS(B)2/EFB said that the Government had been maintaining contacts with the private sector and all possible options would be taken into account in the study.

20. In reply to a Member's enquiry, PAS(B)2/EFB said that out of the 69 million tones of C&D materials, 28.6 million tones of soft materials and 15.3 million tones of rocks would be reused respectively as fill materials in reclamation projects and seawall construction, and 10.3 million tones would be recycled as aggregates for concrete production. The figures were, however, calculated based on the best-case scenario assuming that all planned reclamation projects were without delay or reduction in scale. She hoped that more hard materials could be recycled if the performance tests proved successful.

21. A Member also urged the Government to expedite the introduction of the landfill charging scheme. In response, SEF said that in the coming months, the main thrust of the work of EFB would be to deal with the problem of waste. While landfill charging would induce efforts to reduce C&D materials, the implementation of the scheme would be an extremely difficult task in the face of stiff opposition from waste haulers. Unlike the air pollution problem which the public could feel and see, the problem of waste was often overlooked. Government could not act in isolation without the support of the public. She hoped that the Council and the Waste Reduction Committee would help to keep the urgency of waste reduction before the public eye.

22. The Chairman agreed that more should be done on public education. A Member concurred with SEF and said that the public supported immediate actions to tackle air pollution because everyone agreed that it was a crisis. He pointed out that from the angle of the construction industry, there was a limit to what could be done to minimize, sort and use recycled C&D materials. Thus, he anticipated that the solution to the problem would rely much on reclamation and fill banks. However, there would definitely be objections from residents living near those facilities and the Government should be prepared for that.

23. To help enhance Members' understanding of the efforts made by other Government bureaux/departments in this issue, a Member suggested inviting the Buildings Department to brief Members on measures to be adopted to promote the concept of green buildings and the achievements made so far. Another Member agreed with that Member and said that it would be helpful if the Works Bureau could also be invited to brief Members on the measures adopted in public works projects. Separately, the other Member said that instead of concentrating on the best-case scenario only, the Bureau should also consider the medium-case and worst-case scenarios in estimating the capacity to receive C&D materials between 2000 and 2010 so that solutions under those circumstances could be worked out as early as possible.

24. A Member urged the Government to have better coordination with the Environmental Campaign Committee (ECC) and green groups so as to maximize the effect of environmental education for the public. Secondly, he said that the scope of recycling could be widened by drawing reference to the experience of other countries and more efforts should be made to convince user departments that recycled materials were as good as raw materials. Thirdly, with regard to the likely objection from truck drivers, he asked whether it would be possible to charge the responsible person/company direct for the materials generated.

25. On that Member's suggestion on direct charging, DEP said that EPD had been negotiating with the truck drivers in the past few years but without any fruitful results. A new charging system under which major waste producers would be charged direct was being worked out. However, it would still be impossible to charge small waste producers direct. The fact that a truck might carry C&D materials from more than one source made it even more difficult to design a system to charge all waste producers direct. He pointed out that other countries also collected landfill charges through the truck drivers and there was no reason that this could not work in Hong Kong.

26. A Member asked whether it was possible to impose a tariff on construction works instead of a charge on the waste generated. DEP said that such a tariff could not provide any incentive for reducing waste.

27. A Member noted that the landfill charge, calculated on the basis of agricultural land use, did not reflect the true cost. Meanwhile, she cautioned that the introduction of a landfill charging scheme might give rise to increased flytipping of C&D materials. She therefore urged the Government to consider concurrent measures(such as to increase resources in enforcement work) to tackle the issue. On avoidance and minimization of C&D materials, she asked whether the Buildings Department would integrate the Hong Kong Building Environmental Assessment Method (HK-BEAM) developed by the Business Environment Council (BEC) into its own assessment system to foster the green building concept.

28. In response to that Member's last point, PAS(B)2/EFB said that HK-BEAM was initiated by the private sector to promote the concept of green building whereas the assessment system to be developed by the Buildings Department would provide incentives such as fast-tracking the processing of building plans. She supplemented that the Buildings Department and the BEC had maintained constant dialogue to ensure good interface of the scheme.

29. A Member said that the marginal cost for landfill would increase rapidly since landfill sites were running out. At present demolition of a large number of buildings every year generated a huge amount of C&D materials. To reduce those materials in the long run, he saw the need for a revolutionary change in the basic concept of building construction. Developers might need to build more durable buildings and the community should be educated to accept higher construction cost in exchange for a longer building life.

30. A Member agreed with that Member and said that the Housing Authority had made a good move to reduce C&D materials generated from unwanted fixtures by allowing potential flat owners to choose flats with fewer built-in fixtures like bath tubs.

31. A Member said that the ECC played an important role in environmental education in Hong Kong and wondered whether the Council could work more closely with ECC. SEF said that EPD acted as a link between ECC and the Council. She hoped that EPD would keep the ECC informed of its agenda so that the latter could work on community programmes to arouse public awareness and interest in the issues concerned.

32. The Chairman concluded that the Council fully supported the proposed strategy to manage C&D materials.

Agenda Item 5 : Feasibility Study on Introducing Trolleybus System in Hong Kong
(ACE Paper 27/2001)


33. The Chairman welcomed PAS/TB, AC(BR)/TD and PTO(BR)2/TD to the meeting. PAS/TB and AC(BR)/TD briefed Members on the background and the findings of the Study.

34. In response to the Chairman's enquiry about the recent development of trolleybus system over the world, AC(BR)/TD said that there were mixed signals where existing systems were closed down in some countries and new systems were installed in others. On the other hand, some countries had expanded their existing trolleybus networks.

35. In reply to the Chairman's enquiry about the proportion of the costs of the trolleybuses and the supporting trolleybus network, AC(BR)/TD said that the latter constituted about 20% of the total capital costs in a new area and about 45% in a developed area.

36. A Member declared his interest as a member of the Board of the Mass Transit Railway Corporation. Noting that one of the Government objectives was "better use of railways as the backbone of passenger transport system", he asked how it could be achieved in the midst of fierce competition from bus services. PAS/TB said that under the Government's transport strategy to develop railways as the backbone of passenger transport system, the network of bus feeders to railway stations continued to expand, bus/bus and bus/rail interchanges were encouraged to improve the efficiency of the public transport system, and proposals for new bus routes were examined very carefully to avoid wasteful duplication of resources. On the other hand, the Government would, as always, facilitate the maintaining of healthy competition among different transport modes and allow reasonable choice to passengers.

37. A Member said that while Transport Bureau was responsible for providing an effective transport infrastructure, EFB would look after the environmental aspect of the system. He was concerned how the Administration would balance the two. In response, the Chairman said that the Council had been discussing that issue for a long time. It would be useful to have a discussion with the Transport Advisory Committee on issues of common concern.

38. A Member said that when compared with other vehicles, trolleybuses had many intrinsic values like higher durability, energy-efficiency, lower smoke and noise emission, etc. It would be helpful in better understanding the trade-offs of adopting the trolleybus system if the Administration could make available detailed cost figures in the Study. That Member said that it was difficult to compare the benefits of different modes of transport in Hong Kong because the infrastructure of some modes of transport was subsidized by tax-payers. He urged the Administration to keep an open mind about the feasibility and viability of the trolleybus system. Different planning options like mixed-mode routes and designation of trolleybus-only roads should be explored. He said that while Hong Kong had already invested a large amount of money on shifting towards the use of more environmentally friendly vehicles, the Administration should make more efforts to take one step further.

39. A Member said that unless restrictions were imposed on the use of other vehicles, having trolleybuses running side by side with all sorts of vehicles would create adverse environmental impacts. He further reckoned that the comparatively lower bus fare was the main reason for the public to ride in buses rather than railways. To encourage the use of environmentally friendly transport, the Administration might consider improving the competitiveness of say the MTR by subsidizing it. Another Member felt that the tram system was not fully utilized at present. The Administration might consider subsidizing it as well. The Chairman said that studying the habits and reasons behind people's choice of different modes of transport might help design a more desirable transport system which could better satisfy people's needs.

40. A Member noted in paragraph 6 of the paper that the identified obstacles would be the greatest for introducing trolleybuses in busy urban areas. However, he felt that environmentally friendly transport was badly needed in busy urban areas to reduce vehicle emissions. He also said that though the additional reduction in particulates and hydrocarbons by using trolleybuses was considered trivial, he was of the opinion that the small percentage reduction would be significant in the long run, in particular in new areas like South East Kowloon Development (SEKD). He believed that Hong Kong should move towards this mode of cleaner transport. 41. The Chairman asked Members whether they supported the use of trolleybuses in SEKD. A Member said that at the last EIA Subcommittee meeting, the project proponent of SEKD did clearly present that either a trolleybus system or light rail would be built in SEKD.

42. A Member agreed that further studies should be made to ascertain the feasibility and viability of trolleybuses in SEKD. She also wondered why other cleaner vehicles like hydrogen vehicles were not included in the current Study. In response, the Chairman said that narrowing the scope to one transport mode would allow easy comparison with other existing transport modes.

43. PAS/TB said that the Study had set out the pros and cons of the trolleybus system and they would keep an open mind on the possible use of this mode of transport in new development areas, vis-a-vis other environmentally friendly transport modes and having regard to the latest development in technology at the same time. As for SEKD, the consultants and departments concerned would examine further the choice of environmentally friendly transport modes before recommending the most desirable transport system for SEKD.

44. A Member said that it might not be worthwhile for Hong Kong to have a trolleybus system because it was expensive to build and operate. It would also pose safety problem. The Chairman said that people had different expectations for their lifestyle, for instance, residents in Discovery Bay might prefer this mode of transport. Therefore the possibility of using trolleybuses in different areas should be explored.

45. A Member suggested the Administration to consider introducing petrol buses as petrol bus engines were available in the United States and petrol was a cleaner fuel than diesel.

46. A Member hoped that the Administration would keep abreast of technology changes because by the time SEKD was developed, new technology might provide a better alternative for the transport infrastructure. DEP said that the Administration had not decided at this stage on what mode(s) of transport to be used in SEKD and was committed to use environmentally friendly ones.

47. A Member pointed out that it was not fair that vehicles could generate air pollutants free of charge whereas rail passengers had to pay for the additional cost of a cleaner transport system. It was important to level the playing field before introducing trolleybuses in Hong Kong. Another Member concurred.

48. The Chairman concluded that the Council noted the difficulties of using trolleybuses in urban areas in Hong Kong but the Administration should keep an open mind on future proposals for new development areas.



Secretariat

49. PAS/TB noted a Member' earlier request for more detailed information about the cost included in the Study. He would consider how best he could provide the information.

(Post-meeting note : A note on the detailed cost assumptions adopted in the Study provided by TB was circulated to Members on 16 July 2001.)

Agenda Item 6 : Advisory Council on the Environment - Visit to Europe
(ACE Paper 23/2001)


50. The Secretary informed Members that a Member would also join the trip to Amsterdam. She then briefed Members on the proposal on funding allocation.

51. In reply to a Member's enquiry, the Secretary assured him that he could make use of his share of allocation to cover expenses other than airfares incurred in the visit.

TB

52. The Chairman said that he would only arrive in London around noon and asked if the visit to the sludge incinerator could be arranged in the afternoon. The Secretary undertook to follow up with the consulate concerned.

Agenda Item 7 : Any Other Business

Tentative items for discussion at the next meeting

53. Members noted that Prof. McCorry would conduct a briefing on marine parks in Hong Kong at the next meeting.

Dredging at West Po Toi

54. The Chairman said that the issue would be discussed at the next EIA Subcommittee meeting to be held on 9 July 2001.

Letter from a Member with regard to environmental education

55. The Chairman said that the issue was discussed under Agenda Item 4 and trusted that the Administration would come up with a proposal at a future meeting. Discussion with LegCo EA Panel

Secretariat

56. DS(C)/EFB reported that EFB had a meeting with the LegCo EA Panel on 5 June 2001, during which the composition and terms of reference of the Council were discussed. The EA Panel subsequently passed a motion to request the Administration to increase the transparency of the Council, including opening up its meetings and announcing the criteria for appointment of members. The EA Panel also requested the Administration to advise on the attendance rate of Members and the occasions at which Members declared interest at meetings over the past three years. DS(C)/EFB said that the Council had discussed the opening up of meetings for several times and the last discussion was held in June last year. Since it was anticipated that the setting up of the Sustainable Development Council might have implications on ACE, Members did not reach a definite conclusion then. He said that the Secretariat would prepare a paper setting out the practice of other similar committees with regard to opening up of meetings for Members' consideration. In the meantime, the Secretariat would collate the information requested by the EA Panel for Members' comments before issue.

57. In response to the Chairman's question, a Member said that like the Legislative Council, Members of this Council should only be required to declare pecuniary interest.

58. In response to a Member's question, the Chairman said that the representatives of green groups need not declare interest as members of the green groups but they should declare pecuniary interest and other related interests, say, participation in consultancy studies concerned.

59. DS(B)/EFB said that he attended the EA Panel meeting and recalled that the Panel's focus was on whether Members had declared conflict of interest when a certain issue was brought up at the ACE meetings.

60. On the issue of opening up meetings, a Member worried that that the deliberation process of the Council, which often involved debates, arguments and even sharing in confidence, might not be as efficient as in closed-door meetings. The Chairman and another Member shared that Member's view. The Chairman considered that the current degree of transparency of the Council was adequate.

61. A Member suggested and the Chairman agreed that whether to open up Council meetings or not should be discussed at a later date after the summer when most Members would be present.

Sustainable Development Council

62. In response to a Member's request, DS(C)/EFB said that the Council might invite the Sustainable Development Unit to brief Members on its work as well as the framework for the Sustainable Development Council at a later stage when the Unit had settled down and its plan became clearer.

Secretariat

63. Noting that the Unit might not be ready to have a formal discussion with ACE, a Member suggested and the Chairman agreed that the Unit be invited to have an informal exchange with Members over lunch. Secretariat

Agenda Item 8 : Date of Next Meeting

64. The next meeting was scheduled for 23 July 2001.

ACE Secretariat
July 2001

Secretariat


 

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