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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 87th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 27 August 2001 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. Daniel M. C. CHENG  
Prof. Anthony HEDLEY, BBS, JP  
Dr. HO Kin-chung  
Mr. Edward S. T. HO, SBS, JP  
Mr. KWOK Kwok-chuen, BBS  
Prof. LAM Kin-che (EIA Subcommittee Chairman)  
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  
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH  
Ms Iris TAM  
Prof. WONG Yuk-shan, JP  
Mr. Plato YIP  
Ms. Jessie WONG (Secretary)  




Absent with Apologies:
Mr. Barrie COOK
Prof. Peter HILLS
Prof. Dennis S. C. LAM
Mr. Edwin C. K. LAU
Dr. LEONG Che-hung, GBS, JP
Miss Alex YAU
Mr. LOH Ah Tuan



 

In Attendance:

Mr. Thomas CHOW, JP Deputy Secretary (C), Environment and Food Bureau (EFB) (DS(C)/EFB)
Ms. Annie CHOI Acting Deputy Secretary (B), EFB
Mr. Rob LAW, JP Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Mr. Raymond CHIU Assistant Director (Technical Services), Planning Department
Mr. C C LAY Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department
Miss Petula POON Chief Executive Officer (C), EFB
Ms. Cora SO Executive Officer (C), EFB



In Attendance for Agenda Item 4

Mr. Stephen FISHER, JP Deputy Secretary (Urban Renewal & Buildings), Planning and Lands Bureau (PLB) (DS(URB)/PLB)
Mr. Lawrence CHAU Assistant Secretary (Urban Renewal), PLB (AS(UR)/PLB)



In Attendance for Agenda Item 5

Mr. H W CHEUNG, JP Deputy Director of Buildings (DD of B)
Mr. Paul PANG Head of Building Innovation Unit, Buildings Department (Head of BIU)



In Attendance for Agenda Item 6

Ms. Denise McCORRY  
Mr. Alan CHAN Senior Marine Conservation Officer, AFCD (SMCO/AFCD)

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


Vote of thanks

The Chairman informed Members that Mr. Plato Yip had tendered his resignation to Friends of the Earth (FoE) and ACE with effect from 31 August 2001. Upon FoE's nomination, the Chief Executive had appointed Mrs. Mei Ng to the Council from 1 September 2001 to 31 December 2002. The Chairman, on behalf of the Council, thanked Mr. Yip for his contribution to the Council as well as the EIA Subcommittee. He wished him all the best in his future career. Mr. Yip thanked the Council for providing him with a learning opportunity and he expressed his appreciation to the contributions made by the Council to environmental protection in Hong Kong.

Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 86th Meeting held on 23 July 2001

2. Members confirmed the minutes without amendments.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 5 : ACE's Visit to Europe

3. The Chairman gave a brief account of the visit to Europe. He was of the view that the existing technology for wastewater treatment should be able to achieve the desired result, but the success of implementation in Hong Kong would depend on the availability of land for the facilities. He said that we should not be prescriptive but set out clearly the desired outcomes and allow the tenders to demonstrate the effectiveness and reliability of their technology at a reasonable cost. As regards the EIA process, he considered that conflicts between approving authority and project proponents/contractors, if any, should be resolved through discussion at the expert level instead of lawsuits. He said that a report on the visit was being prepared and would be circulated to Members in due course.

4. A Member supplemented that the discussion with the EIA Commission of the Netherlands was very useful, in particular on vetting of EIA reports. He said that the EIA Subcommittee would reflect on the experience in Europe and on the judgment of the EIA Appeal Board on the Spur Line project, and would report their views and recommendations to the Council in due course.

5. A Member said that he was impressed by the profound experience of the Netherlands not only in the EIA process, but also in measures to achieve sustainable development. The environmental test (known as E-test) on draft legislations had greatly increased the effectiveness of the legislative process. He urged the Council and the Sustainable Development Unit to consider adopting similar tests in Hong Kong.

 

 

6. A Member informed Members that the British Consulate-General Hong Kong intended to invite Sir Crispin Tickell, Chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Council, to stop by Hong Kong during his coming visit to the Mainland. He suggested exploring the possibility of holding a meeting with Sir Crispin during his stay in Hong Kong. The Chairman asked the Secretariat to follow-up with the British Consulate-General Hong Kong.

7. A Member said that the technicalities of BAF was no doubt important to the success of sewage treatment, but it was equally important to take into account the views of the users so as to ensure that the design of the facilities were user-friendly. Another observation was that although the Netherlands was advanced in the EIA system, Hong Kong was doing a better job on Environmental Monitoring & Audit (EM&A). In response, DEP said that a few years ago the Amsterdam authority had indeed invited EPD to brief them on Hong Kong's experience in EM&A as well as strategic environmental assessment.

 

Secretariat

Para. 34: KCRC's appeal on the Spur Line project

8. DEP said that EPD was in discussion with the KCRC about the way forward for the project. In parallel, EPD was reviewing the implications of the judgment for the EIA process and would report the result to the EIA Subcommittee before a discussion at full Council in about two months' time. The Chairman hoped the discussion could be held before the end of the year as some changes in membership were expected to take place next year.

Agenda Item 3 : Report of the 61st EIA Subcommittee Meeting
(ACE Paper 30/2001)


9. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman reported on the views and recommendations of the EIA Subcommittee on the EIA reports of Central Reclamation Phase III, Wan Chai Development Phase II, and Central - Wan Chai Bypass and Island Eastern Corridor Link.

10. A Member supplemented that the proposed Route 7 might bring in more traffic to the Central - Wan Chai area. He urged the Administration and the Council to pay particular attention to the impacts of the Route 7 project when its EIA report was submitted.

11. The Chairman proposed and Members agreed to endorse the three EIA reports with the conditions set out in ACE Paper 30/2001 as recommended by the Subcommittee.

12. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman reported that the Subcommittee had also considered the EIA report on Modifications to MTRC Tsim Sha Tsui Station by circulation and recommended it for endorsement without conditions. A Member declared his interest as a member of the Board of MTRC. The Chairman proposed and Members agreed to endorse the report without conditions.

Agenda Item 4 : Public Consultation on Draft Urban Renewal Strategy
(ACE Paper 31/2001)


13. The Chairman welcomed DS(URB)/PLB and AS(UR)/PLB to the meeting. DS(URB)/PLB then briefed Members on the proposed Urban Renewal Strategy.

14. The Chairman was concerned as to how the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) could resume land for urban renewal at a fair and reasonable price. In the past, there were problems over the time taken to agree with the affected property owners on the amount of compensation when the prices in the property market were rising and the compensation paid would not be adequate to buy the sort of property resumed. In reply, DS(URB)/PLB said that unlike working under the Land Development Corporation (LDC) Ordinance, URA under the new URA Ordinance was not required to undergo a standard acquisition and negotiation process for land resumption and the process should be very smooth. Also it is now unlikely that individual property owners concerned can hold up the whole renewal project. On the other hand, to safeguard the rights of property owners, the Finance Committee had approved an ex-gratia allowance package for properties affected under which the owners could purchase a seven-year old flat of similar size in the same district. Under the URA Ordinance, the acquisition and resumption process would take less time than the three to six years in the past under the LDC Ordinance.

15. A Member asked how the results of the social impact assessment (SIA) would be presented. In reply, DS(URB)/PLB said that for redevelopment projects which did not require amendments to Outline Zoning Plan (OZP), the findings of the SIA together with any objection to the project would be submitted to the Secretary for Planning and Lands for approval. For proposal which involved amendments to OZP, the results would be submitted to the Town Planning Board for consideration.

16. A Member asked about mitigation measures that could compensate for adverse social impacts arising from redevelopment projects such as desolation of the elderly. In response, DS(URB)/PLB said that URA would pay special attention to vulnerable groups including the elderly. They would consider re-housing the affected tenants to the same public rental housing estate or providing special housing for them by making available a small site in the same area.

17. A Member said that he chaired the Legislative Council Bills Committee for the URA Bill. He assured Members that extensive and comprehensive public consultation on the bill had been conducted and hence there did not seem to be a need to discuss the basic principles of the Ordinance at this meeting. The Chairman said that he had no problem with Members asking questions to get a better understanding of the URA process as against the LDC process.

18. A Member commended the initiatives of URA and the proposed SIA process. He said that re-developing old urban area would relieve the pressure of development in the rural area which in turn would help preserve the natural environment.

19. A Member said that she anticipated that URA would have a difficult task ahead in heritage preservation because they were dealing with buildings which were at least 30 years old. She asked whether URA had established close contact with the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) on buildings that required preservation in order to avoid surprises at the implementation stage. In response, DS(URB)/PLB said that they would work closely with AMO and preserve as many heritage buildings as possible.

20. A Member said that having due regards to her experience in planning, she would advise URA to conduct early discussions with EPD on the proposed renewal projects because EPD often required the project proponents to consider all possible scenarios particularly those close to existing industrial operations, and the variables might affect the planning process. In response, DS(URB)/PLB said that a strategic environmental assessment study was carried out for the Urban Renewal Strategy and the findings were circulated to departments concerned including EPD which had no adverse comments on the strategy.

21. In reply to a Member's suggestion on adopting a green building approach in urban renewal projects, DS(URB)/PLB said that one of the main objectives of urban renewal was "redeveloping dilapidated buildings into new buildings of modern standard and environmentally-friendly design". Another Member agreed with that Member and welcomed the adoption of green features in re-developed buildings. He said that Europe's experience in the preservation of buildings and the design of green and innovative buildings were worth studying.

22. In response to the Chairman's question, DS(URB)/PLB said that a committee under URA would look after the overall design of projects, but the actual design of buildings would be the responsibility of outside architects.

23. The Chairman said that he wished that URA could proceed with urban renewal smoothly and speedily.

Agenda Item 5 : Green Building Initiatives
(ACE Paper 32/2001)


24. The Chairman welcomed DD of B and Head of BIU to the meeting. DD of B introduced the green building initiatives undertaken by the Buildings Department (BD) so far, followed by a detailed description of the initiatives by Head of BIU.

25. The Chairman said that developers might come up with new ideas on building design that was not included in BD's database. He wondered how the new ideas could be assessed in a fair manner. In response, Head of BIU said that the Building Innovation Unit (BIU) kept its database up-to-date by exploring the latest technologies and environmental design through data search, seminars and conferences, study trips and dialogues with professional institutes and green groups. Each and every proposal would be considered on its own merits.

26. A Member suggested that benchmarks on green building assessments should be set up so that there would be a common basis for assessment of different proposals. He also pointed out that the major concern of developers was profitability of their projects. To really bring home the concept of green buildings, BIU should consider providing incentives for developers to adopt green building features instead of issuing guidelines only. In response to that Member's comments, DD of B said that BIU would commission a consultancy study on the means to measure the environmental performance of green building features. As regards incentives, DD of B said that the Joint Practice Note No.1 and 2 (JPN1 and JPN2) already provided incentives in the form of exemption from Gross Floor Area (GFA) calculations for green features that would take up floor space. BIU was working on further incentives under which additional GFA would be provided for buildings that incorporated green features which did not take up extra floor space.

27. Noting that green features were specified in the JPNs, the Chairman was concerned about a lack of flexibility in assessing building designs when green features not on the specified list were proposed. DD of B said that the features were examples quoted for the reference of developers only. They would keep their mind open for new proposals.

28. In response to the Chairman's queries, DD of B said that they would ascertain the feasibility and effectiveness of any new proposed feature in consultation with departments and experts concerned and did not anticipate that it would take a long time to decide whether a new feature should be accepted.

29. A Member considered that some of the green features listed in the JPNs could be made mandatory in future. He also asked whether the Housing Department (HD) and the Architectural Services Department (ASD) would incorporate these features into government buildings.

30. DD of B said that the current strategy of BD to promote the provision of green features was by providing incentives. They would consider that Member's proposal when reviewing the response of the building industry to the incentives. As regards that Member's enquiry, DD of B said that HD and ASD were represented in the Working Group on Environmentally Friendly and Innovative Buildings and the JPNs were issued upon agreement of the two Departments. The two Departments shared the goal to promote green buildings.

31. Another Member agreed with that Member that some of the features should be made mandatory because it might take a long time to put them into practice if solely relying on developers' initiatives. He pointed out that recycling and reuse of wastewater could save the money for building pipelines to provide seawater for flushing toilets.

32. A Member said that the principles and guidelines promulgated in the JPNs were a good start, however it would take a long time to achieve result if the implementation was to be left to the discretion of the industry and influence of market force. He agreed that some of the principles should be made mandatory, for example, recycling and reuse of wastewater and domestic waste. He also suggested implementing the proposals at strategic locations such as newly developed areas to achieve a higher return in benefits.

33. Another Member concurred with that Member and said that the existing market forces for bringing about green building features were not only inadequate, but also flawed. For example, developers could not be expected to construct buildings in accordance with life-cycle cost considerations if they were not charged for the full costs of disposal of demolition wastes. Therefore, administrative measures had to be put in place to achieve the desired results. However, the other Member also cautioned against too much administrative interference into building designs and features, as all such design features had to balance some advantages against others.

34. The Chairman said that an effective incentive for the developers to adopt green building features was to grant extra floor area which could be sold for profit and hence would be demanding of his professional advisers what features they could add to his development to enhance the saleable area. DD of B said that that was precisely what BD was working on in Phase Two of its drive to promote green buildings in addition to exempting green feature occupying floor area from GFA calculations. They would also consider open commendations and fast track plan processing for outstanding green building proposals.

35. On the subject of automated refuse collection system, a Member suggested adopting as a standard design a revolving tube at the end of the chute so that different waste could be put into different recycling bins. He also suggested setting standards for natural light penetration into buildings for health and energy-saving purpose. DD of B thanked that Member for his suggestions and said that BIU would take them into consideration in proposing new green features.

36. A Member enquired about the roles of Lands Department, Planning Department and BD in promoting green buildings. He praised the greening initiatives being carried out by the Mainland authorities and urged BD to learn from their experience. On the point of heritage preservation, he noted that a front-door decoration of an antique shop at Hollywood Road had to be demolished although in his view it was a tourist attraction.

37. In response to that Member's questions and comments, DD of B said that the three departments drew up the JPNs jointly. All of them shared the value of promoting green buildings. BIU was organizing a study visit to Shanghai and would keep abreast of the latest international development in green building initiatives. As regards the structure in Hollywood Road, DD of B said that it was an unauthorized canopy which protruded over the pavement. BD had to remove it for safety reasons. 38. A Member appreciated BD' efforts to take a leap forward from a prescriptive-regulatory approach to a performance-reward approach. He believed that the new approach would allow more room for innovative building designs. On the provision of incentives for developers, he considered it important to quantify the performance of green building features first. He also pointed out that the capacity for disposal of C&D wastes was running out in Hong Kong and asked whether BD had explored ways to extend the life expectancy of new buildings so as to minimize waste.

39. In response, DD of B said that they were working on how to quantify the environmental performance of green features. As regards life expectancy of buildings, DD of B said that BD was looking into the durability and maintainability of buildings. They were at present working on the technical guidelines for architects to follow.

40. A Member urged BD to pay particular attention to ventilation systems so as to solve the problem of second-hand smoking and maintain a high level of indoor air quality. He also asked whether BIU had included car parks design in drawing up the JPNs. That Member also suggested providing links between housing estates and public transport stations to facilitate people's access.

41. In response to that Member's comments, DD of B said that incentives to allow extra improvement in GFA to promote indoor air quality would be included in the third JPN. As for car parks, he said that they advocated natural ventilation to allow more fresh air in parking lots, and if necessary, artificial ventilation must be installed to comply with standard requirements for indoor air quality. On the third point, DD of B said that they encouraged developers to provide linkage between housing blocks and public transport stations by exempting those features from calculations of GFA.

 

EPD

42. The Chairman concluded that the Council welcomed BD's initiatives. He urged BD to explore more effective means to implement the ideas instead of relying solely on market forces. He requested the Department to update the Council on its progress in a year's time. DD of B thanked Members for all their suggestions and undertook to brief the Council on the progress a year later.



BD

Agenda Item 6 : Hong Kong's Scleractinian Coral Communities: Status and Proposals for Management
(ACE Paper 32/2001)


43. The Chairman welcomed Ms. Denise McCorry and SMCO/AFCD to the meeting. SMCO/AFCD informed the meeting that the coral study carried out by Ms McCorry was partly initiated by AFCD in conjunction with the Department of Ecology and Biology of University of Hong Kong. The study was funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and administered as well as monitored by AFCD. The findings of the study had been presented to the Marine Parks Committee under the Country and Marine Parks Board. AFCD agreed with the recommendations of the study in general. Ms. McCorry then presented the detailed findings and recommendations.

44. The Chairman asked how AFCD responded to Ms. McCorry's recommendations. SMCO/AFCD replied as follows-

(a) Expand the marine parks programme to encompass more representative types of scleractinian communities

The Tung Ping Chau Marine Park would be designated in November 2001 and designation of two more marine parks at South West Lantau and Soko Islands was under planning. AFCD would commission a study on the feasibility of extending the marine parks at Yan Chau Tong to cover Crescent Island in September. Areas identified by Ms. McCorry such as Long Ke Wan, Bluff Island and the Nine Pin Island Group would be included in future studies on potential marine parks. Pending the outcome of the future studies, AFCD would consider designating more marine parks for the protection and conservation of important marine ecological systems, including coral communities.

(b) Deploy mooring buoys or marker buys to protect corals areas which are composed of rarer and/or vulnerable growth forms and under high recreational use

AFCD had installed five mooring buoys in Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park to facilitate mooring of small boats alongside major coral areas. There were plans to install six more mooring buoys in Tung Ping Chau Marine Park for the same purpose. Four marker buoys were being installed at Ung Kong Wan to mark off areas with high coral cover and to discourage anchoring activities within the area.

(C) Extend baseline studies and establish hard coral assessment criteria

AFCD had commissioned two studies in 2001, namely Underwater Survey at Peng Chau and Neighbouring Islands, and Underwater Survey in Coastal Waters of Hong Kong. The two studies, in particular the latter, would help collate baseline information on coral communities in Hong Kong and develop a comprehensive database on the distribution, abundance and diversity of coral communities. As part of the study requirements, the consultants would be requested to develop a standard underwater survey method as well as to establish criteria for the assessment of the ecological value of hard corals. In addition, AFCD had carried out separate coral monitoring projects. In collaboration with the Reef Check Foundation, AFCD had coordinated the annual Reef Check in Hong Kong since 2000.

Reef Check was a voluntary global programme to promote the sustainable management of coral reefs. The response to the Reef Check this year was very good with a total of 19 diving teams and 200 volunteers participating. 19 sites were covered in the survey and results would be available in mid October 2001.

(d) Standardise coral survey methodologies and train government personnel in coral identification

AFCD had organized a workshop for staff in May this year. The workshop aimed at equipping relevant officers with techniques and skills in carrying out coral surveys, underwater video sampling and coral identifications.

Apart from the above, AFCD had organized seminars and published booklets, leaflets and posters for sale and free distribution to the public in order to educate the public on the need to protect local corals. Information was also disseminated through AFCD's website. Moreover, AFCD would launch a photo exhibition following the Reef Check exercise to raise public awareness on coral protection. The exhibition would last for three months from end of 2001 to March 2002.

45. In response to a Member's question, Ms. McCorry said that more corals were found in the eastern rather than western waters of Hong Kong mainly because of the more favourable environmental conditions in the former and intensive human activities in the latter.

46. A Member noted that AFCD would commission further studies to expand the marine parks programme and asked whether they would take into account factors other than existence of coral communities. In reply, SMCO/AFCD said that all relevant factors would be considered. The establishment of marine parks aimed at protecting and managing ecologically important marine environment for the purpose of conservation, education, recreation and scientific studies. The criteria for selecting a marine park therefore included the uniqueness of marine resources, the naturalness and ecological significance of the area as well as its educational value.

47. A Member commended the comprehensive documents to educate the public on coral protection. She felt that such information should be made public rather than kept confidential as in a previous case regarding butterflies so that the public could have a better understanding of the value of conservation.

48. The Chairman recalled that illegal dynamite fishing was still being carried out a few years ago in Hong Kong waters. He asked if it had stopped. Ms. McCorry said that during her underwater survey at Tung Ping Chau between 1996 and 1998, she had seen some fresh dynamites, fragments of coral and dead fish in the seabed. She also noted that there was one dynamite fishing incident at Hoi Ha even after its designation as a marine park.

49. The Chairman urged AFCD to strengthen enforcement actions on illegal fishing activities. SMCO/AFCD responded that under the Fisheries Protection Ordinance, the penalty for conducting illegal fishing using dynamite or toxic substances had been increased to HK$200,000 since early 2000. So far, two cases of illegal fishing were reported in 2000. AFCD had been working closely with the marine police on the enforcement front. In the Reef Check exercise, recreation divers were also asked to report illegal fishing but little response had been received.

50. A Member asked the impact of sediments on corals. Ms. McCorry said that it would vary among different coral species. According to the EM&A data collected in Hong Kong, the coverage of 10% or more of the surface of a coral colony with sediment would trigger adverse impacts. The Chairman said and Ms. McCorry agreed that it would also depend on the duration of the coverage.

51. In reply to a Member's question, Ms. McCorry said that to a certain extent corals could get rid of the sediments covering them by means of secreting mucous and sweeping their tentacles. Water currents might also wash away the sediments if the coral was not flat in shape.

52. A Member said that there was a publicity programme to inform the public of local natural resources but there was hardly any protection for those resources. He hoped that the Administration could expedite the process of studies and identify and designate more sites for conservation. SMCO/AFCD said that AFCD had been doing vigorous work on this area.

53. The Chairman thanked Ms. McCorry for the presentation and said that he was glad that AFCD was in the process of implementing the recommendations.

Agenda Item 7 : Any Other Business
Tentative items for discussion at the next meeting

54. The Chairman said that Prof. Hedley had tabled a set of documents on the control of smoking in restaurants and other public indoor premises. If there was time available for the next meeting, he suggested including the topic in the agenda of the next meeting if necessary. A Member said that he tabled the documents with the objective of appealing to Members for support for Government's smoke-free policies in all indoor workplaces. He encouraged Members to send the completed support form to the Health and Welfare Bureau.

 

EPD
Meeting with LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs

55. A Member suggested inviting the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs to meet with the Council after the LegCo summer recess to exchange views on the EIA process and other matters of common concern. The Chairman agreed and asked the Secretariat to set up a meeting with the LegCo Panel in October or early November 2001.

Agenda Item 8 : Date of Next Meeting

56. The next meeting was scheduled for 17 September 2001.

ACE Secretariat
August 2001



Secretariat


 

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