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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 92nd Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 21 January 2002 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. Barrie COOK  
Prof. Anthony HEDLEY, BBS, JP  
Prof. Peter HILLS  
Mr. Edward S. T. HO, SBS, JP  
Dr. HO Kin-chung  
Mr. KWOK Kwok-chuen, BBS  
Prof. LAM Kin-che  
Prof. Dennis S. C. LAM  
Mr. Peter Y. C. LEE, SBSt.J  
Dr. LEONG Che-hung, GBS, JP  
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming  
Dr. NG Cho-nam  
Mrs. Mei NG  
Mr. Otto L. T. POON  
Mr. Brian ROBERTSON  
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH  
Miss Alex YAU  
Ms. Jessie WONG (Secretary)  




Absent with Apologies:
Mr. Daniel M. C. CHENG
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Ms. Iris TAM
Prof. WONG Yuk-shan, JP
Mr. LOH Ah Tuan



 

In Attendance:

Mrs. Lily YAM, JP Secretary for the Environment and Food (SEF)
Mr. Thomas CHOW, JP Deputy Secretary (C), Environment and Food Bureau (EFB)
Mr. Donald TONG Deputy Secretary (B), EFB
Mr. Rob LAW, JP Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Mr. Bosco FUNG, JP Director of Planning (D of Plan)
Dr. Constance CHAN Assistant Director, Department of Health
Mr. P M SO Senior Conservation Officer, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD)
Mrs. Pauline LING Chief Information Officer, EFB
Ms. Polly LEUNG Principal Information Officer, Environmental Protection Department (EPD)
Miss Petula POON Chief Executive Officer (C), EFB
Ms. Cora SO Executive Officer (C), EFB



In Attendance for Agenda Item 3

Mr. Howard CHAN Principal Assistant Secretary (C)1, EFB (PAS(C)1/EFB)
Mr. W C MOK Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Motor Vehicle Emissions), EPD (PEPO(MV)/EPD)



In Attendance for Agenda Item 4

Mr. Augustine NG Assistant Director (Territorial and Sub-Regional), Planning Department (AD(T)/PlanD)



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The Chairman welcomed Mr. Brian Robertson who had been newly appointed as a Member of the Council. He recorded a vote of thanks to Mr. Edwin Lau for his contribution to the Council in the past three years.

2. The Chairman took the opportunity to remind Members to declare interest where needed when any matter that might concern them either directly or indirectly was put to the Council for consideration. When in doubt, it was best to stray to the side of caution.

3. In the light of the new term of office, the Chairman proposed that the Council should consider at the next meeting the issue of whether the meetings of the Council and the Environmental Impact Assessment Subcommittee should be opened to the public either in full or in part.

Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 91st Meeting held on 17 December 2001

4. Members confirmed the draft minutes without amendments.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 6: Handling of contaminated ashes from Kwai Chung Incineration Plant

5. DEP reported that he was unable to find any detailed record of where the ash from the old incinerators had been disposed of over their many years of operation. It was believed that most of the ash had been used in reclamations or had been placed in the old landfills, which was similar to practices used in most other countries in the past. He felt, however, that it was unlikely that significant quantities of dioxins from the ash disposed of in this manner would have entered the food chain. He pointed out, also, that there were many sources of dioxin emissions in the community, including motor vehicles, BBQ's and even cigarette smoking.

Para. 18: Paper on progress of the work done by the Joint Working Group on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection

6. The Chairman informed the meeting that the paper was re-circulated to Members on 17 January 2002.

Para. 38: Report on ACE's visit

7. Members noted that a copy of the visit report had been sent to the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs and the Monitoring Group on Trials and Studies for the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme. It was also available for public inspection at the website of EFB.

Election of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the EIA Subcommittee

8. A Member nominated Prof. Lam Kin-che and Mr. Otto Poon as the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the EIA Subcommittee respectively for the year 2002. Two Members seconded the nominations which were then unanimously passed by Members.

Agenda Item 3 : Retrofitting pre-Euro diesel vehicles with particulate reduction devices or catalysts - Air Pollution Control Ordinance (Cap.311)
(ACE Paper 1/2002)

9. A Member declared interest as one company had approached the Hong Kong Productivity Council for technical support in supplying the catalysts. The Chairman ruled that that Member could participate in the discussion without giving any direct advice.

10. The Chairman welcomed PAS(C)1/EFB and PEPO(MV)/EPD to the meeting. PAS(C)1/EFB briefed Members on the proposal to retrofit pre-Euro diesel heavy vehicles with particulate reduction devices or catalysts.

11. The Chairman said that an article published in the South China Morning Post on 18 January 2002 suggested that a company monopolized the supply of particulate traps. He asked how the Administration could ensure a reasonable price for those products. In response, DEP said that the article referred to also suggested that there was impropriety in the way the Administration handled the selection of companies that provided the devices for pre-Euro diesel light vehicles. He clarified that the tender selection process was carried out in strict accordance with Government tendering procedures. EPD had published the specifications of the devices and an independent panel of experts was set up to assess the technical merits of the bids received. Only two out of a total of 17 bids conformed to the specifications. They were accepted as contractors for the retrofitting programme of pre-Euro diesel light vehicles but the subsidy to the vehicle owners was set at the cheaper of the two selected bids. In the forthcoming tender exercise for retrofitting particulate traps or catalysts on pre-Euro diesel heavy vehicles, EPD had sought advice from an independent panel of international experts on the draft specifications and had circulated the draft to about 300 potential suppliers as well as all local consulates.

12. The Chairman asked whether the Department had considered adopting the "single tender process" in which the price of the tender was negotiable. In reply, DEP said that the "single tender process" was applicable only when the product/service concerned was available from a sole supplier.

13. A Member asked whether the technologies were proprietary in nature and whether the tender procedures would favour certain companies. Another Member said that from what was reported in the press, there seemed to be a prima facie case that the fairness of the tender exercise was in doubt. He therefore considered it important for the Administration to ensure that the tender process was fair and was seen to be fair.

14. PAS(C)1/EFB said that the technology for particulate traps and catalysts was quite common worldwide and that the technology itself was not proprietary in nature. He said that the existing tendering procedures were open and fair. The tender results had to be approved by the Government's Central Tender Board, not the department that invited the tender. He added that to attract as many potential suppliers as possible, the specifications only laid down the functional requirements of the installations. Products other than in the form of a catalyst would be considered so long as they met the specified requirements.

15. A Member was concerned whether the vehicles retrofitted with the devices would require regular maintenance and if so, whether sufficient maintenance service would be available. He was also interested in the effectiveness of the traps/catalysts in removing the smallest size of the particulates. In reply, PAS(C)1/EFB said that the trials of the devices had indicated high durability and the Government would require the contractors to provide a five-year warranty on their products. Regarding effectiveness, PEPO(MV)/EPD said that the devices were effective in removing particulates of all sizes because most of the particulates were hydrocarbon and were subject to oxidation regardless of size.

16. A Member said that there had been complaints about the effectiveness of the devices for diesel light vehicles. She enquired about actions taken by the Government to improve the devices and whether the Consumer Council had been invited to participate in the process of selecting the suppliers. She also wondered whether the Government had any long-term strategy for reducing vehicle emissions, like using alternative fuel such as biodiesel.

17. In response, PEPO(MV)/EPD said that the particulate traps were effective as long as they were washed and cleaned regularly. The catalysts were maintenance free. As for the role of the Consumer Council, PAS(C)1/EFB explained that it was not a usual practice to consult the Consumer Council on individual tendering exercises. Nonetheless, the Consumer Council was represented in the Competition Policy Advisory Group which would advise Government on all competition related matters from a policy perspective. Regarding the long-term strategy for reducing vehicle emissions, PAS(C)1/EFB said that the Government would continue to explore the use of alternative fuels including biodiesel which was being tested at present. Pending the identification of environmentally cleaner fuels that would be practicable in Hong Kong, the Government would make use of best vehicle emission reduction technologies which were currently available so as to bring air quality improvement.

18. On biodiesel, a Member informed Members that in Europe the "5% biodiesel blend" would be available in the market within three years' time and the United States had announced that the "15% biodiesel blend" would soon be available. He estimated that biodiesel would probably be available in Hong Kong in about five years' time.

 

19. A Member pointed out that more information about the effectiveness of the catalysts in removing particulates of different sizes would be useful in assessing the impact on human health. In reply, PEPO(MV)/EPD said that most diesel particulates were of size between 0.1μm and 2.5μm and diesel catalysts should be effective in removing these particulates. He undertook to provide more details on the subject after the meeting.

20. A Member echoed that Member's point on health benefits arising from improved air quality. She said that the Government had been spending millions of dollars in combating air pollution problems. It would be useful if a portion of it could be spent on monitoring the impacts of air quality on health so that the public would have an idea of the benefits they had paid for.

21. A Member referred to the target completion date of the retrofitting programme for diesel heavy vehicles in mid 2004 and asked whether the Administration could advance the date. In response, PEPO(MV)/EPD said that the retrofitting work for diesel heavy vehicles was much more complicated than that for diesel light vehicles. While it took 15 to 20 minutes to retrofit a light diesel vehicle with a particulate trap, the installation work for a heavy diesel vehicle would take half a day. PAS(C)1/EFB said that in order to increase competition and to enable faster services to be provided, the intention was to divide the programme into six different contracts, each catering for vehicles of different engine sizes.

22. SEF asked whether the retrofitting programme could be further shortened by increasing the number of contractors from six to 12. In reply, PEPO(MV)/EPD said that according to experience, the bidders would tend to charge a higher price if they knew they would have a better chance of getting a contract. Besides, if a contractor did not know the volume of his business, he would not keep sufficient stock and train up an adequate team of mechanics for the installation. As catalysts were more costly than the traps, this problem would be even worse. In the end, eligible vehicle owners would have to wait longer for the installation service. PAS(C)1/EFB supplemented that the Government had consulted the relevant transport trades on the monitoring committee for the trial on which of the contract arrangements would best suit the trades. Majority of them agreed on the current tender proposal.

23. In reply to a Member's question, PAS(C)1/EFB said that the subsidy to the owners of diesel heavy vehicles included the costs of the devices plus installation. Estimated cost for the devices ranged from HK$7,000 to HK$20,000 per vehicle depending on the engine capacity.

24. In response to the Chairman's enquiry, PEPO(MV)/EPD said that higher-sulphur diesel would not cause permanent damages to the catalyst. A Member informed Members that a Euro-III vehicle using high-sulphur diesel would emit massive white smoke.

25. A Member felt that the air quality had not improved much after the introduction of the LPG taxi scheme. He queried whether air pollution was due to emissions from other vehicles and pollutants from across the boundary. In response, DEP said that the air quality had improved significantly after the introduction of ultra-low-sulphur diesel, the implementation of the LPG taxi scheme as well as other measures to reduce motor vehicle emissions. Data showed that the duration and frequency of a high Air Pollution Index had dropped and there were now 50% less smoky vehicles spotted. Nevertheless, he agreed that actions on improving the air quality in the Pearl River Delta Region had to go in hand in hand with those being carried out locally.


EPD

26. To have a better understanding of the work and the progress of the Guangdong authority in combating air pollution, the Chairman suggested that a visit to the Guangdong side should be arranged in due course. In response, SEF said that the Administration had been collaborating with the Mainland on environmental protection work. The two parties would reach a consensus on practicable long-term measures to improve regional air quality around end April this year. She agreed to convey the Council's interest in a visit to the Guangdong environmental protection authorities at an appropriate time.

27. The Chairman thanked the presenters and concluded that the Council supported the proposal. He hoped that the retrofitting programme for diesel heavy vehicles would commence shortly and be completed as soon as possible.

Agenda Item 4 : Hong Kong 2030 : Planning vision and strategy - Stage II public consultation - Key planning issues and evaluation criteria
(ACE Paper 2/2002)

28. The Chairman welcomed AD(T)/PlanD to the meeting. AD(T)/PlanD briefed Members on the exercise.

29. The Chairman pointed out that port activities formed a major part of Hong Kong's economy. He would like to know future port development proposals and their implications. In response, AD(T)/PlanD said that two key related studies - Port Cargo Forecast and Port Development Strategy Review were completed last year. He suggested that the Council ask for the reports from the Port and Maritime Board and decide whether Members would wish to have more detailed discussion with the Board. The location for further port development after CT-9 was not determined yet.

30. A Member considered that population was the fundamental factor for long-term development in Hong Kong. He said that the population in 2000 had dropped by about 300,000 after the Census and Statistics Department had revised the estimation methodology. In addition, the Chief Executive had recently been considering the possibility of formulating a population policy which could have significant impact on future population including the distribution. He therefore asked whether the Planning Department had adopted scenarios of different population growth rates in working out the development plans for the coming decades.

31. In response, AD(T)/PlanD said that they were aware of recent changes that would affect the population forecast. The Department would postulate different scenarios of population growth, taking into account factors like ageing, decline in birth rate, etc., in the next stage of the Study.

32. A Member said that since a large share of the manufacturing industry had moved out of the territory, there were quite a number of obsolete industrial buildings in old industrial areas. To better utilize land resources in Hong Kong, he suggested that those areas should be re-developed before developing any other new areas. He also pointed out that container exports in Hong Kong had been on a decline in recent years partly due to keen competition from Shekou and Yantian ports and partly due to the congestion of the cross-border road traffic. He cautioned that when the quota system from which Hong Kong had benefited in the past ended in 2005, container exports would suffer from a further decline. He therefore urged the Government to take into account that major economic change in the Study.

33. A Member concurred with Mr. Lee that old industrial buildings should be put into better use. However, he noted that some recent residential developments were not compatible with the land-use of nearby areas. He therefore suggested that a redevelopment project should be designed to cover a larger or the whole industrial area instead of just a few industrial buildings.

34. A Member commended the Department's endeavor to plan ahead and asked whether the planning process had any built-in mechanism to react to the changing economy and the changing aspirations of the community. He also agreed with another Member that the Government should ensure the best use of land resources and quoted the success of Manchester in turning an old industrial area into a new town. As regards the proposal of using reservoirs for water sports, he suggested that trials could first be conducted to assess the environmental impacts concerned. On a related point, he also suggested the use of the irrigation reservoirs as ecological compensation/mitigation banks under the environmental impact assessment mechanism since agricultural activities had become quite dormant. He also urged the Planning Department to integrate preservation of areas of high ecological value into the key planning issues under the Study.

35. A Member said that the Study failed to project the future of Hong Kong after 30 years. He could not see how changes in different sectors of the economy, for example the change from manufacturing to servicing industry, had been taken into account in the planning. He also queried whether it was the long-term policy to position Hong Kong as a cargo port if the Government intended to develop Hong Kong into a world-class city.

36. A Member suggested that the Government should take a more proactive approach in land-use planning. For instance, the Task Force (Black Spots) had been monitoring and controlling the illegal use of land in the New Territories. However in her view, instead of just taking reactive actions in response to illegal activities, the Government should make better use of those sites so as to eliminate the opportunity for abuses. For example, the Government should develop pockets of land into zones of special characteristics like the Soho area instead of leaving it to the market force. That Member also shared another Member's concerns about opening up reservoirs for water sports and was worried that human activities might spoil the natural resources.

37. A Member informed the meeting that he would directly send his personal written comments on the consultation document to the Planning Department separately. He pointed out that the Department should be more proactive in preserving and protecting the environment rather than adopting a reactive approach in minimizing adverse environmental impacts after developments had taken place.

38. A Member said that whilst the living standards in Hong Kong remained stable in recent years, those in Mainland cities would surpass Hong Kong soon. The current exercise would be an opportunity for the Government to adjust the focus of planning from a quantity-driven approach to a quality-driven one with emphasis on the quality of the living environment. It was also high time to give thoughts to the possibility of looking beyond the border to facilitate planning for regional integration.

39. In response to Members' comments, AD(T)/PlanD said that the Government had a clear vision of developing Hong Kong into Asia's world city. Most of the issues presented were related strategically to the quality of the living environment, for example, decentralization of jobs to the New Territories could reduce the demand for commuting and in turn achieve improvement in air quality. On regional integration, it was a new area of research and the Government had been putting in resources to obtain more information on that front. As for the utilization of existing resources, it was in fact a fundamental principle of the HK2030 Study. The Government had already relaxed the land-use of obsolete industrial areas to allow flexibility in redevelopment. As regards socio-economic changes, the report of the Commission on Strategic Development had dealt with that issue in great detail. Regarding the use of reservoirs for water sports, there was no intention to open up all reservoirs at the same time. The Department would make reference to overseas experience to ensure that disturbances to the natural environment would be kept to the minimal.

40. In response to the Chairman's enquiry, AD(T)/PlanD informed Members that there was close liaison between the Planning Department and other government bureaux/departments. On policy level, the Secretary for Planning and Lands chaired a steering group on the 2030 Study while the Director of Planning chaired a working group to examine the planning issues at the working level. The Chief Secretary and the Executive Council were also kept informed of the progress of the Study.

41. In response to a Member's suggestion of establishing an industrial/commercial zone along the border, AD(T)/PlanD said that there were various suggestions on how the existing Frontier Closed Area should be opened up for development. The Government would like to hear the views of the public on these suggestions.

42. A Member felt that the vision stated in the Study was too vague and she doubted whether the study could help Hong Kong achieve the ultimate vision. She requested to put on record the World Wide Fund For Nature Hong Kong's reservation on opening up reservoirs for recreational use on environmental grounds. She considered that the concept of sustainable use of old industrial buildings should be extended to other areas and urged the Government to expedite the review of small house policy and minimize the waste of land.

43. The Chairman said that land use played a critical role in the quality of life of a place. As far as social policies were concerned, land use played an important role in the well-being of community groups.

44. D of Plan said that it was not possible for the 2030 Study, nor was it intended, to provide solutions to all the problems that Hong Kong was facing. The Study set out the major strategic planning issues and problems for the next 30 years and tried to involve the community in the deliberation process so that the whole city would benefit from collective wisdom. The collective thinking process was perhaps more important than the study product itself. The Administration was aware of the difficulties in predicting so far into the future and therefore the scenario building approach would be used and extensive consultation was necessary. Land use was only one of the many factors affecting the quality of life. The Planning Department would be conducting more in-depth and detailed discussions with different organizations on various planning issues and he looked forward to the Council's participation and support in the future.

45. The Chairman thanked AD(T)/PlanD for the consultation and reminded Members that a forum on Stage II public consultation of the Study would be held on 26 January 2002.

Agenda Item 5 : Any Other Business Schedule of meetings for 2002

46. Members endorsed the meeting schedule for 2002.

The EIA report on Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line

47. The Chairman reminded Members that the EIA report on the Spur Line would be discussed at the Subcommittee meeting to be held on 28 January 2002 at 4:45pm. Non-Subcommittee Members were invited to inform the Secretariat if they were interested in joining the meeting.

Tentative items for discussion at the next meeting

48. Members noted that the Planning Department would consult the Council on the Study on Planning for Pedestrians - Stage I Consultation at the next meeting.


EFB

49. The Chairman asked the Secretariat to liaise with the relevant authorities for an update on the progress of the study on wetlands and the work of the Task Force (Black Spots).

50. The Chairman informed Members that at a meeting he attended recently, the Chief Executive indicated that the Council for Sustainable Development would not be set up within the next six months as it was still under debate as to which bureau in future should take care of the subject.

Agenda Item 6 : Date of Next Meeting

51. The next meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, 26 February 2002.


Secretariat

ACE Secretariat
January 2002

 

 


 

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