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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 98th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 29 July 2002 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

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




Absent with Apologies:
Mr. Daniel M. C. CHENG
Prof. Peter HILLS
Mr. Peter Y. C. LEE
Dr. LEONG Che-hung, GBS, JP
Mr. LOH Ah Tuan
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH
Ms. Iris TAM, JP



 

In Attendance:

Mrs. Rita LAU, JP Permanent Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works (Environment)
Mr. Donald TONG Deputy Secretary (E)1, Environment, Transport and Works Bureau (ETWB)
Mr. Howard CHAN Acting Deputy Secretary (E)2, ETWB
Mr. Mike STOKOE, JP Acting Director of Environmental Protection
Mr. C C LAY Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD)
Mr. T K LEE Assistant Director (Technical Services), Planning Department (Plan D)
Mrs. Belinda HUI Secretarial Press Officer, ETWB
Miss Petula POON Chief Executive Officer (E), ETWB
Ms. Cora SO Executive Officer (E), ETWB



In Attendance for Agenda Item 4

Ms. S C LAU Chief Town Planner, Plan D
Mr. David MORKEL Associate Director, Urbis Ltd.



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The Chairman welcomed Mrs. Rita Lau to the meeting and invited her to say a few words to Members. Mrs. Lau said that upon the implementation of the accountability system on 1 July 2002, environmental protection and nature conservation were put under the portfolio of the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau. She was pleased to have the opportunity to work with the Council and looked forward to exchanging views and ideas with Members in the days ahead.

2. The Chairman and Members congratulated Prof. Lam Kin-che and Ms. Iris Tam for being appointed by the Chief Executive as Justice of the Peace with effect from 1 July 2002.

Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 97th Meeting held on 17 June 2002

3. A Member pointed out that the words "50 mg/L" in line 3 of paragraph 45 of the draft minutes should be amended to "5 mg/L". The draft minutes were confirmed subject to that Member's proposed amendment.

 

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Paragraph 11: Meeting with stakeholders

4. A Member referred to paragraph 11 of the minutes regarding the Green Lantau Association's comments on the Tung Chung Road project, and queried whether the Council or the EIA Subcommittee had any guidelines on meeting major stakeholders who had grave concerns about a particular designated project when examining the EIA report. In response, the Chairman said that the Council or the Subcommittee was not an appropriate forum to hear petitions or complaints from the public though Members might take into account public concerns when examining the EIA report. However, he had no objection to the Subcommittee holding further discussion on the need for such meetings. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman indicated that he was open to Subcommittee Members' views on that issue and welcomed discussing it at a future Subcommittee meeting.

Paragraph 65: Chemical Waste Treatment Centre

5. A Member referred to paragraph 65 of the minutes relating to the 30 tonnes of chemical waste which were generated in Shanghai and was treated by the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre (CWTC). She asked about the legal safeguard that could ensure environmental safety for accommodating such requests from places outside Hong Kong. Mrs. Lau said that as recorded in the minutes of the last meeting, treatment of the waste in question should fully comply with the procedures and requirements set out in the Waste Disposal Ordinance. Furthermore, according to the Ordinance any import/export of waste had to be subjected to the approval of the relevant authority. Mr. Mike Stokoe confirmed Mrs. Lau's observations and added that EPD, being the authority to enforce the Waste Disposal Ordinance, would consider carefully every application for a permit to import waste. In the case of the 30 tonnes of waste from Shanghai, the authority was satisfied that it was bona fide waste and that the waste generator had made every effort to reduce the toxicity and quantity of the waste before requesting for treatment in Hong Kong.

6. In response to that Member's follow-up question, the Chairman said that marine pollution waste was generated from foreign ships passing by Hong Kong. Such kind of waste was governed by a different set of regulations.

7. The Chairman opined that CWTC should only be used for waste generated locally because it was funded by public money. In response, Mr. Stokoe clarified that for parties outside Hong Kong that made use of the service of CWTC, the charges would achieve full recovery of the variable operating cost and the income received would go to the General Revenue.

Paragraph 50: Environmental and Engineering Feasibility Study for the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme - Proposed Water Quality Criteria

8. The Chairman informed the meeting that the background papers on the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme had been passed to that Member for reference upon his enquiry on the subject.

Visit to Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works (SISTW)

9. The Chairman reported that on 23 July 2002 two Members and he visited the SISTW at which three consultants were undertaking trials for compact sewage treatment technology for the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS). On the whole, the progress had been satisfactory so far. The group was pleased that the comments raised previously by the Council had been taken on board during the trials. At the moment, the consultants were waiting to obtain data under colder weather conditions to complete the trials.

10. A Member asked why data in cold season would be a better indicator of the effectiveness of the process as water quality in warm season should be worse. In response, the Chairman explained that microbiological activities would be at a slower rate in cold weather, therefore affecting the efficiency of the treatment process. Mr. Stokoe supplemented that it was encouraging that data collected by the consultants had shown that the results were satisfactory in a warm season because the BAF process had mostly been adopted by plants located in temperate climate zone overseas.

11. A Member expressed appreciation of the high degree of involvement of local companies in the technology trials for the HATS project and on the Administration's open mind to try out innovative technology.

Water Quality Objectives and Water Quality Criteria

12. As a related issue, a Member said that in view of the rising expectation of the community on better water quality in Hong Kong, the Water Quality Objectives (WQOs) established some 20 years ago should be reviewed. Concurring with that Member, another Member was concerned about whether the EIA Subcommittee should assess EIA report of future designated projects under HATS based on WQOs or the water quality criteria (WQC) established solely for HATS.

13. In response, Mr. Stokoe clarified that WQOs were not a suitable basis for comparing the performance of different sewage treatment plants because the discharges would affect different Water Control Zones (WCZs). Instead, the WQC that were established through consultation with professionals and academics were more suitable for that purpose.

14. A Member was concerned that whilst WQOs fell short of the community's expectation, some of the WQC were even less stringent than WQOs. Mr. Stokoe thanked Dr. Ng for his comments and agreed that he would relay them to the working group concerned.

15. Mr. Donald Tong said that the Bureau appreciated the suggestion of reviewing WQOs. However, since a review of the WQOs would affect many trades and different sectors of the community and would involve a legislative process, it was most unlikely that the review could be completed within the same timeframe of the trials and studies for the HATS. Nevertheless, the Bureau would see how such a review could be contemplated.

16. In response to the Chairman's enquiry about the timetable of the trials and studies for HATS, Mr. Tong confirmed that so far the work had been on schedule. The Bureau would continue to brief Members on the progress of trials and studies.

Agenda Item 3 : Report on 72nd meeting of the Environmental Impact Assessment Subcommittee
(ACE Paper 25/2002)

EIA Report on Yuen Long and Kam Tin Sewerage and Sewage Disposal Stage 1 - Packages 1A-1T and 1B-1T - Kam Tung Trunk Sewerage Phases I and II

17. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman reported that the Subcommittee, having considered the EIA report and available data, recommended the Council to endorse the EIA report with the conditions set out in paragraph 5 of the ACE Paper.

18. The Chairman asked whether the water quality of rivers and streams in northern New Territories would meet the standard after implementation of the project. In response, Mr. Stokoe said that although the water quality of many of the rivers and streams had been steadily improving, pollution from livestock farming remained a significant problem in some areas. He undertook to consider preparing a paper on the water quality of the rivers and streams and brief Members on the current status of the subject. Mr. Tong said to put things in perspective the water quality of rivers and streams had been substantially improved following reduction in the number of livestock farms and enhancement of enforcement actions. About 12 years ago, the effluent from livestock farms was equivalent to the waste generated by 1.5 million people whereas at present the figure was reduced to about 0.1 million.

(Post meeting note : An interim report on Marine and River Water Quality was issued by EPD in May 2002 which pointed out that the presence of livestock waste and unsewered villages still affected the river water quality in northern New Territories. EPD has reviewed the issue and advised that it would take time to collect data to produce another update and that the full report would be issued in December 2002. Members are therefore suggested to refer to that interim report for reference before the full report is ready.)






EIA Subcommittee
 

19. A Member noted in the latest Marine & River Water Quality Report that the water quality in northwest New Territories and Deep Bay area had deteriorated. She requested EPD to provide the reasons in the paper undertaken.

(Post meeting note : EPD's reply was sent to that Member on 6 August, copying to other Members.)

20. The Chairman proposed and Members agreed to endorse the EIA report with conditions as recommended by the Subcommittee.

EIA Report on Permanent Aviation Fuel Facility

21. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman reported the concerns and the discussion of the Subcommittee and its recommendation to endorse the EIA report with the conditions set out in paragraph 27 of the ACE Paper.

22. A Member drew the Council's attention to the selected routing of the submarine pipelines which would intrude upon a marine park in the region. He said that strictly speaking it did not comply with the precautionary principle of environmental impact assessment that avoidance should come before mitigation. However, since the selected option would cause less environmental impact compared with other alternative alignments, it was accepted on its own merits.

23. In response to the Chairman's enquiry, Mr. C C Lay confirmed that the Country and Marine Parks Board had approved the proposed project.

24. In response to a Member's enquiry on the first proposed condition, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that according to his understanding the project proponent would conduct pilot piling on the seabed when testing the bubble jacket.

25. Mr. T K Lee asked whether the Subcommittee was aware of and if so, had considered the public objections to the project especially those from the residents in Tuen Mun. In response, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that he was aware of the objections through the media after the Subcommittee meeting and had asked the project proponent through the Secretariat for a response. He pointed out that the Subcommittee had dealt with all major environmental issues of the project. Public concerns on the project were mainly about the location of the tank farm and its risk. Chapter 10 of the EIA report contained detailed assessments on the risk and hazards of the tank farm. The Subcommittee was satisfied that the risk was within acceptable level.

26. The Chairman asked how EPD would deal with the public objections. In reply, Mr. Stokoe said that most of the public comments received were about the discontent of having such kind of facility in their neighbourhood. EPD's remit was to ensure that the project with the implementation of the proposed mitigation measures would be environmentally acceptable and that the risk assessment could demonstrate that the siting of the facility to be within acceptable level.

Informal dialogue with Drainage Services Department (DSD)

27. A Member informed the meeting that the Subcommittee had an informal dialogue with the Drainage Services Department and discussed the proposed sewage treatment plant in Ngong Ping. Some of the comments raised during the meeting were that given the high water quality standard of the treated wastewater, the Administration should explore the potential of re-using it, for example, as flushing water in the area. The proposal might involve several government departments and it would be high time to plan for it before the development started.

28. Another Member shared that Member's views and, quoting a water park in the Mainland as an example, urged the Government to demonstrate its commitment to sustainable development by utilizing treated wastewater for useful purposes.

29. In response to that Member's suggestion, Mr. Stokoe said that EPD had already taken the initiative to look into the possibility and had started liaison with DSD and Water Services Department. He would convey the Council's enthusiasm on the idea to all parties concerned.

30. The Chairman proposed and Members agreed to endorse the EIA report with conditions as recommended by the Subcommittee.

Agenda Item 4: Landscape Value Mapping of Hong Kong - First Stage Consultation
(ACE Paper 26/2002)

31. The Chairman welcomed Ms. S C Lau and Mr. David Morkel to the meeting. Ms. Lau said that the Study was the first of its kind in Hong Kong. It aimed to produce a comprehensive landscape character map of the whole territory to facilitate landscape and broad environmental assessments of major projects at territorial level. Mr. Morkel then briefed Members on the details of the Study.

Additional natural or human features which contribute to the make-up or character of landscape

32. The Chairman suggested including prominent infrastructure projects such as Tsing Ma Bridge as a kind of landscape in Hong Kong. A Member suggested streams and waterfalls. Another Member and the Chairman asked whether old banyan trees and trees on stonewalls could be included. In response, Mr. Morkel said that the study undertaken at a territorial level could only include individual features forming visible masses which were sufficiently well known or recognized as having enhanced the sense of place/character. Small visible features like individual trees were generally beyond the remit of the Study.

Classification and landscape character types that adequately reflect the variety of landscapes in Hong Kong

33. The Chairman suggested adding Small Houses in the New Territory as a character feature.

Value and quality of landscape

34. A Member noted that value in terms of intrinsic value or attraction which in his view was subjective in nature would be assigned to different landscapes. He personally considered that the value of landscape could be measured in monetary terms, i.e. the extent that people were willing to pay to keep the landscape intact. In response, Mr. Morkel said that the scope of the Study was to adopt an aesthetic point of view. Assigning of monetary value was a controversial and problematic issue and was outside the scope of the Study. Ms. Lau said that landscape values measured this way would not reflect the objective value of landscape as the willingness to pay might be offset by other conflicting objectives and overriding consideration e.g. land cost. That was why a sustainability assessment system was needed to take into account different factors including the economic, social and environmental aspects of policies/proposals.

35. In response to the Chairman's question, Ms. Lau confirmed that the sustainability assessment system was in use by the Administration and the current Study was to provide landscape data to that system.

36. A Member noted that the Study would only be useful to assess landscape impact of major projects at territorial level whilst in reality many local minor projects often caused much adverse impact to landscape. In response, Mr. Morkel said that although the information would not be detailed enough for local projects' assessment, the data collected from the exercise would identify focus areas for more detailed examination, if necessary.

Landscape features/land uses that add to the quality of landscape

37. A Member agreed that distinguished structures like the Tsing Ma Bridge would add to the quality of landscape. Another Member said that the sound of waves and the colours of trees were good examples. A third Member added that well-designed architecture could also serve the same purpose. The Chairman said that night markets were another feature adding to the value.

Landscape features/land uses that particularly detract from the quality of landscape

38. A Member asked whether the consultant would identify major eyesores such as warehouses and parking lots in the New Territories as a reference for future landscape enhancement. He also asked whether the ridgeline and other artificial features, for instance, wastewater treatment plants, would be included in the Study and how the Study was related to the Hong Kong 2030 Study.

39. Mr. Morkel replied that the features mentioned by that Member would be included in the Study. Ms. Lau said that the data collected in the Study would be taken into account in the Strategic Environmental Assessment for the Hong Kong 2030 Study.

40. A Member said that tunnels and fresh markets could be added to the list. Another Member commented that noise barriers with inconsistent designs and colours on highways had a negative impact on landscape.

41. The Chairman was concerned about the criteria to be used in classifying which features were eyesores, as it would involve subjective judgement. A Member shared the Chairman's views and said that architects would not make numerical measurements when they evaluated the aesthetics aspect of buildings.

42. In response to the Chairman's query, Mr. Morkel said that their approach on evaluation was to make reference to overseas practices and to ensure that professional judgments were reasoned, consistent and transparent. The value assessment process and the marking scheme would be available for reference by public. Ms. Lau supplemented that although aesthetic values varied among individuals, the Administration aimed to develop a consensus through transparent and open consultations with stakeholders and representatives from various professional institutes concerned.

43. Noting the enhancement value of vegetation on concrete walls in Singapore, the Chairman asked whether Hong Kong could follow suit. In response, Ms. Lau said that they had recently promulgated greening guidelines in Chapter 4 of the Hong Kong Planning Standard and Guidelines to promote better greening of the cityscape.

Areas of Hong Kong that have particularly high landscape quality and areas that have particularly low landscape quality

44. A Member quoted the Wetland Park and Tin Shui Wai estates as an example with high and low landscape quality features in the same place. He asked how areas like those would be valued. In response, Mr. Morkel said that the evaluation system would take account of the effect of an adjacent landscape character area on the value of any given landscape character area.

45. A Member asked whether the results of the Study would provide guidelines for professionals to enhance landscape value. In response, Mr. Morkel said that the subject was beyond the remit of the Study but the Administration could make use of the data collected as a starting point for further programmes.

46. A Member commented that the colour and the printing of the consultation digest, in particular, the cover were unattractive in contrast with the emphasis on aesthetic value of landscape in the content. Mr. C C Lay offered to provide Plan D with high-quality scenic photographs if needed.

(Post-meeting notes: It has been revealed upon checking that the Committee had received colour photocopies of the Consultation Digest rather than original printed versions which were of a much higher quality. PlanD would ensure that the Committee received original copies in future and would like to thank AFCD for their kind offer of access to their photo library.)

47. A Member pointed out that one would require a vantage point to appreciate certain landscape features, for example, the Victoria Harbour and the Peak. The consultant should delineate certain areas where people could fully appreciate the value of those features. Mr. Morkel replied that existing prominent and well-known vantage points would be featured in the landscape character map.

48. The Chairman thanked Ms. Lau and Mr. Morkel for the presentation and looked forward to further progress of the Study. Ms. Lau and Mr. Morkel thanked Members for their comments.

Agenda Item 5 : Any Other Business

49. The Chairman informed the meeting that the date for Mr. Loh Ah Tuan to attend the meeting of the Council had yet to be fixed.

Agenda Item 6 : Date of Next Meeting

50. The next meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, 27 August 2002 at 2:30pm.

 

ACE Secretariat
June 2002

 


EPD
 


 

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