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Advisory Council on the Environment

Report of the 63rd and 64th Environmental Impact Assessment Subcommittee Meetings

(ACE Paper 44/2001)
For information

INTRODUCTION

At its meetings on 8 October and 5 November 2001, the Subcommittee discussed the following items -
 

      (a) Draft Guidance Notes under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Ordinance;
 
  (b) ACE-EIA Paper 14/2001 prepared by Environmental Protection Department (EPD) on Observations about the Statutory EIA Process arising from the Spur Line Case; and
 
  (c) ACE-EIA Paper 15/2001 on Improvement to Tung Chung Road between Lung Tseng Tau and Cheung Sha.

ADVICE SOUGHT

2. Members are requested to note this report.

VIEWS OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE

Draft Guidance Note on Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance

3. EPD in conjunction with Plan D and AFCD have prepared eight sets of Guidance Note on different topics related to the EIA process. The objective of the Guidance Note is to provide reference for project proponents and to list out good practices on environmental impact assessment. The Guideline Note is subject to revision without prior notice. For legal compliance with the EIA process, project proponents are advised to observe and follow the requirements in the EIA Ordinance and the Technical Memorandum.

Views and Recommendations of EIA Subcommittee

4. At the Subcommittee meetings, members' discussion focused mainly on the role of contractors in carrying out mitigation measures and the implementation schedule of mitigation measures; visual impact assessment especially that of noise barriers and cut slopes; the definition of "no net loss" principle; and the compilation of an ecological database.

Implementation schedule

5. The Subcommittee noted the important role of the contractors in implementing mitigation measures. Members agreed that the proposed implementation schedule on mitigation measures would facilitate contractors to have better understanding about the purpose of mitigation measures and enable them to identify alternatives if the original measures were not practicable.

Landscape and visual impact assessment

6. The Subcommittee noted the importance of landscape and visual impact assessment and was concerned about the impacts arising from noise barriers and slope works. Representatives of the Planning Department pointed out that a committee set up under the Highways Department was responsible for vetting the aesthetic design of highways structures including noise barriers. Members were also informed that relevant major works departments had their own landscape units to give advice on the quality of landscape works including treatment on slope for projects within their purview.

Definition of the "no net loss" principle

7. Individual members of the Subcommittee commented that paragraph 27 in GN 004/2001 regarding habitat compensation should be revised to give a clearer picture of the general policy for mitigating impacts on important habitats and wildlife as set out in the TM. The proposed wording in paragraph 27 was unsatisfactory in the sense that project proponents would not give priority to the "no net loss" and "like for like" principles. Instead they would focus on the carrying capacity and the ecological functions of the compensation area which are difficult to define. AFCD agreed to consider revising the wording of that paragraph.

Ecological database

8. On the subject of ecological database, AFCD representative pointed out that the database would not remove the need for ecological survey required under the TM. It would provide a starting point for project proponents to conduct the ecological survey. The database would adopt the habitat rather than the species approach and that AFCD would maintain and update the database for the reference of parties concerned. It was expected that a draft database would be available in end 2002.

The precautionary principle and cumulative impact

9. AFCD agreed to consider the Subcommittee's suggestion of drawing up a GN on cumulative impact and precautionary principle in ecological impact assessment.

Observations about the statutory EIA process arising from the Spur Line Case
(ACE-EIA Paper 14/2001)

10. Arising from the Judgment of the EIA Appeal Board on the two appeals of the Spur Line project, EPD had prepared a paper for the Subcommittee summarizing the key observations about the statutory EIA process and the possible implications for future operation of the EIA Ordinance.

Views and Recommendations of EIA Subcommittee

11. Members discussed the paper at great length. Their discussion focused mainly on how the Subcommittee could assist in improving the EIA process. Topics discussed included the logistics of meetings; the extension of the consultation period on project profile; informal dialogue between the Subcommittee and project proponents and the quality of EIA reports.

Logistics of meetings

12. The Subcommittee re-affirmed the need to have a quorum for meetings (i.e. half of the number of Subcommittee members) to ensure that the subject was thoroughly debated and considered before the Subcommittee agreed on a recommendation to the Council.

13. The Subcommittee also noted that the minutes of the meetings were taken seriously by the Appeal Board and confirmed that the current style of the minutes of the subcommittee were about right and that different views of individual members should be clearly recorded.

Project profile

14. On the feasibility of extending the 14-day consultation period for project profile, EPD pointed out that under the EIA Ordinance, DEP was required to respond to the project proponent within 45 days after receiving a project profile. During the 45-day period, EPD had to finish a series of actions, including the exhibition of the project profile, exchange of views with the relevant authorities, and drafting the study brief having regard to comments received on the project profile. Usually the study brief was finalized approaching the end of the 45 days. To extend the consultation period for project profile would cut short the time for drawing up the study brief. On the other hand, extension of the 45-day period might invite criticisms of delaying development projects.

15. The Subcommittee agreed that given the short consultation period, it was not necessary to provide DEP with a collective view of the Subcommittee on project profiles but it would be beneficial if the views of individual members could be circulated to other members for reference. The Subcommittee considered that the Authority should consider reviewing the 14-day consultation period on project profiles when suitable opportunity would arise.

Grounds for accepting or rejecting an EIA report

16. The Subcommittee agreed that the Subcommittee/Council's consideration of approving or rejecting an EIA report should be entirely on environmental grounds with reference to the EIAO and its TM.

Informal dialogue with project proponents

17. The Subcommittee agreed that informal dialogue with project proponents at an early stage would be useful. However, it was stressed that such informal dialogue should be on a voluntary and non-committal basis and that comments given at the meeting should not be taken as the overall indication of the Subcommittee in whatever circumstances. More specifically, there should be understanding that the comments of the Subcommittee should not pre-empt the Subcommittee's endorsement or rejection of the EIA report during the statutory EIA process. The Subcommittee also agreed that such informal dialogue should not be part of the normal Subcommittee meetings and that no record would be kept.

Quality of EIA reports

18. The Subcommittee was concerned about the quality of EIA reports but agreed that detailed examination of the quality of reports submitted was beyond its ability due to resource constraints. EPD pointed out that part of the problem related to the tendering mechanism in which a contract would usually be awarded to the consultant offering the lowest cost. Another problem was that the contract was usually priced on a lump sum basis which discouraged consultants to do additional work even when the need arose in the middle of the study. The Subcommittee considered that the issue should be brought to the attention of parties concerned.

Improvement to Tung Chung Road between Lung Tseng Tau and Cheung Sha
(ACE-EIA Paper 15/2001)

19. In November 2000, DEP confirmed that the EIA report of the proposed Landau North-South Link between Mui Wo and Tai Wan could not meet the requirements of the Technical Memorandum of the EIA Ordinance and the study brief. After reviewing all possible alternative solutions, the project proponent considered that improvement to Tung Chung Road would be the most promising solution. The consultant of the project has completed studying the possible options within a broad corridor along Tung Chung Road and has recommended a preferred alignment option.

Views and Recommendations of EIA Subcommittee

20. At the Subcommittee meetings, Members' discussion focused mainly on the design specifications of the project including vehicular speed; the suggestion to build a bigger road to cater for future economical development of South Lantau vis-a-vis the consideration to preserve the area according to the planned land use; the option of building a one-way tunnel while using the existing alignment as the other way; construction phase runoff and noise and landscape impact of the southern alignments.

Design specifications of the road

21. On the question of vehicular speed, the project proponent pointed out that the radii of curvature at the road bends could meet the design standard of 70 km per hour but the proposed speed limit for the road would be 50 km per hour because the maximum gradient of the road would be 15%. To use smaller radii of curvatures at the road bends would have no environmental advantages because the preferred alignment did not require any loop bends. The design had taken into account traffic assessments conducted by the consultant and that it could meet the traffic demand in 15 years. To meet traffic demand for 15 years was in line with the normal design practice for roads.

22. Individual Member considered that the road should be upgraded to allow a higher speed in view of the development of South Lantau into a tourist centre and the possible establishment of a link with Zhuhai either by land or by sea. It would not be cost-effective to expand the road after it has been built.

23. Other Members outlined the background of the project and stressed that the objective was to improve the safety of Tung Chung Road without creating adverse environmental impact on Tung Chung Stream and nearby areas. Furthermore, according to the South West New Territory Development Study, South Lantau was planned for recreation and conservation purposes. The improvement of Tung Chung Road should be planned in that context.

Alternative tunnel option

24. On the feasibility of building a one-way tunnel, the project proponent explained that the tunnel option would have serious impact on the ecology of the area during the construction stage be it a one-way tunnel or two-way tunnel. Also, the existing Tung Chung Road even used as a single road would remain a substandard road with steep gradient.

Construction phase runoff

25. On the prevention of construction phase runoff, the project proponent indicated that a drainage pipe would be installed in the construction area to collect and deliver the site runoff away from the Tung Chung Stream during the construction stage. The feature would be maintained to collect the road runoff after completion of the road so as to reduce pollution to the Tung Chung Stream.

Noise and visual impacts of the southern alignments

26. On comparing the southern alignments, i.e. S1 and S3, the project proponent pointed out that S1 had the least visual and noise impacts because the plantation woodland nearby would provide a screen off effect for the road. Also, the residential area in Cheung Sha Sheung Tsuen area was mainly along the South Lantau Road. The noise impact of S1 on those sensitive receivers would be less than that of S3 on Tong Fuk Village.

Conclusion

27. The Subcommittee concluded that whilst giving early comments on the project, the comments given at this stage should not pre-empt the future recommendation of the Subcommittee when the EIA report was submitted during the statutory EIA process.

EIA Subcommittee Secretariat
November 2001

 

 

 

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