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Advisory Council on the Environment

Report on the 75th Environmental Impact Assessment Subcommittee Meeting

(ACE Paper 30/2002)
For advice

INTRODUCTION

At its meetings held on 4 November 2002, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Subcommittee considered the following reports -
 

  1. Construction Phase Environmental Monitoring and Audit (EM&A) Manual of the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line project; and
     
  2. Lok Ma Chau Station Habitat Creation and Management Plan.

In addition, the Subcommittee discussed the issues of informal dialogues with project proponents, the seeking of expert advice on EIA reports and meetings with stakeholders of designated projects. By circulation, Members also considered the EIA report on the Feasibility Study for Housing Development at Whitehead & Lee On in Ma On Shan, Shatin.

ADVICE SOUGHT

2. Members are requested to-
 

  1. note the views of the Subcommittee on the Construction Phase EM&A Manual and the Lok Ma Chau Station Habitat Creation and Management Plan;
     
  2. advise whether the EIA report on the Feasibility Study for Housing Development at Whitehead & Lee On in Ma On Shan, Shatin should be endorsed without conditions; and
     
  3. note the recommendations of the Subcommittee regarding informal dialogues with project proponents, the seeking of expert advice on EIA reports and meetings with stakeholders of designated projects.

VIEWS OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE

Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Construction Phase Environmental Monitoring and Audit Manual and Lok Ma Chau Station Habitat Creation and Management Plan

3. The Construction Phase Environmental Monitoring and Audit (EM&A) Manual outlines the monitoring and audit programme to be undertaken for the project during the construction phase. The Lok Ma Chau Station Habitat Creation and Management Plan (HCMP) covers the habitat creation and management plan for the initial enhancement area as required by the environmental permit. The part of the HCMP on the ecological compensation area which is also required by the environmental permit will be formulated and submitted by the project proponent at a later stage after the outcome of measures implemented in the initial enhancement area has been reviewed.

Views and recommendations of EIA Subcommittee

4. Members' discussion at the meeting focused on the Lok Ma Chau Station Habitat Creation and Management Plan. Their concerns mainly related to the baseline figure of large water birds in Lok Ma Chau area; the reason why there was no reference to the overall number of large water birds supported by the Deep Bay ecosystem; habitats for the Eurasian otters; the possibility of integrating the strip of wetland along Shenzhen River with the wetland to be managed by KCRC; liaison with neighbouring fish farmers; construction timetable and uploading of EM&A material on a dedicated website.

Baseline of the number of birds and the requirements of permit conditions

5. On the baseline of the number of large water birds, the project proponent team indicated that as discussed at previous meetings, they would adopt the number of large water birds spotted in the control fishponds at Pak Hok Chau and San Tin as the baseline. One of the objectives of the ecological compensation area (including the initial enhancement area) required under the permit conditions was that there should be no reduction in the number of large water birds using the project area in Lok Ma Chau. The proposed mitigation measure was to enhance the fishponds in the initial enhancement area at Lok Ma Chau so that the number of large water birds spotted there would be twice the number spotted in the control area per unit area of fishpond. A doubling of number was required as the initial enhancement area ponds must support both the average number of birds which would be present on a commercial fishpond plus those displaced from the Lok Ma Chau station construction site.

The overall number of large water birds in the ecosystem

6. On the reason why there was no reference to the carrying capacity and the overall number of large water birds in the whole ecosystem in the area, the project proponent team pointed out that it would be extremely difficult to measure the carrying capacity of the area in question. To measure the number of birds spotted was therefore accepted as an alternative as discussed at previous Subcommittee meetings. According to the permit conditions, the project proponent was required, among other things, to establish an initial enhancement area conforming to the criteria set out in the HCMP to ensure that there should be no reduction in the number of large water birds using the project area in Lok Ma Chau. The overall number of large water birds in the Deep Bay ecosystem was outside their remit but they would collect as much information about the bird species as possible and would carefully interpret the data so as to build up a comprehensive picture on how the ecosystem was functioning.

Habitats for the Eurasian otters

7. A Member noted that the Eurasian otters made use of the drainage channels to move along fishponds in the initial enhancement areas and fed in the commercial fishponds. He was concerned that there might be potential conflict between the needs of the target bird species and the Eurasian otters and that the habitat for the latter might be affected by future channeling work in the area. The project proponent team indicated that they would consider maximizing the habitat for the Eurasian otters by linking up some marshes in the area and improving the vegetation along the mud channels so as to provide better protection for the Eurasian otters during daytime. In addition, the Secretariat would find out from the Drainage Services Department whether there would be any future channeling work in the area.

Integration of the strip of wetland along Shenzhen River with the wetland to be managed by KCRC

8. On the possibility to integrate the strip of wetland along Shenzhen River now managed by Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) with the wetland to be managed by KCRC, the AFCD representative indicated that the Department would consider the feasibility of the proposal in terms of the approach and the methodology in managing those wetlands. The two parties would maintain a close liaison on the matter but it might not be appropriate to handover Government land to other non-governmental organizations for management purpose.

Commencement of construction work

9. On the commencement time of construction work at Lok Ma Chau, the project proponent indicated that the Lok Ma Chau Terminus construction contract had just been awarded. The contractor would need one to two months to do preparatory work. Serious construction work would start around January 2003.

Liaison with the neighbouring fish farmers

10. On liaison with neighbouring fish farmers, the project proponent indicated that they would notify the fish farmers about the start of construction works and monitor changes in the usage of the neighbouring fishponds but there was no need to liaise with the fish farmers as the enhancement work would not have a significant effect on them.

Uploading of EM&A materials on the website

11. The project proponent team confirmed that one of the permit conditions required them to upload EM&A materials on a dedicated website for public information. The project proponent had already set up a dedicated website for that purpose.

Conclusion

12. The Subcommittee noted the contents of the Lok Ma Chau Station HCMP.

EIA Report of the Feasibility Study for Housing Development at Whitehead & Lee On in Ma On Shan, Shatin
(ACE-EIA Paper 19/2002)

Need for the Study

13. The Study is to formulate a feasible option for the proposed housing and recreational development in the formed lands located in the Whitehead Peninsula, the proposed Ma On Shan Rail Wu Kai Sha Station (WKSS) site and the private lands (Lok Wo Sha) in between.

Description of the Study

14. The Study is a designated project under Item 1, Schedule 3 of the EIA Ordinance, i.e. engineering feasibility study of urban development projects with a study area covering more than 20 ha or involving a total population more than 100,000. The proposed development projects mainly include -
 

  1. residential developments in WKSS site, Lok Wo Sha site and Whitehead headland;
     
  2. 11 ha of recreational facilities such as water recreational centre; and
     
  3. district distributor collectively called Road D1.

Views and recommendations of the EIA Subcommittee

15. Having studied the EIA report and ACE-EIA Paper 19/2002, Members agreed to recommend the EIA report to the Council for endorsement without conditions and a presentation by the project proponent was not necessary.

Meetings with project proponents, experts and stakeholders

16. At the Council meeting held on 29 July 2002, a Member raised the point about meetings with stakeholders of major designated projects. It was agreed that the Subcommittee should consider the matter and report back to the Council.

17. At the 75th meeting held on 4 November 2002, the Subcommittee took the opportunity to revisit the following subjects-
 

  1. informal dialogue with project proponents;
     
  2. the seeking of expert advice on EIA reports; and
     
  3. meetings with stakeholders of designated projects.

The recommendations of the Subcommittee are set out in paragraphs below.

Informal dialogue with project proponents

18. The idea of holding informal dialogue with project proponents was arisen from the verdict of the EIA Appeal Board on the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line appeal case. It was pointed out that early dialogue between parties concerned could facilitate the EIA process because any concerns about the project could be dealt with at an early planning stage before the EIA report was completed.

19. At present, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman would decide whether to entertain a request from project proponent for an informal dialogue having regard to two guiding principles -
 

  1. the dialogue should be held in the early stage of the EIA process so that changes to the EIA could be made if necessary; and
     
  2. the project proponent seeks to exchange views with the Subcommittee on a specific issue.

The Subcommittee agreed after discussion that the present mechanism mentioned above should continue.

Seeking expert advice on EIA reports

 

20. In the past, the EIA Subcommittee had twice in the course of examining EIA reports sought expert advice on Chinese white dolphins and dragonflies which were respectively affected by the Aviation Fuel Receiving Facilities project and the proposed development in Sha Lo Tung. During the Subcommittee meeting on 4 November 2002, Members discussed whether experts with a preconceived position about a proposition should be invited to give advice. After much discussion, it was agreed that the mechanism of inviting experts to attend EIA Subcommittee meetings to give independent advice on specific topics in connection with EIA reports should continue. Any Member who saw the need to seek advice from certain experts could suggest to the Subcommittee Chairman who would consult all Members, if time would allow, before making a decision whether to invite the expert or not. The expert would then be invited to attend Subcommittee meetings to provide information and advice upon enquires instead of to make a presentation. If invitation was not favoured, individual Members could make separate arrangements for those who were interested to meet the expert informally outside the machinery of the Subcommittee.

Meeting with stakeholders of designated projects

21. The Subcommittee concluded after discussion that the Subcommittee would not hold meetings with stakeholders of designated projects on the following grounds-
 

  1. the role of the Council/Subcommittee was to advise Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) on EIA reports based on the knowledge and expertise of individual Members and from an environmental perspective;
     
  2. there was existing channel for stakeholders to submit comments on EIA reports to DEP during the public inspection period;
     
  3. stakeholders may have vested interests and objectives which may not necessarily be related to the environment and hence outside the purview of the Council/Subcommittee; and
     
  4. meetings with stakeholders would add further substantial workload to the existing heavy commitment of Subcommittee Members.

EIA Subcommittee Secretariat
November 2002

 

 

   

 

 

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