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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 58th Meeting of the Environmental Impact Assessment Subcommittee of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 9 April 2001 at 4:00pm

Present:
Mr. Otto POON (Deputy Chairman)
Mr. Barrie COOK
Mr. Peter Y C LEE, SBSt.J
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Miss Alex YAU
Miss Petula POON (Secretary)

Absent with Apology:
Professor LAM Kin-che (Chairman)
Professor Anthony Hedley, BBS, JP
Dr. HO Kin-chung
Dr. NG Cho-nam
Mr. Plato YIP


In Attendance:
Mr Elvis AU Assistant Director (Environmental Assessment & Noise), Environmental Protection Department (EPD) (AD(EA)/EPD)
Mr. C C LAY Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) (AD(Cons)/AFCD)
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer (B), Environment and Food Bureau


In Attendance for Agenda Item 3:
Mr. Kelvin CHAN Atg. Chief Town Planner (Sub-Regional Planning), PlanD (Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD)
Mr. Andrew LAM City Planning Consultants Ltd (CPCL)
Mr. Mark HARRISON Murray Harrison Ltd (MHL)
Mr. C Y HUNG Binnie Black & Veatch HK Ltd (BBV1)
Mr. LOK Yan BBV2
Ms. Mary FELLEY BBV3
Mr. Marc SMITH-EVANS BBV4
Mr. James WORTHINGTON ACL Asia (ACLA)
Mr. Cary HO Senior Nature Conservation Officer (South), AFCD (SNCO(S)/AFCD)
Mr. Alan CHAN Senior Marine Conservation Officer (East), AFCD (SMCO(E)/AFCD)
Mr. Simon HUI Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Assessment & Audit), EPD (PEPO(AA)/EPD)
Mr. Richard LAI Senior Environmental Protection Officer (Assessment & Audit)3, EPD (SEPO(AA)3/EPD)

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Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of 57th Meeting held on 19 March 2001


The minutes were confirmed without amendments.


Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 27 & 53 : Copy of Guidance Notes

2. The draft Guidance Notes were tabled. The Chairman suggested Members provide written comments to the Secretariat and discuss at the next meeting.

Agenda Item 3 : Study on South East New Territories Development Strategy Review
(ACE-EIA Paper 2/2001)

3. The Deputy Chairman welcomed the presentation team led by Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD and thanked them for giving prompt replies to written questions raised by two Members before the meeting. Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD, CPCL and BBV2 then presented the background and findings of the Study to the Subcommittee.
[Those two Members' written comments and the Administration's responses are attached at Annex I and II to this minutes.]

4. A Member noted that the population in the Study area was not anticipated to increase significantly. However, since the area was proposed for recreation and conservation purposes, the number of visitors would likely increase. He asked whether the increase had been taken into account in the Study when assessing impacts on sewage treatment and traffic demand, etc.

5. In response, Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD said that the projections on overseas tourists provided by the then Hong Kong Tourist Association (renamed as the Hong Kong Tourism Board on 1 April 2001) had been incorporated into the Study. The relevant Departments had also provided statistics on the visitation to country parks, bathing beaches, etc. CPCL supplemented that of the present 5.5 million of visitors to Sai Kung in a year, about 5.4 million were local visitors. The number of visitors would increase to 6.8 million by 2016 even without the proposed developments in the Study. With the proposed developments, the number would increase to about 7.4 million by 2016. BBV1 said that the projected population and visitors had all been taken into account in the Study particularly with respect to sewage treatment implications. A Member suggested the proponent to include such information in future presentation on the Study.

6. The Deputy Chairman said that the Hong Kong Tourism Board was recently more aggressive in attracting more overseas visitors to Hong Kong and asked whether their strategy would alter the projections and thus the assessment of the Study. CPCL said that they had adopted the latest projection on tourists provided by the Hong Kong Tourism Board. The overseas tourists formed only a very small percentage of the total visitors to the Study Area.

7. A Member said that since it was difficult to have precise estimates on the increase of tourists, it was desirable for the proponent to conduct sensitivity analysis on the impacts to be caused by the visitors and the cost implications of revising the infrastructural plan to accommodate the increased man-flow. Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD said that different level of visitors had been examined when testing the low, medium and high-growth development scenarios during earlier stages of the Study. The high-growth development scenario was found to have unacceptable impacts on infrastructural and conservation grounds. Hence, the development proposals were subsequently fine-tuned to the one now presented to Members.

8. A Member observed that at present the Sai Kung area was already very congested even on weekdays. He pointed out that improving the access to the Study area would induce more traffic and he doubted how the adverse impacts on the environment could be avoided. He therefore suggested imposing restraints on access to minimize the impact. In response, Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD said that the Study recommended a series of traffic improvement measures, including the upgrading the Hiram's Highway between Marina Cove and Sai Kung Town, the implementation of the 'park and enjoy' concept, and the promotion of environmental friendly transport (EFT) in the area. Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD said that the traffic conditions of the area would be closely monitored and traffic management measures would be initiated if necessary.

9. A Member said that apparently the topography of the Study area did not support rail-based transport and it would be more sensible to consider clean-fuel transport as the major EFT strategy. CPCL agreed that rail-based transport was not viable in the area and they had recommended further studies on clean-fuel road-based transport. In the Study, they had recommended the usage of EFT in existing road corridor to tie in with the tourism/recreation theme. He said that the actual potential of adopting EFT modes would depend on discussion between the Transport Department and the operators concerned.

10. The Deputy Chairman said that the technology for clean-fuel vehicles using liquefied natural gas or compressed natural gas was available. The remaining question was the provision of infrastructure and identifying suitable operators to run the business.

11. A Member said that according to her understanding, the Sai Kung Peninsula (identified as "Area of Concern" in the Study) was excluded from the Planning and Development Study on North East New Territories (NENT Study) which was completed recently. She was concerned whether the conservation of the Sai Kung Peninsula would be dealt with in any other planning studies. Furthermore, that Member was concern about the implementation of the Study proposals to ensure that the sewerage capacity would not be exceeded upon full implementation of the Development Strategy.

12. In response to that Member' first question, Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD explained that the recent NENT Study focused on the developments of the strategic growth areas (SGAs) identified in the Territorial Development Strategy Review completed in 1998. As the Sai Kung Peninsula was not an area recommended for SGAs, it was not examined in the NENT Study. In fact, the planning framework for the area had already been set out in the NENT DSR completed in 1996. Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD said that detailed district plans, for example, Outline Zoning Plan (OZP), Outline Development Plan (ODP) or Layout Plan (LP) would be prepared to facilitate implementation of the Study proposals. Apart from that, the implementation of individual designated projects would be subject to the EIAO process whereas non-designated projects would be under normal Government scrutiny to assess their feasibility and acceptability. In reply to that Member's enquiry, Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD said that by "normal Government scrutiny", individual project proponents would submit their project feasibility proposals, including environmental assessments, where appropriate, to departments concerned for consideration.

13. As regards that Member's follow up question, Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD said that OZP was statutory and subject to public consultation. It also required endorsement by the Town Planning Board. As for ODP and LP, they were detailed development plans prepared on administrative basis. He supplemented that most part of the Study area was already covered by statutory plans and Country Park. The intention was to cover the remaining areas in Sai kung Town, the lower part of Clear Water Bay and small pockets in the Country Park with statutory plans in the future. That Member asked whether detailed EIA would be carried out when drawing up those statutory plans. Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD replied that it would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

14. That Member said that there were many uncertainties about the implementation of the proposals recommended in the Study because some individual projects were exempted from the EIAO and the public as well as the ACE would not be consulted. The Deputy Chairman and another Member shared that Member's concern and were particularly worried about development of village houses in the Study area.

15. In response to Members' concerns on village expansion, Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD said that OZPs were prepared to control the extent of village developments, the one for Tai Long Wan was an example. As regards EIAO exempted projects, environmental assessments of those projects would be undertaken upon advice of concerned Departments. An example was the Hiram's Highway on which an EIA would be conducted even though it was not a designated project under the EIAO. CPCL said that they recommended extending statutory protection to cover the whole Study area. He shared Members' concern over the development of village houses and admitted that on one hand village houses should be subject to some form of control whereas on the other hand the rights of the villagers should be respected. He considered that in the long run, a means must be identified to strike a balance between environment protection and the development pattern of villages. However, he reckoned that it would not be easy as the process would touch upon a number of government policies and the Basic Law.

16. A Member asked whether there was a schedule for the statutory plans to cover the whole Study area, and queried the Study proposals on marine conservation matters. Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD said that it was an on-going effort to cover the whole territory by statutory plans but a definite completion time was subject to development priority and resources availability. On the question of marine conservation, BBV4 said that there were four main marine conservation proposals :

  1. since trawling would cause significant impact to the marine fishery resources, AFCD had proposed (independent of the Study) designating the Port Shelter and the Rocky Harbour as Fisheries Protection Areas (FPAs) where trawling would be prohibited. Furthermore, artificial reefs would be deployed in the south-west corner of the Study area for fisheries enhancement and further fishing restrictions would be imposed in that corner;
  2. AFCD had also taken the initiative to identify the area around Shelter Island as a potential area for designation as Marine Park but it was classified as a low-priority project;
  3. in the Study they had identified areas of conservation value in the eastern coast of inner Port Shelter, Rocky Harbour, Long Ke Wan and Tai Long Wan and designated them as "Marine Conservation Areas"; and
  4. the Study had also identified three coral areas (namely Long Ke Wan, Sharp island and Bluff Island) to be protected from anchor damage.


17. Following BBV4's statements, SMCO(E)/AFCD confirmed that the Port Shelter and the Tolo Harbour were proposed for designation as FPAs as part of the territory-wide fisheries management strategy recommended in the Fisheries Resources and Fisheries Operation Consultancy Study completed in 1998. The purpose was to protect the vital in-shore spawning and nursery grounds of the areas. At the moment, AFCD was in the course of amending the Fisheries Protection Ordinance to effect the designation. It was proposed that trawling would be prohibited within FPAs and other fishing activities would be controlled through a fishing license system. In addition, artificial reefs would be deployed in those areas which would be designated as "no-take" zones. The gazettal in question was made last year and the Administration was resolving some outstanding disputes. Regarding the proposed Marine Park in Port Shelter, AFCD commissioned a study in 1998 to investigate the suitability of designating the Shelter Island area as a Marine Park. The conclusion of the study was that the area had potential to be developed into a Marine Park given the rich marine resources along the natural coastline and spawning and nursery habitats. There was also presence of rare species of sea-grass and scattered but diverse coral sites. In 1999, the Country & Marine Parks Board in principle endorsed the recommendations of the study but accorded a low-priority for implementation. Furthermore, AFCD had submitted proposals to the Marine Department to install coral marker buoys in one of the areas at Bluff Island for protection against anchorage.

18. A Member queried whether the Government had identified the fish species in the proposed FPAs to be prohibited from trawling. Personally he did not think that trawling activities in that comparably small area would affect marine resources in the whole South China region. He rather suggested setting a quota to limit the quantity of fishes to be caught in a year.

19. SMCO(E)/AFCD said that the species identified in the proposed FPAs were specified in the report of the consultancy study. The proposed FPAs were important spawning and nursery grounds for commercial fisheries resources. They proposed to ban trawling in those areas because trawling was a non-selective catching method which would jeopardize all juvenile fishes in the spawning and nursery grounds. Besides, most of the trawlers were large vessels capable of operating outside Hong Kong and in deeper and offshore areas. The proposed FPAs were in shallow water close to shore and represented a small area of the potential fishing grounds for trawlers. Therefore, banning trawling at the proposed FPAs would not cause significant impact to the fishing industry. In the absence of a licensing system for fishing activities, Mr. Chan said that quota was at present not an appropriate tool in Hong Kong to control catches.

20. A Member suggested the Government consider other means like controlling mesh size to protect juvenile fishes. The Deputy Chairman asked the proponent to take note of Mr. Lee's suggestion.

21. The Deputy Chairman emphasized that though the Study was not a designated project under the EIAO, comments made by the Subcommittee would not pre-empt any future EIAO process of individual projects covered by the Study. All reasonable and practicable alternatives should be assessed and presented in the EIA reports of the projects.

22. Atg. CTP(SR)/PlanD said that extra effort had been made in conducting the subject comprehensive environment, landscape and conservation assessment for the sub-regional planning study. He hoped that this would help in shaping the final planning framework. The Deputy Chairman said that this kind of assessment and consultation should be encouraged because it could avoid duplication of work at the final stages.

Agenda Item 4 : Monthly Update of Applications under the EIA Ordinance

23. AD(EA)/EPD confirmed that there were no submissions scheduled for May.

Agenda Item 5 : Any Other Business

24. A Member recalled that a consultancy study on waste-to-energy incineration was carried out a few years ago and wondered what the findings were. AD(EA)/EPD said that the Administration had been considering the results of that study together with other alternatives for avoidance, minimization and disposal of waste.

Agenda Item 6 : Date of Next Meeting

25. Subject to the availability of submission, the next meeting would be held on 7 May 2001.

EIA Subcommittee Secretariat
April 2001

 

 

Annex I

Study on South East New Territories Development Strategy Review
Questions raised by EIA Subcommittee Members

Q.1  

Many of the development proposals within the Study will require EIAs. What if an EIA subsequently find that a certain proposal is environmentally unacceptable? Can such a project be cancelled? Otherwise the proponent could argue that the project is already planned and simply take compensatory measures to mitigate the impacts. In fact this has been the case for a number of previous EIA projects. Therefore, from my understanding proposals in this Study are not finalised until all of the relevant EIAs are passed.

 

A.1  

The main purpose of this Study is to formulate an up-to-date development strategy for the South East New Territories to guide long-term development of the sub-region. The Study has included broad technical assessments to ascertain the overall acceptability of the strategy. Upon endorsement of the strategy, district plans would be prepared to provide more detailed planning framework to facilitate implementation of relevant proposals. As for specific projects, it would require further investigations and impact assessments by the respective proponent to ascertain project feasibility before proceeding to implementation. Therefore the broad land use proposals in the development strategy cannot be taken as planned projects to avoid scrutiny on the feasibility and environmental aspects.

 

Q.2  

An example of the above point is the proposal for widening of Hiram's Highway, which is subject to a detailed landscape and visual impact assessment.

 

A.2

 

This Study has identified the need to improve the capacity of the section of Hiram's Highway between Ho Chung and Sai Kung Town. It has also recommended further assessments (including EIA) be undertaken to examine the proposal, with environmental sustainability being a major consideration when formulating the options for improving Hiram's Highway.

 

Q.3  

In dealing with the problem of additional traffic in the area, it is suggested that certain roads be open only to public transportation during holidays.

 

A.3

 

Apart from the traffic and transport proposals recommended in the draft strategy, this Study reckons that improvement to the transport capacity is not an ultimate solution to address growing traffic demand of the Study Area. It has recommended close monitoring of the traffic pattern in the area and to instigate further study to recommend the appropriate traffic management measures for the area.

 

Q.4  

Waste arisings will definitely increase with development of the area. How will future waste arisings be handled? Which refuse transfer station will be used? Or if waste is directly delivered to the SENT Landfill, what is the transportation arrangement?

 

A.4  

Most of the waste arisings will be domestic wastes. They will be collected from refuse collection points and then transported directly to the nearby SENT Landfill for disposal. Since the developments in Sai Kung are rather dispersed and of low density, a refuse collection system with transfer stations was not examined in this Study.

 

Q.5  

As the Study Area is planned to be developed for tourism and recreational purposes, why are there so many housing development proposals, particularly when these developments will have adverse construction and operational impacts? With the associated population increase, nature conservation of the Sai Kung Peninsula will be further threatened.

 

A.5  

The Study has recommended the planning vision of enhancing the Study Area into the Leisure Garden of Hong Kong. To this end, the Study has recommended to maintain the currently planned level of residential development, with limited addition (amounting to around 6,600 people) to facilitate rural upgrading as well as the restructuring of the Sai Kung Industrial Area. To enhance nature conservation, the Study has designated the Country and Marine Parks and other areas of ecological interest as "no-go areas" and has recommended a number of conservation actions such as the extension of the Ma On Shan Country Park to cover the Ho Chung Valley woodlands. It also recommends statutory planning and other types of impact mitigation to give due respect to the important terrestrial ecological resources identified in the Study, while designated projects should be subject to the EIA process.

 

Q.6  

The total inorganic nitrogen content in the Port Shelter area will tend to approach the WQOs limit. How will this problem be solved?

 

A.6  

The Phase 2 upgrading of Sai Kung Sewage Treatment Works will include upgrading of treatment level with a view to keeping the total inorganic nitrogen content within the limit. With the upgrading, the treatment works would be able to sustain the 2016 development for SENT. Further development beyond 2016 will be constrained by the total inorganic nitrogen content, subject to the results of the monitoring of the water quality in Port Shelter that has been proposed.

 

Q.7  

The increased water-based transport will have impact on coral resources in the marine environment.

 

A.7  

Coral communities are mostly found in shallow areas (<10m) adjacent to the coastline. For the conservation of coral resources and marine habitat, the present Study recommends the delineation of the coastal area of High Island and its neighbouring islands, which include most areas of coral growth, as a potential Marine Conservation Area. Within the Marine Conservation Area, three non-anchorage points (namely north shore of Bluff Island, Long Kei Wan and west shore of Sharp Island) are proposed to avoid coral damage. Subject to the effectiveness of the above, more non-anchorage points may be designated upon further study. With the above measures, water transport should not have undue impact on the coral resources.

 

Q.8  

Up to now are there any solid plans or mechanisms to preserve the Tai Long Wan agricultural lands in resisting the encroaching development pressures (Paragraph 3.3.26, Vol. II)?

 

A.8  

The current Tai Long Wan Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) has already provided the planning mechanism for development control in the area. Apart from the area set aside for village development to meet small house demand, most of the agricultural land in the area are protected by the "Conservation Area" zoning. Arising from the gazetting of the OZP in early 2000, objections have been received including requests for village developments and those for nature conservation. These objections are being processed by the Town Planning Board and would be submitted together with the OZP to the ExCo for consideration in due course.

 

Q.9  

It is good to include a bicycle track along Hiram's Highway, but has the buffer planting as proposed along the sides of the Highway taken account of mitigating the possible roadside air pollution impact to cyclists (Paragraph 3.5.14, Vol. II)?

 

A.9  

According to our broadbrush assessment, predicted pollutant concentrations on the sensitive receivers along Hiram's Highway are within the Air Quality Objectives (including a receiver with buffer distance of 4m). Thus it is expected that the proposed bicycle track along Hiram's Highway should not be subject to adverse air quality impact. Nevertheless to further ensure the air quality along the bicycle track, mitigation measures like buffer planting should be considered in the project design stage.

 

Q.10  

For the private historical buildings, is it possible to ensure that their re-development will be compatible with the educational and tourism purposes of the Study Area (Paragraph 3.6.20, Vol. II)?

 

A.10  

There is currently no statutory control over the re-development of private historical buildings, unless they are declared monuments or deemed monuments. Under such a context the Study recommends an administrative approach whereby a government or quasi-government agent may take the lead to explore the possibility of redeveloping/converting targeted private historical buildings into viable uses e.g. holiday inns, and to co-ordinate the private owners for its implementation and promotion.

 


 

ANNEX II

Study Area

Q.1  

The northermost portion of the Sai Kung Peninsula has been identified as an Area of Concern, since it was excluded from both the SENT and NENT study areas (1.2.2, Appendix B). This Area of Concern nonetheless appears to have been taken into account under the subject study (2.1.5, Vol. I), although no detailed recommendations are contained in the Revised Preliminary Land Use Framework (at Figure 1.2). Sites identified with the potential or need for conservation action would include: Ma On Shan, Mau Ping San Uk fung shui woods, Wong Chuk Yeung, Yung Shue O mangrove and marshes, Cheung Shueng marsh and pond, Tai Tan mangrove, and To Kwa Peng mangrove. I should appreciate it if the proponent would explain how and when these recommended conservation actions, such as land use zoning, SSSI designation and extension of Country Parks would be implemented.

 

A.1  

- The northern portion of Sai Kung Peninsula is in fact covered by the North East New Territories Development Strategy endorsed in 1996. The Strategy has recommended conservation as the planning theme for the area, with "Country Park" and "Countryside Conservation Areas". The area is termed the Area of Concern in the present Study, which has proposed to maintain the current conservation planning theme.

- While the Area is outside the study boundary, it has been taken into account in the baseline review, and its potential conservation value is identified. Taking these findings into consideration as well as its close proximity to North East Sai Kung, the Study recommends conservation actions be further considered and undertaken where appropriate, with the identified natural resources as a basis.

- Nevertheless as the Area of Concern is outside the Study Area, the present Study has not proposed specific conservation actions, which is subject to further study.

 

   

POPULATION FORECAST

 

Q.2  

Would the proponent please confirm the total population for the sub-region (excluding Tseung Kwan O) upon full implementation of the Study will be 103,000 (1.4.7, Vol. I), and not 125,000 (as indicated in the Stage 3 Consultation Digest)?

 

A.2  

This Study has estimated the total population in the SENT sub-region (excluding Tseung Kwan O) could reach 103,000 by 2016 and to 125,000 upon full implementation of the Strategy. These estimates provide the relevant input to the various technical investigations, particular on the transport and utility aspects, in assessing the overall sustainability. The actual population growth would require continuous monitoring.

 

Q.3  

Even so, I remain concerned about the adverse impacts of this planned large increase in population (of about 60% from existing population of 66,000) in the sub-region. Since the SENT sub-region is characterised by extensive ecological important areas, and sensitive and interconnected natural habitats, large increase in population that results in increase in sewage discharge, environmental disturbance and land use demand, may create excessive environmental pressure on the area. It is thus recommended that the population increase in the area be further reduced.

 

A.3  

- The conservation value of the SENT sub-region is duly recognised in the Study, which has actually recommended the planning vision of enhancing the area as the Leisure Garden of Hong Kong. To this end, the Study has recommended to maintain the currently planned level of residential development [which amounts to 118,000 population], with limited addition (amounting to around 6,600 people) to facilitate rural upgrading as well as the restructuring of the Sai Kung Industrial Area.

- Broad technical assessments have been undertaken to ascertain the overall acceptability of the strategy, including its environmental and sewerage aspects. To enhance nature conservation, the Study has designated the Country and Marine Parks and other areas of ecological interest as "no-go areas" and has recommended a number of conservation actions such as the extension of the Ma On Shan Country Park to cover the Ho Chung Valley woodlands.

- Taking into consideration the need for rural upgrading/restructuring as well as natural population growth in the Area, further reduction of population increase is not recommended.

 

WATER QUALITY IMPACT ASSESSMENT
Q.4  

Such reduction in population forecast should also help prevent further deterioration of marine water quality in the area, which already has high total inorganic nitrogen (TIN) that has 'not much room for additional loading of TIN' (3.7.19, Vol. I), and 'non-compliance with the WQOs in particular the dissolved oxygen' (3.4.4, Vol. I). In this connection I would suggest consideration be given to upgrading the sewage treatment level of the Sai Kung Sewage Treatment Works to effect nitrogen stripping.

 

A.4  

The Phase 2 upgrading of Sai Kung Sewage Treatment Works will include upgrading of treatment level with a view to keeping the total inorganic nitrogen content within the limit. With the upgrading, the treatment works would be able to sustain the 2016 development for SENT. Further development beyond 2016 will be constrained by the total inorganic nitrogen content, subject to the results of the monitoring of the water quality in Port Shelter that has been proposed. The actual population growth in the Study Area should also be closely monitored to provide input to the further assessments on the water quality and treatment facilities.

 

Q.5  

In addition, relocating sparsely populated villages, such as Pak Lap, Long Ke Wan, Tai Long Wan, Kau Sai Chau and Kiu Tsui Chau, to town fringe areas where connection to trunk sewers are possible, should be explored. This should prove preferable to relying on local solutions (package sewage treatment plants or communal septic tanks).

 

A.5  

The Study recognises that most of the remote villages in SENT is relying on individual septic tanks. To improve the situation, it is proposed to provide package sewage treatment plants or communal septic tanks. As for village relocation, it would need to be assessed from the perspective of the current small house policy as it would have territory-wide implications. In the case of SENT (excluding Tseung Kwan O), it is further constrained by the shortage of available government land as the relocation sites. Under such constraints, the provision of package sewage treatment plants or communal septic tanks is considered an acceptable solution and is an improvement to the existing arrangement.

 

TERRESTRIAL ECOLOGY ASSESSMENT
Ho Chung
Q.6  

The proposed designation and extension of Country Parks at Tung Lung Chau (Corlett & Ng, 2001) and upper Ho Chung valley are welcomed. I am however concerned that the proposed extension of Ma On Shan Country Park to cover woodlands at Ho Chung will be undermined by 'more extensive recreation uses in lower Ho Chung Valley'. The recreational use could incur loss or degradation of wet agricultural land, woodland and stream habitats, alteration of local hydrological systems, pollution of local waterbodies and disturbance to nearby impacts' (2.5.12, Vol. I).

 

A.6  

- The Study recommends to extend Ma On Shan Country Park to enhance protection to the relatively continuous woodlands in upper Ho Chung valley. As the woodland is away from lower valley, it is not envisaged to be unduly affected by development in the latter.

- As for the potential impacts of the proposed recreational uses in lower valley, the Study has highlighted the ecological resources warrant special consideration. These aspects should be fully examined when assessing possible recreation uses in the area in the further planning studies and revision to the current district plans.

 

Ng Fai Tin
Q.7  

Similarly agricultural lands at Ng Fai Tin are found to be worthy of conservation (3.10.8, Vol. II), and yet the area is zoned for "Low Density Housing & Village" use in the Revised Preliminary Land Use Framework at Figure 1.2. Table 2.1 (Vol. I) recommends provision of statutory planning control and establishment of "Conservation Area" (CA) zoning to the agricultural lands at Ng Fai Tin. Elsewhere in the Assessment Report however it states that 'since CA zoning allows draining of wetlands, it may not be the best approach to conserving the areas of interest [at Ng Fai Tin]' (3.10.8, Vol. II). Would the proponent please advise how conservation value of agricultural lands at Ng Fai Tin would be maintained.

 

A.7  

- The small-scale plans in the Consultation Digest set out only broad land use proposals to invite comments. These proposals would be refined in the larger-scale plan to guide future developments. For Ng Fai Tin, apart from the existing developed area, the Strategy has incorporated a recognised village development area and the rest would be preserved for landscape conservation.

- To resolve the potential conflict between the identified agricultural land and village development, the Study recommends that future detailed planning to give due respect to the ecological resources identified. In the long term, a more proactive approach would need to be identified.

 

Tai Long Wan
Q.8  

The potential impacts arising from the proposed education and research facilities at Tai Long Wan (2.5.23, Vol. I) is also of great concern. In particular the education and research centre would likely be exempted from the provisions of the EIA Ordinance. Appendix G (Vol. I) notes that the centre may require an EIA 'if it lies partly or wholly within Country Park or SSSI'. However Tai Long Wan is one of 'the largest Country Park outpocket' (4.4.2.1, Vol. I), and the SSSI there is only 2.3 ha in area (3.3.10, Vol. II).

 

A.8  

- The proposed education and research centre at Tai Long Wan is intended to provide educational facilities and enhance public understanding of nature conservation, and Tai Long Wan is considered an appropriate location due to its ecological value.

- To resolve the potential conflict with the natural setting, the Study recommends the centre to be of small scale, to be sited with due regard to the ecological resources in the area and to incorporate the necessary mitigation measures where appropriate.

 

Q.9  

Further the ACE-EIA Paper mentions 'proposed residential development at Tai Long' (paragraph 6), the impacts of which however have not been assessed.

 

A.9  

The residential development in Tai Long is in fact referring to the village type development. Impacts of such developments are assessed in para. 2.5.18 of Vol. I of the Working Paper. Basically these impacts include potential degradation/disturbance of habitats and pollution of waterbodies. Careful detailed planning and design with due regard to ecological resources of the place is recommended (Further elaboration of the recommended mitigation measures are discussed in section 2.6 of Vol. I of the Working Paper).

 

Q.10  

Tai Long Wan has very high ecological and scenic value (3.3.11, Vol. II) which would not be compatible with even a small-scale development. I would further suggest that village development be limited and in the long run, village housing be relocated to other areas which are less sensitive to development pressure, so that the "Village Type Development" zoning on the Tai Long Wan OZP (S/SK-TLW/1) could be completely removed.

 

A.10  

The ecological and scenic value of Tai Long Wan is recognised in the Study, which has identified the area for conservation (Landscape and Conservation Framework of the Public Consultation Digest refers). As for the potential developments in the area, they are being controlled by the current Tai Long Wan Outline Zoning Plan (OZP). Arising from the gazetting of the OZP in early 2000, objections have been received including requests for village developments and those for nature conservation. These objections are being processed by the Town Planning Board and would be submitted together with the OZP to the ExCo for consideration in due course.

 

Kau Sai Chau
Q.11  

An EIA is currently underway for the proposed extension of the golf course on Kau Sai Chau (ESB-064/2000). It should therefore be made abundantly clear, especially to the project proponent of the golf course, that review of this SENT DSR environmental assessment shall not in any way pre-empt the statutory process under the EIAO for the golf course extension.

 

A.11  

The main purpose of this Study is to formulate an up-to-date development strategy for the South East New Territories to guide long-term development of the sub-region. The Study has included broad technical assessments to ascertain the overall acceptability of the strategy. As for specific projects (including the Kau Sai Chau golf course), it would require further investigations and impact assessments by the respective proponent to ascertain project feasibility before proceeding to implementation. Therefore the broad land use proposals and their environmental assessments in the development strategy cannot be taken to avoid the statutory process under the EIAO.

 

Cumulative Impacts
Q.12  

The Study identifies highly significant impacts at the SAR level from loss or degradation of streams and agricultural wetlands, and moderately significant impacts at the SAR level from hillfire, and loss or degradation of fung shui woodland and coastal habitats (2.8.8-2.8.13, Vol. I). It further notes that 'co-ordination of an approach to such [cumulative] impacts will require support from the highest levels in Government' (2.8.7, Vol. I). Please would the proponent explain how the cumulative impacts identified would be addressed.

 

A.12  

To avoid/mitigate the potential ecological impacts, the Study recommends local planning and other existing mechanisms of impact mitigation to give due respect to the important terrestrial ecological resources identified. Statutory plans are recommended to extend to the entire Study Area, with ecological study suitably conducted. Designated projects should also be subject to the EIA process. In the long term an integrated management approach can be further explored in the Government to bring the resources of different departments together and to enhance their co-ordination.

 

MARINE ECOLOGY ASSESSMENT
Potential Marine Parks

Q.13  

The planned non-anchoring areas at coastal waters off Long Ke Wan, Sharp Island West and Bluff Island North (Figure 1.2), presumably for coral protection, are supported. Deployment of coral marker buoys should prove more effective in safeguarding the corals from anchor damage (OUCH 2000). In addition, Long Ke Wan, Nine Pin Islands, and much waters in Port Shelter (especially around Sharp Island and Bluff Island) consist of corals of high ecological value (AFCD 2001; McCorry 2001). It is therefore suggested that these areas be identified as Potential Marine Parks.

 

A.13  

- Coral communities are mostly found in shallow areas (<10m) adjacent to the coastline. For the conservation of coral resources and marine habitat, the present Study recommends the delineation of the coastal area of High Island and its neighbouring islands, which include most areas of coral growth, as a Marine Conservation Area. Within the Marine Conservation Area, three non-anchorage points (namely north shore of Bluff Island, Long Kei Wan and west shore of Sharp Island) are proposed to avoid coral damage. Subject to the effectiveness of the above, more non-anchorage points may be designated upon further study.

- In addition the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has identified a potential Marine Park around Shelter Island and it also has plans to designate the whole of Port Shelter as a Fisheries Protection Area, where there would be a ban on trawling and other restrictions on fishing coupled with a programme of artificial reef deployment.

- It is envisaged that the above measures together will have significant beneficial effects on the marine environment, comparable at least to the designation of an enlarged marine park. As for the protection of corals, a number of ways can be explored, and it is agreed that the deployment of marker buoys is one of the methods.

 

Q.14  

In this connection, the "Tourist Attraction Node" and the "Water Sports Centre/Base" proposed for Sharp Island West should be removed. Sharp Island West has high coral cover and species richness (McCorry 2001) which would be adversely impacted by the construction and operation of the proposed developments (3.12.24, Vol. II). The removal of these planned nodes is especially important as the proposed developments are likely not subject to the EIA Ordinance (Appendix G).

 

A.14  

The Study recognises the value of the coral cover along the west coast of Sharp Island and for that reason has recommended a non-anchoring point there to protect the corals. Regarding the proposed Tourist Attraction Node and Water Sports Centre/Base, we would like to note that Sharp Island West has been developed as a resort before and various parts of it are also occupied by built structures which are mostly dilapidated at present. While some water recreation activities may not be suitable to the area, others are much compatible with it e.g. swimming, scupper diving and small boats sailing. The construction and operation of the proposed development should be subject to further feasibility study and assessments (including environmental assessment) at detailed design stage, though whether it will be subject to the EIAO shall be determined at the project design stage.

 

Q.15  

Whilst supporting in principle the Potential Marine Park at Shelter Island, it is not clear on what scientific basis the proposed designation is recommended. Moreover the (statutory) protection afforded by the Marine Conservation Area status is also unclear. Please would the proponent explain the use of this novel land use?

 

A.15  

The scientific basis of the Potential Marine Park at Shelter Island is detailed in a feasibility study carried out by Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. As for the Marine Conservation Area, it is intended to highlight the conservation value (especially for corals) of the area, where non-anchorage points are proposed. The Marine Conservation Area is not intended to be statutory but for educational purpose only.

 

Tourism and Recreation Nodes

Q.16  

Meanwhile the possible conflict of land use between water recreation and Marine Conservation Area is of considerable concern. The Study highlights the potential of water skiing and jet skiing though no specific area has been defined for these activities (8.4.10, Vol. I). In addition, speed ferry service for holiday recreation would be developed, replacing the initially proposed speed ferry service between Metro Town and Sai Kung. Such uses and increase in marine traffic may result in negative impacts on the marine environment, including excessive underwater noise, discharge of sewage, and leakage of oil and other pollutants from the boats.

 

A.16  

While the Study recognises the potential conflict of some water recreation and vessel activities and the marine environment, these impacts are not likely to be significant. The feasibility of the proposed speed ferry service for recreation trip would require further investigation and the environmental and conservation aspects should be duly assessed.

 

Q.17  

In particular, three Chinese White Dolphins recently took residence in Hebe Haven (WWF HK 2000; WWF HK 2001), and many more may migrate to the area in future. Water recreational activities that would be allowed at the "Water Sports Centre/Base" at Hebe Haven would intensify the disturbance on the resident dolphins and should be avoided. Both the dolphins, and Finless Porpoises also found in the area, are vulnerable to excessive underwater noise.

 

A.17  

In formulating the proposed Inshore Water Recreation Areas in the Draft Recommended Development Strategy, a number of factors have been taken into account, e.g. existing water recreation areas, and their impacts on traffic, ecology and environment. As for Hebe Haven, it is already a popular water recreation area at present. We note the comment with respect to the recent sightings of the Indo Pacific Humpbacked dolphin near Hebe Haven and would like to point out that this event is recent. If time reveals that the dolphins adopt this area permanently, AFCD will likely provide appropriate protection in the future.

 

Q.18  

It appears that the initially proposed island hopping routes in Port Shelter and Rocky Harbour, and the Heritage Boat Trail have been abandoned. Whilst this may prevent some potential adverse impacts on the marine environment, it is uncertain how the "Tourist Attraction Nodes" at offshore islands would be serviced. The impacts of such commuting services for tourists have not been assessed.

 

A.18  

The island hopping routes and Heritage Boat Trail in Port Shelter and Rocky Harbour are part of the draft Recommended Development Strategy of the present Study (please refer to the Tourism and Recreation Framework in the Public Consultation Digest). The impacts of such boat trips on the marine environment are unlikely to be significant.

 

Mitigation
Q.19  

Further it is interesting to note that for a number of impacts, mitigation by 'provision of artificial substrates such as bolder reefs that encourage growth of marine life and fish stocks' have been recommended. These include impacts incurred during the construction phase and by increased vessel disturbance (e.g. 2.10.13, 2.10.15, 2.10.24, Vol. I). I should appreciate it if the proponent would advise the scientific justification for the use of artificial reefs in compensation for water quality impacts, disturbance, and loss of benthic organisms.

 

A.19   The use of artificial reef structures can have a beneficial effect by replacing lost hard substrate habitats, or providing new complex three dimensional habitats to replace flat muddy substrates. However, it should be noted that this is only one of a number of potential mitigation measures suggested. Since the present Study is a strategic one, it would be for the project proponent to suggest, at the design stage, what mitigation measures, if any, are appropriate and for them to be approved through the EIA process where appropriate.

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday, 28 April, 2006