11. In response to a Member's request, Mr. Elvis Au said that the project proponent was not obligated to provide additional information if it had been demonstrated in the EIA report that the requirements set out under the EIA Ordinance and the TM had been met. That said, Mr. T K Lee undertook to discuss with the consultants about the information requested.
Cumulative impacts from future road network
12. A Member asked whether the cumulative impacts from the surrounding transport network of DBL had been assessed. In response, Mr. Lee from EML informed Members that CTS-3 from which traffic data was drawn had taken into account existing and planned transport developments in that area. Therefore, the EIA study had included the assessment of cumulative impacts.
13. Mr. Elvis Au drew the Acting Chairman's attention that the EIA report had taken into account the cumulative effects from other related projects including SWC. Information was available in Table 7.31 on P. 7-51 of the EIA report.
Higher fuel standard
14. A Member noted that the Mainland fuel had a higher sulphur content and asked whether the project proponent would make any changes if the fuel standard in the Mainland was improved. In response, Mr. McLearie pointed out that since the assessment was based on the worst-case scenario, any improvements in the fuel standard of the Mainland would only bring better result on air quality and no mitigation measures would actually be necessary.
Mitigation for site run-off
15. A Member understood that it was out of the project proponent's remit to upgrade the fuel standard in the Mainland. He was of the opinion that a dual 3-lane road might be inadequate to ensure smooth traffic operation because a truck accident could easily block up three lanes and cause traffic jam. He also asked about the measures that would be taken to ensure the quality of the nearby water bodies and to protect aquatic organisms therein. In response, Mr. McLearie explained that the major construction activity that would affect the water quality would be bore piling. To avoid unacceptable impact on the mudflats, there would be control on site run-off which would be transmitted to treatment plants already in use for other projects.
16. A Member said that as SWC, DBL and Route 10 were linked and considered as one whole road network, it would be difficult for Members to comment on DBL alone. She was concerned about the extent that the proposed alignment of DBL would pre-empt future consideration of options other than what the project proponent would propose for SWC and the northern section of Route 10.
17. In response to a Member's comments, Mr. C M Chan said that they were aware of the close relationship of the three roads. However, due to the need for early preparation work, the Administration wished to proceed with the consultation on DBL while the EIA studies on SWC and Route 10 northern section were being undertaken. The project proponent had informed ACE of the related projects through informal consultation in September 2001. Mr. McLearie supplemented that in the cross border link study, the focus was on alternatives landing points for SWC which essentially determined the alignment of DBL. Of the three options considered, the currently proposed landing point at Ngau Hom Shek would cause the least environmental impacts. Mr. H M Wong brought Members' attention to that during the Crosslinks Study by the Planning Department, the cumulative effects of the projects had been assessed and the ACE had been consulted including the choice of the SWC landing point.
18. A Member recalled that ACE endorsed the EIA report for Route 10 southern section in 2000 before the EIA for the northern section was available. When there were subsequent changes to the southern section of Route 10, ACE was criticized for a lack of prudence in endorsing the EIA report. Therefore, she felt that ACE should make it clear that the recommendations in the EIA report were made in the absence of an overall environmental assessment of the whole cross-border link network.
Cumulative ecological impacts on Ramsar site
19. A Member asked whether any assessment had been made on the cumulative impact of the project on the ecology of Ramsar site, including disturbance impact and if so, the results and the proposed mitigation measures in particular in sensitive areas like Mai Po and Deep Bay Ramsar site. In response, Mr. C M Chan said that the Ramsar site was outside the site boundary and study area of DBL. Dr. K L Pun informed Members that the assessment would be covered by the EIA study on SWC.
Adequacy and effectiveness of mitigation measures
20. In response to a Member's question, Mr. McLearie confirmed that there was a mistake in annotation in Figure 7.5 of the EIA report. Only pond no. 15 and 24 would be permanently lost due to the project.
21. A Member had reservations on the effectiveness of the mitigated wetland created under the viaduct because the disturbance from the traffic overhead would adversely affect the habitat of species of conservation importance. In response, Mr. McLearie clarified that only a small section of the recreated wetland was located under the viaduct and the species concerned, i.e. Chinese Pond Heron and Little Egret, were tolerant to disturbances caused by traffic and human activities. Mr. H M Wong supplemented that the EIA report indicated that the viaduct at that locality would be over 15m in height, higher than ordinary flyovers.
22. A Member disagreed with Mr. Wong because in the EIA on Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, the project proponent did take into account the disturbance factor even for a viaduct of 25m high. In response, Mr. Y K Chan explained that a more conservative approach was adopted for the Spur Line project since it was within the Wetland Conservation Area. Moreover, the EIA report on the Spur Line showed that the exclusion zone for Chinese Pond Heron was zero, meaning that the species were highly tolerant to disturbances.
23. In the absence of quantitative assessment, a Member doubted the adequacy of the recreated wetland to serve the same, if not enhanced, ecological functions as the existing fishponds which would soon be lost. In response, Mr. McLearie pointed that the two affected fishponds were at present subject to disturbances and were of low and degrading ecological value. One of them (pond no. 24 at Ngau Hom Shek) was even dried out and abandoned. On the other hand, the proposed mitigated wetland would be actively managed to ensure a suitable habitat for the affected species.
Two-striped Grass Frog
24. A Member pointed out that the Two-striped Grass Frog was found in the project area but was not included in the list of species of conservation importance. In response, Mr. McLearie clarified that the frogs were not found in recent surveys. Nonetheless, the proposed mitigated wetland would provide a habitat for the frogs to re-establish themselves if they were to be found later.
25. In response to a Member's question, Mr. McLearie said that the mitigated wetland would be in place towards the end of the construction period. That Member then asked whether there was any mitigation for the temporary loss of habitats during the construction period. Mr. McLearie said that the bamboo from the existing egretry would be transplanted to Ngau Hom Shek wetland compensation area before construction started, avoiding the breeding season. Given the small population of Little Egrets using the existing egretry, they should be able to move to nearby habitats. Mr. C C Lay added that according to last year's survey, over one-third of egret nests were located in areas which were subject to high disturbances. The egrets affected by the project would be able to find alternative habitats close by.
26. A Member said that setting aside the issue of whether the birds affected would use alternative habitats or the transplanted bamboo for nesting site, the spirit of the EIA Ordinance was to mitigate habitat loss, however insignificant it was, if prevention was not an option. He was not satisfied that no mitigation would be provided for the temporary loss of habitat during the construction phase. Noting that the construction period would last for two and a half years, another Member concurred with Dr. Ng that temporary mitigation should be provided. Mr. Y K Chan remarked that the need to provide further mitigation measures would depend on whether the residual impact was significant.
27. The Acting Chairman asked whether the mitigated wetland could be created before construction started. In reply, Mr. McLearie said that even if the mitigated wetland were to be created before the construction phase, birds would not use it due to disturbances during construction.
Hydrology of the mitigated wetland
28. In response to a Member's question on how the hydrology and hence the ecological functions of the mitigated wetland would be maintained all year-round, Mr. McLearie said that the detailed design of the mitigated wetland would be included in the Habitat Management Plan which would be subject to endorsement of the authority at a later stage.
List of species of conservation importance
29. In response to a Member's enquiry about the duration and methodology of the survey to identify species of conservation importance, Dr. Mark Shea said that the survey covered both wet and dry seasons and was done according to the specifications set out in the Study Brief and the guidelines issued by AFCD.
Mitigation for construction noise impact
30. Noting that six dwellings at Tsoi Yuen Tsuen would be subject to residual noise impact for five weeks during construction, a Member asked about further mitigation measures to address the noise impact. In response, Mr. Lawrence Tsui said that apart from mitigation measures proposed in the EIA report, the contractor would be responsible for proposing further measures to minimize the noise level. Details of the proposal would be submitted to the authority for approval. Mr. McLearie pointed out that exceedances of the noise level would only be occasional during the five weeks of piling activities. Another Member urged the project proponent to minimize the annoyance caused to the residents during construction period by say providing temporary accommodation for them.
Visual impact of noise barriers during operational stage
31. In response to a Member's enquiry about measures apart from noise barriers to mitigate the noise impact, Mr. Tsui explained that in the early stages of the project, the proponent had considered alternative alignments so as to identify one which would impose the minimum impact to sensitive receivers. Mr. McLearie supplemented that they had proposed the use of special road surfacing and speed limit to reduce the noise level.
32. In response to a Member's enquiry about measures to mitigate the visual impact of the 5.5 m high noise barriers, Mr. McLearie said that there would be planting adjacent to the barriers to soften the overall visual impact. Noting that the planting would not be able to cover the viaduct, the Acting Chairman suggested the project proponent to consider means that would make the noise barriers less obtrusive.
Implications of future development in the area
33. A Member expressed concern over the future environmental impacts of commercial and residential developments that might be brought about by DBL. The Acting Chairman shared Prof. Hedley's concern but reckoned that the matter was out of the scope of the EIA report. Mr. Elvis Au suggested that the concern be conveyed to the Planning Department which, according to his understand, was carrying out some related studies.
Planting at Lam Tei Interchange
34. In response to a Member's enquiry about the existing trees in the area earmarked for the proposed Lam Tei Interchange, Mr. Craig Doubleday clarified that there was not much greenery in that area (Fig 10.7.27a) but planting was proposed there after construction (Fig. 10.7.27b).
35. Noting in Table 7.32 that "Native, ornamental and exotic pioneer tree planting would be undertaken on verges to compensate for losses of these habitats", a Member asked whether the project proponent would undertake to minimize the cutting of trees and use native species for planting as far as possible. In response, Mr. Doubleday said that the majority of the proposed planting was of native species. Mr. T K Lee added that the existing Government polices supported the planting of native species as far as possible. Another Member urged the project proponent to transplant as far as possible the mature trees instead of cutting them.
36. The Acting Chairman invited the project proponent to retire from the meeting while the Subcommittee had internal discussion.
[The proponent left the room at this juncture.]
Internal discussion - Submission of EIA report of related projects
37. The Acting Chairman said that the Administration should be reminded that EIA studies of closely related projects should not be submitted to ACE separately. Mr. Elvis Au explained that the EIA report did cover, in Table 7.31 of the report, the cumulative impacts of other projects such as SWC. A Member pointed out that the project proponent admitted that the cumulative impact on the ecology of Ramsar site would only be addressed in the EIA of SWC. It was then suggested that a condition be drawn up to require the project proponent not to commence works until the EIA of SWC was submitted to and endorsed by ACE. Another Member considered that each project should be considered on its own merits and should not be assessed together with another project.
38. The Acting Chairman shared Members' concern over the health impact arising from the air pollutants caused by the DBL traffic, but was aware that the EIA had met the AQOs and the requirements set out in the TM. A Member suggested that the project proponent should provide figures of the background and after-project air pollutant concentrations to the Subcommittee for reference.
Temporary mitigation measures
39. Two Members reiterated that there should be mitigation measures to compensate for the temporary loss of habitat during the construction stage. If on-site mitigation was impossible, the project proponent should consider off-site measures.
40. Mr. Lay indicated that the impacts on Chinese Pond Heron and Little Egret would be small due to two reasons, namely the small number of nests identified in the affected area and the high mobility of the birds. Long-term mitigation was comparatively more important and the proposed mitigation was acceptable. Instead of off-site temporary measure during the construction phase, the project proponent could be asked to provide the mitigated wetland as soon as possible.
41. Given the strong sentiment of Members to request for temporary mitigation during the construction phase, the Acting Chairman proposed that off-site mitigation should be provided if on-site mitigation was not possible. Or alternatively the works in pond no. 24 should be scheduled to start earlier so that the mitigated wetland could be created as early as possible.
42. As regards the visual impact of the noise barriers, a Member suggested and Members agreed that the project proponent should be advised not to adopt the conspicuous colour scheme for noise barriers on Tolo Highway.
[The project proponent joined the meeting at this juncture.]
43. The Acting Chairman informed the project proponent that after deliberation among Members, the Subcommittee would recommend the full Council to endorse the EIA report with the following conditions:
the project proponent should not commence work until the EIA report of the SWC project is endorsed by the Council;
the project proponent should provide on-site or off-site compensation for the loss of 0.73 ha of fishpond during the construction stage or advance the section of work near pond no. 24 ahead of other sections so that the proposed fishpond could be created earlier to provide compensation;
the project proponent should ensure that the functions of the recreated wetland adjacent to pond no. 24 are maintained all year round;
the project proponent should consider providing alternative accommodation during the impact period for the residents of the six dwellings which are subject to residual noise impact;
the project proponent should transplant mature trees, minimize the number of trees to be felled, and select native species of tress for planting;
the project proponent should avoid using bright and conspicuous colour scheme for noise barriers such as that adopted for noise barriers in the Tolo Highway;(g) the Habitat Management Plan should be approved by the authority before implementation; and(h) the project proponent should provide data on background air pollutant concentrations and the concentrations after the completion of the project as generated from the modeling for the EIA Subcommittee's reference in estimating impact on health.
Agenda Item 4 : Any Other BusinessTentative items for discussion at the 74th meeting
44. Members noted that so far no EIA report was scheduled for discussion at the next meeting.