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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 75th Meeting of the Environmental Impact Assessment Subcommittee of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 4 November 2002 at 4:00pm

 

Present:

Professor LAM Kin-che, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. Otto POON (Deputy Chairman)  
Mr. Barrie COOK  
Dr. HO Kin-chung  
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming  
Dr. NG Cho-nam  
Mrs. Mei NG  
Miss Alex YAU  
Miss Petula POON (Secretary)  


Absent with Apology:

Professor Anthony HEDLEY, BBS, JP  
Mr. Peter Y C LEE, SBSt.J  


In Attendance:

Mr. Elvis AU Assistant Director (Environmental Assessment & Noise), Environmental Protection Department (EPD)
Mr. P K CHAN Acting Assistant Director (Conservation), Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD)
Mr. Eddie CHENG Executive Officer (E), Environment, Transport and Works Bureau (ETWB)


In Attendance for Agenda Item 3:
 

Mr. K K LEE Director, East Rail Extensions, KCRC
Mr. Vic McNALLY Environmental Manager, KCRC
Mr. Marcus IP Senior Environmental Specialist, KCRC
Dr. Michael LEVEN Director, Asia Ecological Consultants Ltd.
Mr. Richard DEACON Technical Director, Binnie Black and Veatch Hong Kong Ltd.
Mr. Simon HUI Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Assessment & Audit), EPD
Mr. Lawrence NGO Senior Environmental Protection Officer(Assessment & Audit), EPD
Mr. CHAN Yiu-keung Senior Forestry Officer, AFCD



 

 

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The Chairman welcomed Mr. Eddie Cheng who attended Subcommittee meeting for the first time.

Agenda Item 1: Confirmation of Minutes of 74th Meeting held on 30 September 2002

2. Members confirmed the draft minutes without amendments.

Agenda Item 2: Matters Arising

Para. 9 & 13: Risk Assessment Report and Water Quality Assessment Report of Tung Wan Option

3.

The Chairman informed Members that the project proponent was preparing the reports and would forward them to Members once available.

Para. 28: Deteriorating Air Quality and the Third Comprehensive Transport Study

4. The Chairman said that the Secretariat had requested the Transport Branch of ETWB to update Members of the full Council on the Third Comprehensive Transport Study and transport strategy. Arrangements would be made once the Transport Branch was ready.

Para. 34: Sighting of the executive summary of the EIA report on Shenzhen Western Corridor prepared by the Shenzhen side

5. The Chairman informed the Subcommittee that the project proponent had sent a copy of the executive summary of the EIA report on Shenzhen Western Corridor prepared by the Shenzhen side to the Secretariat. The Secretariat was advised not to produce copies because of copyright reason. The executive summary was circulated and read by Members during the meeting. It was agreed that those who were interested could borrow the copy from the Secretariat.

Agenda Item 3 : Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line - Construction Phase Environmental Monitoring and Audit Manual (EM&A) (including the Lok Ma Chau Station Habitat Creation and Management Plan)

6. The Chairman welcomed the project proponent team to the meeting. Mr. K K Lee started off the presentation and Mr. Richard Deacon and Dr. Michael Leven introduced the hydrological control in Long Valley and ecological monitoring in Lok Ma Chau respectively.

Baseline figure

7. A Member sought clarification on the baseline figure of birds. Dr. Michael Leven explained that the consultants would make a real-time comparison between the number of large water birds spotted in fishponds in the initial enhancement area (IEA) and the control area. The baseline figure was the number of birds spotted in the fishponds in the latter. The target was to improve the fishponds in the IEA so that the number of large water birds spotted there would be twice the number spotted in the control area. The target number was twice that of commercial fishponds per unit area to compensate for the area of fishponds which would be lost under the station footprint. The IEA had to support both the number of birds present in the ponds prior to enhancement and the number of birds which were displaced from the construction area.

8. The above Member pointed out that it would be difficult to interpret the meaning of the number of large water birds spotted in the IEA without making reference to the overall carrying capacity in the ecosystem. Dr. Leven explained that it would be extremely difficult to measure the carrying capacity of the whole ecosystem. To measure the number of birds spotted was therefore a generally accepted alternative. In addition, the project proponent team would collect other data (such as the number of invertebrates before and after draining down the ponds, the monitoring on fish stocks and water quality conditions) and would carefully interpret them so as to build up a comprehensive picture on how the ecosystem was functioning. They would also refer to figures obtained from other sources (such as the Bird Watching Society's water bird counts). Furthermore, they had taken the initiative to monitor the number of Black Faced Spoonbills in Mai Po so as to get as much information on the endangered species as possible.

9. A Member referred to the requirement of the Environment Permit that there should be no net reduction in the number of large water birds using the Lok Ma Chau area and enquired the reason why the project proponent adopted "doubling the amount of large water birds" in the IEA as the target. Another Member also agreed that in order to assess whether there was a net decrease in the overall number, the number of birds before and after construction work should be compared. Dr. Leven said that as the total number of birds supported by the whole ecosystem was difficult to obtain, they had to resort to methods which had been discussed at previous Subcommittee meetings. Bird population changed dynamically. It was not suitable to use a static baseline, say the number of birds recorded in 1999, for comparison. As a result, they had randomly chosen a number of commercial fishponds in Pak Hok Chau and San Tin area as the control fishponds. The fishponds in Lok Ma Chau were typical commercial fishponds before KCRC had planned the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line project. So the control fishponds would reflect accurately the typical conditions of the IEA if no enhancement work were to be done. A Member commented that it was always difficult to derive a suitable baseline. He viewed that as a general issue and hoped the Authority and the Subcommittee could have another occasion to discuss the subject further.

10. A Member said that AFCD was undertaking a scheme to encourage fish farmers to wire their ponds. That practice would discourage the visit of birds and as a result lower the baseline figure. Dr. Leven agreed with the Member's points. However, he pointed out that the wiring of fishponds was a typical management practice of commercial fishponds. Nonetheless, the control area which comprised 15 fishponds would be large enough to give a realistic assessment. Meanwhile, the project proponent would record the activities during the monitoring period and the data would be presented in a transparent manner.

Eurasian Otters

11. A Member noted that Eurasian Otters were detected in the IEA and that before the commencement of the study, very little was known about the activities of that species in the area. He enquired whether the existing mitigation measures would be beneficial to the otters as he feared that there might be potential conflict between the needs of the target bird species and the otters. For instance, clearing the bunds might adversely affect the otters. Dr. Leven agreed with him that no systematic work had been done on otters in the area yet and they still had to learn the pattern of otters using the area. From the evidence gathered, it was believed that the otters were using drainage channels as corridors to move along Lok Ma Chau area and they had fed in the commercial fishponds. A possible management plan was to link up certain marshes in the area so as to provide a secure place for the otters during daytime.

 

12. A Member asked whether Drainage Services Department (DSD) had any plan to convert the mud channels into concrete ones as he feared that such changes would be unfavourable to the otters. Mr. Vic McNally said that as far as he was aware, the watercourse concerned was a designated drainage channel under the Land Drainage Ordinance controlled by DSD. Another Member suggested that the Subcommittee should request an update from DSD on drainage works in the New Territories.


Secretariat/DSD

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

13. A Member enquired the land status of the strip of wetland along Shenzhen River and suggested that if the strip of wetland was managed independently, it could be incorporated into KCRC's enhancement project so as to enhance the function of the whole ecosystem. Mr. Richard Deacon believed that the land was under the management of AFCD. Mr. Y K Chan clarified that AFCD would restore and manage the piece of wetland as a mitigation measure for the Shenzhen River widening project but there was no plan at the moment to enhance it in the way similar to the Spur Line project. The Member's proposal was meaningful if the approach and the methodology in managing the wetlands could be integrated. Mr. P K Chan indicated that from the land management viewpoint, it might not be appropriate to hand over Government land to another authority for management. Nonetheless, AFCD and KCRC would closely collaborate with each other in the day-to-day management of the wetland.



AFCD

Zoning of compensation areas

14. A Member enquired about the zoning of the compensation areas managed by KCRC. Mr. Lawrence Ngo replied that according to the approved EIA report, those areas were within wetland conservation areas but he had to confirm that after the meeting.

(Post meeting notes: This information is reflected in Fig 4.2 , Volume 5 of 5 of the approved EIA report)

Starting date of station construction work

15. In reply to a Member's enquiry, Mr. McNally said that the contract for the Lok Ma Chau Terminus construction work had just been awarded. The contractor would take a couple of months for mobilization. It was expected that major construction works would start in January next year.

Notification of the start of construction work to neighbouring fish farmers 16. A Member suggested that the project proponent should notify neighbouring fish farmers about the start of construction work and maintain liaison with them. Mr. McNally said that they would inform the fish farmers of the start of construction work and would monitor changes in use of the neighbouring fishponds. However, it was not necessary at the moment to liaise with the farmers as the enhancement work would not have a significant effect on them. Dr. Leven supplemented that if there were problems, they would discuss with the farmers on a day-to-day basis.

Transparency of the project

17. A Member enquired about the progress of setting up a web site for presenting the data of the project for public information. Mr. McNally said that they had created a web site for uploading the EM&A data of the project and data obtained from the HCMP and other relevant reports.

Conclusion

18. The Chairman thanked the project proponent for presenting the HCMP and E&MA manual to the Subcommittee and clarifying Members' queries regarding the reports.

Agenda Item 4: Meeting with Stakeholders of Major Designated Projects

19. The Chairman said that at the Council meeting held on 29 July 2002, a Member raised the point of meeting with stakeholders who had concerns about a particular designated project. It was agreed that the Subcommittee would consider the matter at a later meeting. In response to the Chairman's invitation, the Member raised several matters for discussion, namely informal dialogue with project proponents, meeting with stakeholder of designated projects, to invite experts to attend Subcommittee meetings and conflict of interest.

Informal dialogue with project proponents

20. The above Member pointed out that with the mechanism of informal dialogue, project proponent might think that if one formal meeting would not be enough they could always wait for an informal one. Also, some project proponents provided information at a very late stage. Both factors made it very difficult for Members to determine when to make a decision, as additional information might contain crucial points that would affect their deliberation. She therefore hoped that the Subcommittee would draw a line on when to have an informal dialogue with project proponent.

21. The Chairman said that informal dialogue with project proponents arose from the verdict of the EIA Appeal Board after hearing the appeal on the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. The Appeal Board considered that early dialogue with the project proponent could facilitate the EIA process. As for the EIA Subcommittee, there were two guiding principles to decide whether to accept project proponent's request for an informal dialogue : the meeting should be held in the early planning stage and the proponent sought to exchange views with the Subcommittee on specific issues of concern. Normally requests would not be entertained if the project proponent had already finalized the EIA report. Two Members agreed that an informal dialogue with project proponent before the formal meeting would resolve issues and save a lot of time during the actual process.

22. In response to a Member's enquiry, the Secretary said that informal dialogue would not be regarded as formal meeting and Members' attendance would not be counted.

Meeting with experts

23. A Member said that the Subcommittee was sometimes presented with technical data that were difficult to comprehend and Members had to make decisions without fully understanding the data presented. She considered it unfair that while project proponents could bring a team of experts to the meeting to convince Members of their proposals, the Subcommittee could not invite experts to the meeting to give Members more information on EIA reports. She referred to a case in which her request to invite an expert to the Subcommittee meeting was not accepted and said that the Subcommittee should be more open-minded.

24. The Chairman clarified that he would consider two criteria before making a decision whether to invite an expert to the meeting, i.e. whether the person had the expertise in the subject concerned and whether he was neutral on the issue in question. He would accept the request if the two basic criteria were met. In that occasion, he did suggest making separate arrangements for Members to meet the expert informally, not in the name of the Subcommittee. He and some Members subsequently did meet with the expert.

25. A Member commented that Members should trust the integrity of the person concerned and should listen to his views so as to get a more complete picture of the matter. Whether Members would accept his opinions was totally up to Members. The Subcommittee should not refuse to listen to him simply because he had taken side on an issue. Another Member pointed out that there was existing mechanism to invite experts to Subcommittee meetings. In the past, the Subcommittee had invited experts to Subcommittee meetings on two occasions because there was a lack of knowledge on the subject discussed. Each case should be considered individually. Also, the experts should not come to the meeting to make a presentation; they should only make themselves available for answering enquiries. A third Member cautioned that the Subcommittee must be very careful in choosing experts as different experts had different views. If an expert was warranted, Members should have information on whether the expert was the right person and whether he had adequate competence.

26. Members then discussed whether it was necessary for the Subcommittee Chairman to consult Members before he decided on a request to invite expert to the Subcommittee meeting. A Member said that instead of consulting Members each time he received a request, the Chairman could decide on the basis of certain criteria. Two Members agreed that the Chairman should be entrusted with decision on such matter. Another Member said that the objective of inviting experts to sit in was to provide more information so that the Subcommittee could make a better decision. It was sometimes difficult to classify whether a person was a stakeholder or a professional. If the majority of the Subcommittee considered that an expert's presence would be useful, then he should be invited. However, if there was not sufficient time to consult Members, the Chairman should make his own discretion.

27. A Member said the role of the Subcommittee was advisory and the way the Subcommittee made a decision was totally up to Members. She would welcome the opportunity if experts were available to give Members information rather than opinions when deliberating a particular case. Members should have a fair idea on what paper would be discussed and therefore could raise request for inviting experts well before the actual meeting to allow sufficient time for the Chairman to consult Members.

28. After further discussion, the Subcommittee agreed that if time allowed, the Chairman should consult Members before he made a decision whether to invite an expert to the EIA Subcommittee meeting but the final decision after listening to Members' views should rest with him. Also, an expert attending the Subcommittee meeting should make himself available for enquiries rather than making a presentation on personal views.

29. Putting aside the forum of Subcommittee meeting, Members agreed that separate arrangements to be made by green groups or individual Members on meetings with experts should be welcomed.

Meeting with stakeholders

30. A Member suggested that the Subcommittee should have meetings with stakeholders of designated projects and listen to their views before making a decision on EIA reports. Another Member expressed reservation on having meetings with stakeholders because the Subcommittee did not have a role to consult the public and the effort required for that kind of consultation would be tremendous. The Chairman said that the terms of reference of the Subcommittee was to provide input based on Members' understanding and knowledge of the EIA reports submitted. Furthermore, there were other channels under the EIA Ordinance for stakeholders and the public to forward comments to the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP). A third Member concurred with the view that the Subcommittee was not a suitable venue to hear the concerns and grievances of stakeholders. Another Member believed that there might not be much value in formally hearing the views of stakeholders, as their interests might not necessarily be within the purview of the Subcommittee, which was primarily environmental. A Member pointed out that stakeholders would have objectives and vested interests and it would be very difficult to entertain all of them, nor was it the job of the Subcommittee to do so. Stakeholders could voice their views to DEP within the statutory 30-day public consultation period.

Declaration of interest

31. A Member noticed that in the past some Members declared an interest in an issue before discussion but kept on giving their views during the meeting. In some other Government advisory bodies, Members who had declared interest would need to stay away from the meeting. She hoped that the Subcommittee would clarify the procedure.

32. Another Member pointed out that the Subcommittee had detailed rules on declaration of interest which were distributed to Members when they were appointed to the Council. A Member said that Members should exercise conscience in case of conflict of interest. He believed the existing guidelines were adequate. Another Member considered that the issue of declaration of interest was related to the whole Council and should be more appropriately discussed at full Council meeting. The Chairman clarified that according to ACE-EIA Paper 1/2002 on the Modus Operandi of the EIA Subcommittee, Members should declare direct or indirect interest before deliberating on agenda items so that the Chairman could decide whether they could take part in the discussion or voting. On the other hand, Members could also raise objection to the Chairman, if necessary

Conclusion

33. Having regard to the above discussions, the Chairman concluded that-
 

  1. the Subcommittee should continue its practice on informal dialogue with project proponents;
     
  2. Members could raise a request with the Chairman if they considered that certain experts should be invited to the Subcommittee meeting to provide information on EIA reports. The Chairman should consult Members before making a decision, if time permitted, but the final decision after listening to Members' views would rest with him; and
     
  3. it was not necessary for the Subcommittee to meet stakeholders of designated projects during the EIA process.

Agenda Item 5: Any Other Business

Tentative items for discussion at the 76th meeting

34. Members noted that the EIA reports on the Reclamation of Sai Wan Typhoon Shelter and Associated Engineering Works at Cheung Chau and Feasibility Study for Housing Development at Whitehead & Lee On in Ma On Shan, Shatin were tentatively scheduled for discussion at the next meeting



EPD

Progress Report on Shenzhen River Regulation Programme Stage II

35. A Member said that she had not received the above progress report for some time and requested the Secretariat to follow up.

The Council's view on sustainable development

36. A Member commented that the full Council should discuss and have a view on sustainable development. Other Members suggested her to write to the Council Chairman direct.

Agenda Item 6: Date of Next Meeting

37. The next meeting was scheduled for 25 November 2002.
 

EIA Subcommittee Secretariat
November 2002




Secretariat

 
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