Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance

Technical Memorandum

Annex 16


1. Introduction

1.1 This annex describes the general approach and methodology for assessment of ecological impact arising from a project or proposal.

1.2 An ecological assessment is part of an EIA study for a designated project which may have an impact on the natural environment including existing flora, fauna and wildlife habitats. The term "ecology" includes both marine and terrestrial ecology. The main objective of ecological assessment is to provide sufficient and accurate ecological data to allow a complete and objective identification, prediction and evaluation of the potential ecological impacts. The methodology used may vary from case to case depending on the natural environment to be affected and the nature and scale of the project.

2. The Need for Ecological Assessment

2.1 The procedures for determining the need for ecological assessment are outlined in Appendix A. The key factors to be considered are described in Notes 1 to 3 attached to Appendix A.

3. General Principle

3.1 The guiding principle for ecological assessment shall be that:

  1. areas and/or habitats of ecological importance (e.g. those listed in Note 1 and 2 of Appendix A) shall be conserved as far as possible. Any project that is likely to result in adverse ecological impacts in areas of ecological importance shall not normally be permitted unless the project is necessary; it has been proven that no other practical and reasonable alternatives are available, and, adequate on-site and/or off-site mitigation measures are to be employed;
  2. both on-site and off-site impacts shall be identified and evaluated;
  3. both on-site and off-site mitigation measures shall be considered as integral parts of the EIA process;
  4. a project proponent is required to mitigate any adverse environmental impacts arising from his project and to implement the necessary on-site and off-site measures to limit the impacts to within established criteria. Off-site mitigation measures shall only be considered, however, when the potential for providing adequate on-site measures has been exhausted;
  5. any off-site measures shall be determined during the EIA study in accordance with the guidelines laid down in this technical memorandum, in particular this annex and Annex 8.

4. The Scope and Content of Ecological Assessment

4.1 An ecological assessment shall consist of 5 parts of equal importance:

  1. provision of comprehensive and accurate information on the ecological baseline;
  2. identification and prediction of potential ecological impacts;
  3. evaluation of the significance of the impacts identified;
  4. recommendations of effective and practicable alternatives and mitigation measures; and
  5. recommendations of the need for and the scope of an appropriate monitoring and audit programme.

5. Assessment Methodology

5.1 Ecological Baseline Information

5.1.1 The main objective of the baseline study of an ecological assessment is to provide adequate and accurate ecological baseline information of the proposed development and its vicinity for

  1. evaluation of the ecological importance of the flora, fauna and habitats found;
  2. identification, prediction and evaluation of impacts; and
  3. formulation of appropriate mitigation measures and monitoring programme.

5.1.2. The baseline study shall include at least the following: Review of existing information

Existing information regarding the proposed development site and its vicinity shall be reviewed. Such information includes both published materials (books, journals, reports, registers, etc.) and those made available by government and non-government bodies.

The accuracy and usefulness of the ecological information obtained must be carefully evaluated and verified before adopting its use in the ecological assessment report. Aspects such as time of survey (is the information out of date ?), methodology, etc., shall be taken into account. Unless the information obtained is determined to be still valid, they shall be verified by on-site survey(s). Habitat survey

A habitat map of suitable scale showing the various habitats of the site and its surrounding area (500 m from the site boundary or the area likely to be impacted by the project) shall be prepared. Characteristics of each habitat type shall be fully described with such information as species list, dominant flora and fauna found, presence of species of conservation importance, etc. Any habitat features of particular value to various ecological groups shall also be identified and described. Important habitats (Note 2 of Appendix A) shall be highlighted and described. Colour photos of each habitat type and any features of ecological importance identified shall be provided.

To ensure that the baseline information obtained are accurate, reproducible and can be easily verified, the methodology used must be clearly stated in the ecological assessment report. The methods employed must be sound and scientific. References shall be made to those standardized or accepted internationally. Results of survey shall be recorded in specifically designed standard forms as appropriate. Data obtained shall be quantified and statistical analysis shall be applied wherever appropriate. Description of recognized sites of conservation importance

All recognized sites of conservation importance (Note 1 of Appendix A) within, and in the vicinity of the proposed development site should be described. Whether these sites will be affected by the proposed development or not shall be assessed.

5.1.3 All field surveys carried out must not cause any unnecessary stress or damage to the existing habitats and wildlife. Relevant permits for collecting specimens must be obtained from the Agriculture and Fisheries Department prior to the surveys.

5.1.4 An ecological baseline survey of a longer duration with regard to seasonal variations may be required if the area in question is likely to be supporting species of conservation importance (Note 3 of Appendix A) which exhibit distinct seasonal patterns or when information on the site is inadequate. As sensitive wildlife groups shall be surveyed at the appropriate season(s) of a year, the actual duration of such survey shall depend on the wildlife groups of importance to be surveyed. The duration of an ecological baseline survey required shall be defined in the EIA study brief issued under the Ordinance.

5.2 Impact Identification and Prediction

5.2.1 Based on the project profile and ecological baseline information gathered, the ecological assessment shall identify and predict potential ecological impacts caused by the proposed development. There may be direct or primary impacts such as loss of habitats and loss of species. However many ecological impacts are induced or secondary such as loss of feeding grounds. Hence an ecosystem perspective highlighting the existing key relationships between different species and the surrounding environment shall be adopted.

5.2.2 An overlay of the project layout on the habitat map of the site (section shall be prepared to provide an overview of the impacts to local habitats.

5.2.3 All potential impacts, including direct, indirect, on-site, off-site, primary, secondary, induced, additional, synergistic, cumulative impacts, etc. shall be listed out. Suitable methodology such as checklists (descriptive, scaling, etc.), matrices, networks, features mapping, etc. shall be used and clearly stated whenever applicable. Predictions must be made with sound scientific basis.

5.3 Evaluation of Impacts

5.3.1 Impact significance is a product of the magnitude and scale of an impact and the asserted importance of the species or habitat(s) likely to be affected. However, it shall be noted that evaluating nature conservation interest is a difficult and complex process. Value or professional judgement are involved. Nevertheless the conservation value of a site or species and hence the significance of an impact shall be evaluated as systematically as practicable using well defined criteria. The general criteria used are shown in Annex 8.

5.4 Impact Mitigation

5.4.1 The general policy for mitigating impacts on important habitats and wildlife, in the order of priority, are :

  1. Avoidance

    Potential impacts shall be avoided to the maximum extent practicable such as adopting suitable alternatives (e.g. change of site, design, construction method, alignment, layout, programme, etc.). In extreme cases when the ecological assessment identifies some very serious impacts which could not be mitigated, the "no-go" alternative may be the only realistic option and shall be included and assessed against all other options.

  2. Minimizing

    Unavoidable impacts shall be minimized by taking appropriate and practicable measures such as transplanting important plant specimens, confining works in specific area or season, restoration (and possibly enhancement) of disturbed areas, etc.

  3. Compensation

    The loss of important species (e.g. trees) and habitats (e.g. woodland) may be provided elsewhere (on-site or off-site) as a compensation. Enhancement and other conservation measures shall always be considered, whenever possible.

5.4.2 All mitigation measures recommended shall be feasible to implement within the context of Hong Kong. The effectiveness of the proposed mitigation measures shall be carefully evaluated and the significance of any residual impacts after implementing them shall be clearly stated.

5.4.3. From an ecological point of view, mitigation measures for ecological impact shall preferably be carried out on-site, and well in advance of the works rather than off-site, and after the completion of works.

5.4.4 Where off-site mitigation measures are involved, they shall be considered along with other alternatives e.g. change of site, layout, etc., including modifying or abandoning the project.

5.4.5 The need for and the type and scope of the off-site ecological mitigation measures to be adopted for a particular project shall be determined according to the following guidelines:

  1. all possible design measures and all practicable on-site ecological mitigation measures shall be fully investigated in the EIA study and exhausted to minimise the loss or the damage caused by the project to the ecological habitats or species;
  2. with the on-site ecological mitigation measures in place, the residual impacts on ecological habitats or species shall be defined, quantified and evaluated according to the methods and criteria laid down in this annex and Annex 8. Before off-site ecological mitigation measures are to be adopted, the EIA study needs to confirm that it is necessary to mitigate the residual ecological impacts based on ecological considerations set out in this Annex and Annex 8, and that such residual impacts arise from the Project in question;
  3. if the residual ecological impacts require mitigation and all practicable on-site ecological mitigation measures have been exhausted, off-site ecological mitigation measures shall be provided;
  4. the off-site mitigation measures shall be on a "like for like" basis, to the extent that this is practicable. That is to say, any compensatory measures to be adopted for mitigating the residual ecological impacts must be directly related to the habitats or species to be protected. Either the same kind of species or habitats of the same size shall be compensated, or the project proponent shall demonstrate that the same kind of ecological function and capacity can be achieved through the measures to compensate for the ecological impacts. For example, the loss of a natural woodland shall be compensated by the replanting of native trees to form a woodland of a similar size where possible;
  5. the off-site ecological mitigation measures shall only be implemented within the boundaries of Hong Kong, and must be technically feasible and practicable;
  6. the extent of such mitigation measures shall be limited to what is necessary to mitigate the residual ecological impacts arising from the project; and
  7. any proposed off-site mitigation measures shall not require further EIA study for their implementation. Their feasibility, constraints, reliability, design and method of construction, time scale, monitoring, management and maintenance shall be confirmed during the EIA study.

5.5 Ecological Monitoring and Audit Programme

5.5.1 The purposes of ecological monitoring and audit are :

  1. to verify the accuracy of the predictions of the ecological assessment study;
  2. to detect any unpredicted ecological impacts arising from the proposed development;
  3. to monitor the effectiveness of the mitigation measures; and
  4. to recommend action plans in response to unpredicted impacts, and/or failed mitigation.

Appendix A

Note 1 : Recognized Sites of Conservation Importance

  1. existing or gazetted proposed Special Areas
  2. existing or gazetted proposed Country Parks
  3. existing or gazetted proposed Marine Reserves
  4. existing or gazetted Marine Parks
  5. restricted areas listed under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance Chapter 170
  6. Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  7. Ramsar Site
  8. Inner Deep Bay and Deep Bay Buffer Zones
  9. any other areas declared by the Government as having special conservation importance

Note 2 : Important Habitats Where an Ecological Assessment Will Be Necessary

An ecological assessment will be needed if a proposed development will affect

  1. over one hectare of woodland
  2. over one hectare/500 metres of undisturbed natural coast
  3. over 0.5 hectare of intertidal mudflats
  4. established mangrove stands of any size
  5. over 0.5 hectare of freshwater or brackish marshes
  6. established seagrass (Zostera or Halophila or Ruppia species) bed of any size
  7. over 100 metres of natural stream courses and rivers of significant length
  8. over one hectare wetlands (as defined by the Ramsar Convention) other than those mentioned in 2 to 7 above
  9. established coral communities of any size
  10. other habitats considered as having special conservation importance by documented scientific studies

Note 3 : Species of Conservation Importance

An ecological assessment will be needed if the proposed development will affect habitats supporting significant population of wild fauna or flora that are :

  1. listed in IUCN Red Data Books or those of the South China region;
  2. listed in international conventions for conservation of wildlife;
  3. endemic to Hong Kong or South China;
  4. listed under local legislation :

    1. Forestry Regulation (under Forests and Countryside Ordinance Cap. 96);
    2. Wild Animals Protection Ordinance Cap. 170;
    3. Animals and Plants (Protection of Endangered Species) Ordinance Cap. 187;
    4. Other relevant Ordinances or Regulations such as Marine Parks and Marine Reserves Regulation (under Marine Parks Ordinance Cap. 476);

    (References shall also be made to species protected by legislation in China, especially the Guangdong Province.)

  5. considered as rare in the territory or having special conservation importance by scientific studies other than those listed above.