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Appendix XI

Content > Review of the Operation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Ordinance and Continuous Improvement Measures > Appendix A > Appendix B > Appendix C > Appendix D > Appendix E

Review of the Operation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Ordinance and Continuous Improvement Measures


  1. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Ordinance was enacted on 4 February 1997 with the Appeal Board Regulation and Fees Regulation made in November 1997. The Ordinance and its regulations came into operation on 1 April 1998. As at to date, the Ordinance has been in operation for about 18 months.

  2. The EIA Ordinance provides a statutory framework for the assessment of environmental impacts of designated projects* and the implementation of prevention and mitigation measures to protect the environment. The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) is responsible for regulating and enforcing the EIA Ordinance and is committed to continuous improvement. It has always been EPD's intention to review the operation of the EIA Ordinance, with a view to seeking continuous improvement measures. The 1998 Policy Objectives also included the carrying out of a Review of the Operation of the EIA Ordinance.

* Designated project is a project under the control of the EIA Ordinance as defined in Schedule 1 and listed in Schedule 2 and 3 of the Ordinance.

  1. The Review was completed by EPD in August 1999. This paper presents the key findings and the proposed continuous improvement measures.

The Focus of the Review

  1. The Review focused on the first 18 months of operation of the EIA Ordinance. In particular, views on the following areas were solicited:
    1. the comparison of the processing time for various key steps in the EIA process before the commencement of the EIA Ordinance with the time required for applications under the EIA Ordinance;
    2. the increase in the level and extent of public involvement in the statutory EIA process and the time implication on the processing of applications, when compared with the EIA system before the commencement of the EIA Ordinance;
    3. the efficiency and effectiveness of the operation of the EIA Ordinance and ways for further improvement;
    4. the coverage of the EIA Ordinance;
    5. the comparison of the consultation with the Advisory Council on Environment before and after the implementation of the Ordinance;
    6. the processing of the various applications under the EIA Ordinance including the preparation of project profiles, the issue of EIA study briefs, the review and approval of EIA reports and the issue of environmental permits;
    7. the effectiveness of prescriptive permit conditions when compared with performance-based conditions, particularly in relation to fast-track projects subject to successive rapid changes in the detailed design stage; and
    8. whether there are any tangible benefits to different stakeholders as a result of the implementation of the EIA Ordinance.

Approaches in Reviewing the Operation

  1. The Review aimed to collect information, feedback and statistics from various sources in order to provide inputs from various angles and different stakeholder groups. Every effort has been made to ensure that the Review was based on the best available and impartial information. Data and information were collected and views and opinions acquired in the following forum/steps:
    1. compilation of statistics based on the actual applications under the EIA Ordinance and processing data from the EIA Ordinance Register Office;
    2. participation in public forums/seminars with various stakeholder groups to obtain their views and direct feedback from over a total of 200 participants, including the following:
      • an open forum on 10 April 1999 jointly organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Environmental Impact Assessment and the Advisory Council on Environment (ACE) EIA Sub-committee to discuss the EIA process in Hong Kong held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong;
      • a seminar on 17 April 1999 on Policing Pollution- Application of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Law in Hong Kong and China jointly organised by the Hong Kong Environmental Law Association and the Centre for Chinese and Comparative Law, School of Law of City University of Hong Kong;
      • a forum on 21 April 1999 organised by EPD involving all proponent departments and the relevant authorities to discuss the first year's operation of the EIA Ordinance;
      • a forum on 29 April 1999 involving the various EPD specialist groups to discuss the first year's operation of the Ordinance;
    3. presentation and discussion sessions for all 18 Provisional District Boards between April and July 1999 to solicit views from PDB members on the operation of the EIA Ordinance.

  2. Appendix A gives a full list of the meetings and forums organised or attended by EPD to solicit views for the Review. In addition, the findings of the review were presented to the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau in May 1999 and at an EIA Ordinance seminar jointly organised by Hong Kong Institute of EIA and EPD on 11 September 1999.

The Application Statistics in the first 18 months of Operation

  1. Appendix B is a Summary Facts Sheet on the statistics of various EIA Ordinance applications. Between April 1998 and August 1999, there were a total 145 applications under various categories including applications for study briefs, permissions to apply an permit direct, approvals of EIA reports and applications for environmental permits.

  2. Designated projects with a total estimated cost of HK $ 151 billion- including 16 km of roads, 47 km of railway and over 380 ha of development projects- were successfully processed under the Ordinance and designed to meet relevant environmental standards and criteria. So far, the EIA Ordinance has protected about 570,000 people and more than 51 ha. of environmentally sensitive areas.

  3. During this period, there were 27,838 visitors to the dedicated EIA Ordinance website and there were 1,392 visitors to the EIA Ordinance Register Office in EPD headquarters. 76 documents were exhibited for the public to comment.

  4. Based on the actual data on the processing time and compared to an independent government study in 1995 for the previous EIA process, the time taken for the EIA process has been shortened by at least 3 to 4 months.

General Findings

  1. In light of the diverse interests of different stakeholder groups involved in the EIA process, it is not surprising that different views were collected. Detailed comments from members of the Provisional District Boards are summarised in Appendix C and comments from other parties attended the various forums are tabulated in Appendix D. The following is a summary of the key views and suggestions collected:
    1. it has been quite encouraging that many attendees from various stakeholder groups opined that the spirit of EIA Ordinance is noble and essential to protect the environment and achieve environmental sustainability, particularly in the long run;
    2. the EIA system in Hong Kong is also seen as one of the pioneers in the Asian cities and is considered as one of the most efficient and practical EIA systems when compared with the practices in Western countries;
    3. some attendees and district board members considered that the EIA Ordinance has facilitated public access to the statutory EIA process and made the process more transparent compared with the previous EIA system;
    4. some attendees from the private sector were of a view that the statutory EIA process has a clear statutory time frame that can facilitate them to better plan their project programme;
    5. some attendees pointed out that with the implementation of the Ordinance, comments from the Advisory Council on Environment (ACE) were better received and project proponents have taken into account the environmental issues raised more seriously;
    6. some attendees considered that the statutory EIA process is more transparent and the decision making process more clear when compared with previous EIA system;
    7. public comments during the early project profile stage were considered useful in avoiding any late focus and any possible delays during the later EIA report stage, as the project proponents could address the public comments received at the project profile stage in the preparation of the EIA reports;
    8. conditions in environmental permits are considered effective to bind proponents to carry out the agreed mitigation measures that need to be put in place by permit holders and their agents to prevent environmental problems. However, on the other hand, some other attendees viewed that permit conditions are sometimes too prescriptive;
    9. there were also other views, specifically from Provisional District Board members, that public consultation should be further improved to facilitate more public comments and participation in the process. The advertising of the availability of project profiles and EIA reports in newspapers was not considered adequate. It was suggested that the consultation should go down to the local level to those being affected;
    10. many commented that the dedicated EIA Ordinance Website is very useful in facilitating public access to and retrieval of information on various applications, EIA reports and environmental permits. They also suggested EPD to consider placing the public comments received on the Website; and
    11. some applicants and their consultants considered that with the publication of the Technical Memorandum on the EIA Process, environmental criteria and standards are now generally much more clearer than before. However, there are still rooms for further improvements to provide more guidance on the criteria and approaches in the Technical Memorandum and to disseminate the experiences in the actual applications and interpretation of the Technical Memorandum.

Continuous Improvement Strategy

  1. In response to the views and opinions collected from attendees of the various review forums, continuous improvement measures have been developed and are listed in Appendix D.

    The continous improvement strategy comprises the following key elements:

    1. enhance public participation by reaching out to the Provisional District Boards (PDB) and by directly notifying PDB members on the availability of project profiles and EIA reports for public comment. Moreover, project profiles to be submitted will have to be in both English and Chinese to facilitate people at local levels to comment;
    2. set up a "Cyber EIAO Help Bench" to provide consistent advice, examples and resource materials through the EIA Ordinance website to help proponents and consultants on common issues or enquiries they often encounter during their preparation of project profiles and EIA reports;
    3. publish more guidance notes and other materials on areas of interest to help the proponents and their consultants;
    4. facilitate the public and consultants to know the status of the various projects and promote the sharing of knowledge and experiences by setting up "a Cyber EIAO Project Template" for major projects that have commenced construction;
    5. promote communication and experiences sharing by setting up "EIAO Users Liaison Groups" for both government and private sector proponents, and "EIAO Practitioners Liaison Group" for consultants, and work together on developing the "Cyber EIAO Help Bench";
    6. allow public comments via email or through the web site; and
    7. set up a web-based interest group so that interested members of the public can receive information and news on the EIA Ordinance or any latest guidance notes issued.
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