Environment Protection  DepartmentThe Operation of Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance in Hong Kong
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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

Appendix D

Summary of key comments and corresponding inprovement measues

Key Comments Current Practice Suggested Improvement Measures

1. On the Public Consultation Process

Overall speaking, many stakeholder groups opined that the public consultation process has been much improved and more robust when compared with the pre-EIA Ordinance stage, nevertheless, there are yet quite a large amount of comments and suggestions.

  • The provision to allow public comments to be collected during the early project profile stage precludes any possible delay during the later EIA report stage, as the consultant can address the public comments received at the project profile stage in the EIA report;

  • The consultation of the project profiles and EIA findings and recommendations has not been wide enough to reach the locals being affected. It was suggested the consultation should go down directly to those being affected;

  • Some Provisional District Board members requested to be notified of the availability of the respective project profiles and EIA reports;

  • There is wide spread recognition of the usefulness of the designated EIA Ordinance Website in accessing and retrieving application information;

  • Whilst there is no legal requirement to send a detailed response to the public comments received, some suggested that the comments should be acknowledged and addressed and responded for future reference;
  • Some Provisional District Board members suggested that public comments received should better be uploaded onto the EIA Ordinance website so that PDB members could know the concerns of the locals;
  1. Under section 5 of the Ordinance, there is an opportunity for the public and Advisory Council on Environment (ACE) to comment on the project profile before an EIA study brief is issued by the Director, or before a permission is given to the applicant to apply directly for an environmental permit. There will also be an opportunity under section 7 of the Ordinance for the public and ACE to comment on the EIA report before it is approved. These are further described as follows:

  2. On the day following the lodging of the application for a study brief with the Director, the applicant is required to advertise the availability of the project profile. The public and the ACE may comment on the project profile on environmental issues covered by the Technical Memorandum within 14 days and Director of Environmental Protection will take into consideration the comments in the drafting of the study brief.

  3. When an EIA report is considered by the Director of Environmental Protection as suitable for public inspection, the applicant will be required to advertise the availability of the EIA report and make the EIA report available at specified locations for the public to comment for a period of 30 days. The ACE may give its comments on the EIA report to the Director within a period of 60 days in parallel to the 30 days' public exhibition period.

  4. Upon receipt of public comments, EPD will send out an acknwledgement letter within 3 working days.

  5. EIA reports and project profiles can be accessed at the EIA Ordinance Register Office, relevant District Offices and the EPD Resource Centre (Wan Chai and Tsuen Wan). To facilitate public access, project profiles and EIA reports are also placed on the EIA Ordinance website during the exhibition period.

  6. The decisions of the Director will also be placed on the Register and the website for inspection by the public.

To enhance public participation during the consultation process, in additional to the current practice, the following actions are proposed to facilitate access to information, transmission of comments and thus the public consultation process:

  1. Relevant Provisional District Boards/their members will be notified directly on the availability of the respective project profiles and EIA reports;

  2. Public comments can be lodged via E-mail or Internet;

  3. Responses to public comments received will be placed on the EIA Ordinance Register Office and uploaded to the EIA Ordinance Website for public information.

  4. Enhance communication and knowledge sharing through the setting up of a "web-based interest group" so that members of the public can receive information and news on EIA Ordinance applications or any latest guidance notes issued.

  5. To enhance more public participation, project profiles submit in future wll have to be in both English and Chinese.

  6. Similarly, EIA study briefs to be issued will also be in both English and Chinese to facilitate and encourage more public participation.

2. On the Operation of the ACE before and after the implementation of the EIA Ordinance

  • Some Advisory Council on Environment (ACE) members commented that the ACE should not be considered as a quality check for the EIA reports submitted, but the focus should be to make sure whether environmental issues are properly addressed or not;

  • Some ACE members suggested that the applicants and their consultants who compiled the EIA report should be available during the two weeks prior to the ACE. EIA Sub Committee meeting to answer any specific questions raised before the meeting or to provide additional information.

  • Some project proponents commented that they were not aware of ACE members' concerns early enough to address their concerns.

  • For projects which the local residents have grave concerns, some PDB members suggested that the residents should be invited to attend ACE meetings when the projects are discussed.

  1. Apart from the current practice on consultation with ACE as outline on page 1 above, the Administration has issued an Advice Note on EIA Sub-committee of ACE and ACE Paper 8/98 "Implementation of EIA Ordinance" which have laid down detailed steps regarding consultation with the ACE. Copy of the Advice Note is available via the EIA Ordinance Website.

  2. It is also a normal practice that during the discussion of an EIA report at ACE meeting, EPD will give a brief account of the public comments received so far.

  3. As the authority under the EIA Ordinance, Director of Environmental Protection will give full consideration to the views of the public and the ACE during the various consultation process under the EIA Ordinance. The ACE would be briefed on the residents' views when commenting on the EIA report. The views of local residents will be considered by Director of Environmental Protection before giving the approval under the EIA Ordinance.

To further enhance the consultation with the ACE, the following actions will be taken

  1. The Advice Notes on Consultation with ACE will be widely distributed to all potential government and private sector applicants to enhance better understanding of the operation of the EIA Sub Committee.

  2. The proposed action 3 on page 1 will include comments during the public exhibition of project profiles. Publication of comments on project profiles received on the Website will facilitate ACE members' understanding of the local concerns.

3. On the time required before and after the implementation of the EIA Ordinance

Some applicants, seeking advice on draft EIA reports before the formal application suggested that clear arrangements be set down to provide guidance on the practical response time frame so as to facilitate project programming;

  • After the Advisory Council on Environment (ACE)'s endorsement on the EIA report, there should be room for the Director of Environmental Protection's earlier reply before the expiry of the 60 days for ACE consultation in order to expedite the process;

  • Some applicants including a major utility company found that with a clear timeframe set out in the EIA Ordinance, they were more sure about the processing time required by the Director of Environmental Protection. This has helped them programme their works. Before the implementation of the EIA Ordinance, there was no such clear time timeframe.

The processing time required before and after the implementation of the EIA Ordinance is summarised below

Application under EIAO

Statutory Time Limit (days)

Average Time Taken (as at 31.8.1999) (days)

Average Time Taken before EIAO** (days)

EIA Study Brief 45 41.3 60
Permission to Directly Apply for Environmental Permit 45 38.8 60
The Authority's Review of EIA Report 60 51.1 90
Public & ACE Consultation 60 34.6 90
The Authority's reply after consultation 30 16.6 N/A
Environmental Permit 30 26.7 N/A
Variation of Environmental Permit 30 25.0 N/A
Further Environmental Permit 30 27.8 N/A
Surrender of Environmental Permit N/A 1.0 N/A

NB: ** Data extracted from a paper "Assessment of Economic Implication Arising from the Proposed EIA Legislation" by Financial Services Branch

Documents are immediately placed on the EIA Ordinance Public Register for public inspection.

On the other hand, the present arrangements of the review of draft EIA reports are only administrative and upon request from the applicants.


It can be seen that the present average response time for statutory applications is well below the statutory limit. Regarding the time used by Director of Environment Protection after ACE consultation, the statistics for the actual time used indicated that Director of Environment Protection only used 16.6 days out of the 30 days available. Nevertheless, to strength the arrangements for applicants to seek advice form EPD before formal application, it is proposed that:

  • The Director of Environmental Protection will issue a guidance note on the operation of the Environmental Study Management Group (ESMG) before and after statutory applications to provide proper guidance; and

  • The consultants of the applicants to check and ensure the EIA reports are in compliance with the Technical Memorandum on EIA Process and the EIA study brief.

4. Effectiveness and Efficiency of the EIA Process

  • Some applicants suggested that more guidance notes or guidelines should be provided on, e.g. cultural heritage, ecology. These could enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the EIA process;

  • On the other hand, some opined that the applicants should ensure that all key concerns have been properly addressed in the EIA studies in accordance with the Technical Memorandum on EIA Process. The EPD and Advisory Council on Environment should not be expected to play a role as report quality controller This would allow the EPD to process the EIA reports more efficiently;

  • The present arrangements allow supplementary information to the submitted if it does not affect the findings and conclusion of the EIA report. This allows flexibility for minor changes and saves unnecessary time to accommodate changes; and!P Some definitions of designated projects in the Schedule 2 are considered unclear. More guidance is needed. This would also help shorten the time needed to ascertain whether a project would be required to route through the statutory EIA process;

  • Some applicants considered Environmental Study Management Group meetings help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the EIA process, whilst some others would like to see more effective consultation with the various authorities under the Technical Memorandum before statutory application.

To help the applicants and their consultants to go through the EIA process, the following publications have been made available for use in hard copies and via the EIA Ordinance Website:

  • Technical Memorandum on EIA Process

  • A Guide to the EIA Ordinance

  • Advisory Council on Environment Paper 8/98: Implementation of EIA Ordinance

  • Guidance Note on Advertisement and Public Inspection of Documents

  • Advice Note on EIA Sub-committee of the Advisory Council on the Environment

  • Guidance Notes on Assessment of Impact on Sites of Cultural Heritage in Environmental Impact Assessment Studies

In additional to the above,

  • Over 40 Environmental Study Management Group Meetings have been convened to provide advice to applicants or to resolve issues (as at 31.8.1999)

  • All approved EIA reports are available in the EIA Ordinance Register Officer and the Website for reference by applicants and consultants.

To further enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the EIA process

  1. EPD will as mentioned above issue a set of guidance notes on the operation of the Environmental Study Management Group before and after the statutory applications;

  2. EPD will set up a "cyber EIAO help bench" to help proponents and their consultants on common issues or enquiries they often encountered during their preparation of project profiles and EIA reports;

  3. To facilitate the public and consultants to know more about the status of various projects and promote the sharing of knowledge and experiences, EPD will set up a "cyber EIAO project template" for major projects that have commenced construction;

  4. To promote communication and experiences sharing, EPD will set up "EIAO users liaison groups" for both government and private sector proponents and an "EIAO practitioners liaison group" for consultants. These groups will also work together on developing the "cyber EIAO help bench".

  5. More guidance notes and information materials on areas of interest which can help applicants and their consultants will be prepared. Details of the proposed cyber EIAO help bench and project template are contained in Appendix E

5. Choice of prescriptive vs. performance based environmental permit conditions

  • Some environmental permit holders were of a view that the permit conditions are too specific on the choice of construction methods which would allow little flexibility for the contractor to work;

  • To avoid too much details in EIA reports and environmental permits, some project proponents suggested to use environmental management system to replace the detailed prescriptive requirements so that the permit holders and their contractors could have more flexibility on how to achieve the same environmental performance;

  • Some others including a few Advisory Council on Environment members however were concerned on the follow-up and enforcement of the EIA report recommendations and permit conditions should insufficient details were provided in EIA report and in environmental permits;

  • Some attendees were worried that the public would not trust a blanket commitment from applicants without a good amount of details in EIA report and permit conditions for proper implementation and monitoring;

  • It was suggested that intended and possible alternatives to the recommended environmental measures could be clearly stated in the EIA report to allow for more flexibility in the subsequent drafting of permit conditions;

  • Some attendees were of a view that prescriptive permit conditions specifying the method statements of protection measures could allow the public to visualise and help monitor the implementation of the measures; and

  • Some attendees were specifically concerned about the implications of prescriptive environmental permit conditions for Design-Build-Operate contracts. But, others commented that conditions were originated from the EIA report for the project. It, therefore, could not be more prescriptive than what had been put down in the EIA report. The provision on variation of permit conditions already allows flexibility for future changes.

The purpose of the EIA Ordinance is to prevent environmental damage, rather than just rectifying the problems after they occur. The current practice is to follow the guidelines laid down in the Technical Memorandum on EIA Process and Schedule 4 of the EIA Ordinance in specifying the conditions to be imposed in an environmental permit. The followings will also be based when drafting environmental permits

  • the mitigation measures set out in the project profile and the findings and recommendations of the EIA report submitted by the application and approved by Director of Environmental Protection;

  • the conditions of approval of the EIA report;

  • the conditions of approval for proceeding directly with the application for environmental permit;

  • the advice given to him by other relevant authorities on matters within their jurisdiction as listed in Section 9 of this Technical Memorandum; and

  • the measures that are necessary to meet the guidelines, standards or criteria laid down in this Technical Memorandum

Moreover, all environmental permits issued are placed in the EIA Ordinance Register Office and uploaded into the Website for reference by applicants and public.

The choice of prescriptive or performance based environmental permit conditions is central to the effectiveness of EPD in enforcing the EIA Ordinance as well as the public in understanding of the environmental measures to be adopted before the project construction commenced on site. Whilst discussions at project level will benefit, it is also considered that apart from the existing references (ref: left) used in the drafting of environmental permits, the setting up of the above mentioned liaison groups will help to resolve the difference. These groups include:

The EIA Ordinance user liaison groups

The EIA Ordinance practitioners liaison group

6. Effectiveness of the Statutory EIA Process in Pre-empting Adverse Environmental Impacts

  • Many attendees including proponents and Advisory Council on Environment members considered the EIA Ordinance a very effective tool to pre-empt environmental impacts and protect the environment;

  • There was a general believe that good quality environmental monitoring and auditing which forms part of the environmental permit conditions would be an effective tool to pre-empt adverse environmental impact and verify predictions;

  • However, some Provisional District Board members were concerned on the lack of resources in EPD for monitoring and enforcement of the EIA Ordinance.

The Technical Memorandum on EIA Process provides the legal basis for EIA studies to assess environmental impacts.

It is an existing administrative requirement that no decision to proceed with the implementation of a designated project should be given before an EIA report has been prepared and approved, or a permission to apply directly for an environmental permit has been granted.

The government has also issued instruction to departments not to gazette a designated project before EIA report approval unless prior consent of Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (now Secretary for the Environment and Food) has been sought.

The existing arrangements have effectively ensured that adverse environmental impacts are pre-empted. This is best illustrated by the examples of key outcomes in the fact sheet in Appendix B.

7. Other Views Expressed

(a) Coverage of the EIA Ordinance:

  • In general, there had been no strong argument on whether the coverage should be wider or lesser. During the consultation with the 18 Provisional District Boards, one member opined that all projects should be covered in the Ordinance. However, except on a very specific suggestion regarding 132kv overhead power lines, there was no strong suggestion from proponent departments and relevant authorities on whether the list in Schedules 2 and 3 of the EIA Ordinance should be generally tightened or relaxed.

  • Some consultants expressed concerns over the level of details required for Schedule 3 projects. Some considered that detailed environmental measures could be followed up in permits issued for the individual Schedule 2 designated projects within the Schedule 3 project.

a. Coverage of the EIA Ordinance

  • The coverage of the Ordinance is clearly defined in the designated project list in Schedule 2 and 3 of the Ordinance after detailed and lengthy consultation with various stakeholders

  • When necessary, amendments to the schedules in the Ordinance can be made in response to public demands. The EIA Ordinance (Amend to Schedule 2) Order 1999 gazetted in late July 1999 is a good example.

a. Coverage of the EIA Ordinance

The Schedules will be kept under constant review. In July 1999, there was one major designated project added to the Schedule 2 in light of the public interest in that type of development.

The setting up of the EIA Ordinance users and practitioners liaison groups will help to facilitate effective dialogue amongst stakeholders over the coverage of EIA Ordinance.

(b) Technical Issues related to Environmental Assessment

  • Lack of explicit standards for the assessing the impacts on biological species was a concern, resulting in discrepancy in ecological assessment. Some of the stakeholders suggested that a database on biological diversity and the relative importance of the various species and habitats would be helpful for ecological assessment.

  • However, others commented that ecology is a broad subject and never would there be sufficient information. Some other academia considered that ecological value to certain extent depends on the community's preference rather than strictly scientific research.

b. Technical Issues related to Environmental Assessment

  • Standards and guidelines summarising Hong Kong and international experiences in EIA study have been laid down in the "Technical Memorandum on EIA Process.

  • A specific guidance note on other aspects such as heritage assessment was also prepared and uploaded to the Website for reference and use by all practitioners.

b. Technical Issues related to Environmental Assessment

  • Guidance notes and information materials useful to applications and their consultants will be produced.

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