Environmental Impact Assessment Report for Lantau North-South Road Link Between Tai Ho Wan and Mui Wo
Reasons for the Environmental Impact Assessment Report submitted on 15 September
2000 not meeting the requirements of the EIA Study Brief and the Technical Memorandum on the EIA Process
Pursuant to section 6(3)(b) and section 6(6) of the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (the Ordinance), taking into account the advice from the Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation, and having regard to the purpose and provisions of the Ordinance, the Director of Environmental Protection (the Director) has decided that the Environmental Impact Assessment report (the Report) for Lantau North-South Link between Tai Ho Wan and Mui Wo (the Project) submitted on the 15 September 2000, based on the road alignment currently proposed in the Report, does not meet the requirements of the environmental impact assessment study brief (the Study Brief) and the Technical Memorandum on the EIA Process (the TM) for the following reasons:
Likely Substantial Environmental Impacts Based on the Road Alignment Currently Proposed in the EIA Report
1. On the basis of the road alignment currently proposed in the Report, the Director considers that the environmental impacts caused by the Project are likely to be prejudicial to the health or well being of the flora, fauna or ecosystems in the areas affected by the Project. The Report indicated that the Project would likely result in a permanent loss of 15.6 ha habitat, including 1.9ha of marsh with high conversation value at Luk Tei Tong and 3.1 ha of natural woodland at Lin Fa Shan with a high diversity of species. In addition, the construction works would likely result in a minimum loss of 5.8 ha habitat. The estimated time for the mitigatory planting to establish may take more than 40 years. Part of the proposed road alignment will be constructed within Tai Ho Bay which supports a high variety of species and habitats of conservation importance including rare fish species, horseshoe crab, mangrove, marsh, mudflat and seagrass. The applicant has not demonstrated that the loss in ecological function and capacity arising from the Project directly or indirectly could be adequately compensated. In view of the high ecological value of the habitats/species which will likely be directly affected by the Project or which will likely be put under a high ecological risk when the Project is constructed, the Director considers that there would likely be substantial environmental impacts and the requirements under section 4, Annex 16 and Annex 20 of the TM have not been met.
Likely Environmental Risks and Disturbance to Ecologically Valuable Tai Ho Bay
2. The Tai Ho Stream is one of the most ecologically valuable fresh water streams in Hong Kong with over 46 fish species recorded. A rich diversity of fauna including rare fish species like Ayu and Bennett (a Class II protected species in China), and the linkages to other ecologically important intertidal habitats in Tai Ho Bay, makes the Tai Ho stream of high ecological value. The Project will likely put the Tai Ho stream under a high level of environmental risk and will likely disturb the natural environment of the Tai Ho valley.
3. Section 8.9.2 of the Report stated that the stream fauna could be adversely affected, resulting in fish death even if only 100m of the exposed haul road is not protected by the drainage system. The conclusion in the report that any one fish species should not be lost from the stream catchments, is based on the assumption that the fish species are well distributed across the upper tributaries, and this assumption may not be valid. These findings and assumptions adopted in the report suggest the likelihood of potentially serious adverse impact to the valuable Tai Ho stream fauna if there is any operational problem associated with the temporary drainage system or if the system could not satisfactorily perform as expected. The Director is of the view that the ecologically important habitats/species along the road alignment would likely be subject to a high level of ecological risk during the construction period and that the Report has not demonstrated the acceptability and validity of the assumptions made in the assessment. Requirements under section 4, Annex 16 and Annex 20 of the TM have not been met.
Likely Adverse Environmental Impacts to Marshland at Luk Tei Tong and Woodland at Lin Fa Shan
4. The large established marsh at Luk Tei Tong is an important wetland on Lantau Island, supporting 83 bird species of which 35 bird species are rare. It is also a breeding site for birds and amphibians. The Lin Fa Shan Woodland is well established with a high diversity of bird, amphibian and invertebrate, and supports a number of rare and uncommon species. The Lung Mei Hang Stream is an amphibian breeding site and supports the Romer's tree frog, Hong Kong Newt and short-legged Toad. These ecologically valuable habitats/species along the road alignment will likely be disturbed or subject to high ecological risk during the construction period.
5. The evaluation of the ecological impacts on the bird habitat in the Report was mainly based on the size of habitat loss. However, the function and capacity of the habitat has not been properly assessed and considered in the assessment. This is particularly important if the concerned habitat is a "breeding ground" and the affected species are rare. Also, the reversibility of such impact has not properly addressed in the Report and this applies especially to the evaluation of impact on birds inhabiting Luk Tei Tong Marsh, Lin Fa Shan Woodland and other ravine woodlands. The Director is of the view that the requirements under section 6.1.5 of the Study Brief and section 4.4.2, Annex 8, Annex 16 and Annex 20 of the TM have not been met.
Other Alternatives or Options Available to Avoid Adverse Environmental Impacts to Tai Ho Bay, Luk Tei Tong and Lin Fa Shan
6. The Director considers that the road alignment currently proposed in the Report would likely result in adverse environmental impacts and there are other options or alternatives available to avoid such adverse environmental impacts. As stated in Appendix C, section 22.214.171.124 and Table C.11 of the EIA Report, there are environmental benefits associated with adopting the tunnel schemes based upon ecological, water quality and landscape and visual grounds, and that the environmental ranking of tunnel options are higher than the road alignment currently proposed in the EIA report. Under the guidelines for ecological assessment set out in Annex 16 of the TM, projects that are likely to result in adverse ecological impacts in areas of ecological importance should not normally be permitted unless it has been proven that no other practical and reasonable alternatives are available. The environmentally preferred option(s) has not been adopted, and the applicant has not given priority to avoid adverse environmental impacts.
7. For instance, the Tung Chung to Tong Fuk tunnel alignment would likely result in limited ecological impacts in comparison to the currently proposed Tai Ho to Mui Wo alignment. For the Tung Chung to Tong Fuk tunnel option, the potentially affected habitats include mainly woodlands and streams. The woodlands alongside the Tung Chung Road up to Shek Mun Kap Road are of low ecological value due to their highly disturbed nature and many of the areas are already shotcreted. The areas of stream subject to impact are mainly concentrated in the lower course, part of which have already been channelized and therefore of limited ecological value when compared with the undisturbed Tai Ho Stream. The Tung Chung to Tong Fuk tunnel scheme would also significantly reduce the adverse landscape and visual impact including the disturbance to the natural character of the Tai Ho valley. So there are other options or alternatives to meet the purpose of the Project. In this regard, the requirements under Section 4, 6.1.5 of the Study Brief and Section 4.3, 4.4.2, Annex 16 and Annex 20 of the TM have not been met.
Failure to demonstrate the Adequacy, Practicality and Effectiveness of the Proposed Mitigation Measures
8. The Director is not satisfied that the measures recommended in the Report are effective to mitigate the potential environmental impacts and that the Report has not demonstrated the effectiveness and feasibility of the recommended mitigation measures.
9. The Report has proposed a temporary drainage system along the alignment to collect all the site run-off under a 1:50 years storm during the construction phase. The Report also predicted that the recommended mitigation measures might not be sufficient to control the impacts during some very rare events. The Director considers that there is a risk associated with the effective control of such a large volume of site run-off, especially there is no local successful example on similar temporary drainage system of this scale. The impacts due to construction of the temporary drainage system itself have not been fully assessed.
10. The EIA Report has not clearly demonstrated how the enhanced East Tai Ho Wan Marsh could compensate for the loss at Luk Tei Tong Marsh which is physically separated from Tai Ho Wan by a mountain. Moreover, Luk Tei Tong Marsh is linked with other wetland habitats in the Mui Wo Plain and mature woodlands in the vicinity. The East Tai Ho Wan Marsh certainly lacks this ecological linkage. Section 126.96.36.199 of the EIA Report stated that Luk Tei Tong Marsh functions as a feeding and breeding site for the rare and uncommon birds and amphibians. Many of the bird species recorded are reliant on the wetland habitat and were not recorded at any other sites within the study area. It has not been demonstrated how the rare and uncommon species of birds in particular at Luk Tei Tong Marsh could be attracted to East Tai Ho Wan.
11. The EIA Report has proposed to plant 15ha of trees along the road alignment to mitigate for the woodland loss at Lin Fa Shan. However, according to section .188.8.131.52 of the EIA Report, it would likely take more than 40 years for the new woodland to be mature enough to provide habitats for the majority of the woodland species. Also, the compensation woodland may not serve the same function as the ravine woodland because the woodland at Lin Fa Shan is physically linked to Mui Wo Kau Tsuen Fung Shui Woodlands. The applicant has not demonstrated that the loss in ecological function and capacity can be adequately compensated. The requirements under Annex 8 and 16 of the TM have not been met.
12. The Director considers that the proposed mitigation measures are not adequate or effective, and, based on the road alignment currently proposed, the Report's conclusion of no residual impacts is not justified. Therefore, the Director considers that the requirements under Section 4, 5(d), 5, 6.1.5 of the Study Brief and Section 4.2, section 4.4.2, Annex 16 and Annex 20 of the TM have not been met.