Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 55th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 28 September 1998 at 2:30 p.m.


Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, JP (Chairman)
Mr. Barrie COOK
Mr. CHAN Kwok-wai, JP
Mr. Clement CHEN
Dr. HO Kin-chung
Mr. Joseph LAU Man-wai
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Dr. NG Cho-nam
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Ms Iris TAM
Miss Alex YAU
Mr. Danny TSUI (Secretary)

Absent with Apologies:

Mr. Julian BARCLAY
Mr. Paul C. H. FAN
Professor Anthony HEDLEY
Professor Peter HILLS
Professor LAM Kin-che
Dr. LEONG Che-hung
Mr. Otto L. T. POON
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH
Mr. Tan Teng Huat
Mr. Plato YIP


In Attendance:
Mr. Kim SALKELD Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment) (DS(E), PELB)
Mr. Rob LAW Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Mr. S P LAU Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AD(Cons), AFD)
Mr. P K S Pun Director of Planning (D of Plan)
Dr. Cindy LAI Assistant Director of Health (AD, DH)
Mr. David CHAN Principal Information Officer, Environmental Protection Department (EPD) (PIO, EPD)
Mr. Eugene FUNG Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment) (AS(E)4, PELB)
Ms S M HUNG Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment) (AS(E)6, PELB)
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer, Planning, Environment & Lands Bureau (Environment) (EO(E), PELB)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 4 :
Dr. Malcolm BROOM Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Water Policy and Planning Group), EPD (PEPO(WP&PG), EPD)
Dr. Samuel CHUI Senior Environmental Protection Officer (Water Policy and Planning Group), EPD (SEPO(WP&PG), EPD)
Mr. Peter CHAN Managing Director, Montgomery Watson (MW) (MD, MW)
Mr. Allan KWOK Joint Project Manager, MW (JPM, MW)
Professor M R HUANG Joint Project Manager, Binhai Consultants (JPM, BC)
In Attendance for Agenda Item 5 :
Mr. C C CHAN Senior Agricultural Development Officer, AFD (SADO, AFD)
Mr. K W CHEUNG Acting Senior Ecological Assessment Officer, AFD (Atg. SEAO, AFD)
In Attendance for Agenda Item 6 :
Mr. Clinton LEEKS Corporate Development Director, Airport Authority (AA) (CDD, AA)
Mr. Howard ENG Deputy Airport Management Director, AA (Dep. AMD, AA)
Mr. Amin EBRAHIM Commercial Manager - Aviation Support Services, AA (CM-ASS, AA)
Mr. Bill ROBERTS Senior Design Engineer, AA (SDE, AA)
Mr. Rick MORSE Environmental Manager, AA (EM, AA)
Mr. Martin PUTNAM Environmental Scientist, AA (ES, AA)
Mr. Simon HUI Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Assessment & Audit), EPD (PEPO(A&A), EPD)




The Chairman informed Members that Mr. Julian Barclay had tendered his resignation from this Council as he had been relocated to London. He expressed appreciation of Mr. Barclay's contributions to this Council. DS(E),PELB noted that Mr. Edwin Lau of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited had been appointed as the Chairman of the Private Sector Committee on the Environment to succeed Mr. Barclay.
Agenda Item 1: Confirmation of Minutes of 54th Meeting held on 31 August 1998
2.Minutes of the 54th meeting were confirmed.
Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising
Para. 2 : Informal meeting between ACE and EAC
3.Members noted that following EAC's reply to the Chairman's letter concerning the need for additional power generating capacity, SPEL had written to the Secretary for Economic Services; reply was still pending. The Chairman said that it would be difficult for the Council to take a position if the Hong Kong Electric Company (HEC) came to present their EIA study report before the Council was fully acquainted with the circumstances justifying the need for additional power generating capacity. He also took the chance to declare interest as his firm had taken on as the group auditor for the Cheung Kong Infrastructure Group to which HEC belonged, although the latter was itself audited by another firm. He suggested that it would be more proper for another member to chair the substantive discussion on HEC's EIA report in a future meeting.

Para. 3 : Stepped up monitoring of Chinese White Dolphins
4.The Chairman suggested to address this issue under Agenda Item 6. In view of the fact that the vessels involved were not controlled by AA, DS(E),PELB told Members that he had written to Transport Department requesting them to require the ferry operator to assess the impact of the ferry services on the Chinese White Dolphins on a regular basis. Their reply was awaited.

Para. 4 : Joint meeting between ACE and EA Panel
5.A suitable date in December was being identified for the joint ACE/EA Panel meeting.

[Post meeting note : The meeting will be held on 3 December 1998 from 10:45am to 11:45 am at Legislative Council Building.]

Para. 5 : Proposed flytipping hotline
6.Members noted that EPD's general complaint hotlines would be used as an interim measure to accept complaints from the public on flytipping. EPD had redistributed its leaflets on the complaint hotlines to District Offices to publicise the hotline.
Para. 18 : Outcome of prosecutions against vessels trading illicit diesel oil
7.It was noted that the cases were tried on 25 September 1998 and that Members would be informed of the outcome in due course.

Para. 24 : Paper on decontamination policy
8.The paper was being prepared and would be discussed at the December meeting.
Para. 25 : Invitation to ESB to send a representative to sit on ACE
9.A reply from ESB was awaited.
Para. 22 (July meeting) : Destructive fishing practices in Singapore
10.A summary of actions taken by Singapore to discourage destructive fishing prepared by Mr. Tan Teng Huat was tabled for Members' information.
Kai Tak North Apron Decontamination
11.In response to some press queries on the environmental effectiveness of the recommendations stated in the EIA study report, the Chairman made clear that since the project proponent was required to conduct a pilot test on the effectiveness of the proposed methods before any decontamination works began, the public could be assured that the remedial measures would be effective.
Agenda Item 3 : Report of EIA Subcommittee
(ACE Paper 38/98 Yuen Long By-pass Floodway Feasibility Study)

12.In the absence of the EIA Subcommittee Chairman, a subcommittee Member took his place to report the Subcommittee's findings of the EIA study. Four main concerns had been raised and discussed at the meeting, namely, the choice of option; the adequacy of wetland compensation; the cumulative impact from several infrastructural projects in that area and the need to conduct an ecological survey besides the one included in the report. The Subcommittee was satisfied with the explanations provided by the project proponent to these concerns and accepted the assurance that an ecological baseline survey would be carried out prior to the commencement of construction work to ensure no significant changes in the habitat conditions. The Subcommittee, therefore, recommended the Council to endorse the EIA report without conditions.
13.The Chairman proposed and Members agreed to endorse the EIA report without conditions.
Agenda Item 4 : SSDS EIA Study
(Ace Paper 37/98)

14.The Chairman welcomed PEPO(WP&PG), EPD, SEPO (WP&PG), EPD, MD, MW, JPM, MW and JPM, BC to the meeting. PEPO(WP&PG), EPD and MD, MW briefed Members on the background and the outcome of the study respectively.
15.In response to a member's queries, MD, MW clarified that the treatment plant at Stonecutters Island was already providing CEPT treatment, and that the capital cost as shown in Table 3 of the ACE paper did not include the costs committed in the Stage I works. He said that the TIN level difference with or without nutrient removal treatment was only marginal, so they would examine the need to use this kind of treatment vis-a-vis the readiness of the community to spend extra money for a higher level of treatment. He also confirmed that the cost of upgrading the treatment level would be about the same as the present cost difference between the two levels.
16.In response to the Chairman's query, PEPO(WP&PG), EPD replied that the mainland side considered that all four options would meet the agreed environmental objectives. DEP supplemented that the Mainland side had mentioned their preference of the option with CEPT plus disinfection and a discharge at East or West of Lamma Island.
17.Noting that there was no option of CEPT plus nutrient removal, a Member asked if this combination had been explored. PEPO(WP&PG), EPD said that this combination would not be technically efficient to deal with the waste because CEPT would remove much of the organics, making the biological nutrient removal process inefficient.
18.A Member asked what mitigation measures on sewage treatment had been taken by the Guangdong side. JPM, BC replied that at the moment, about 15% of the sewage discharged from Guangdong had undergone secondary treatment. The Chairman followed up by asking whether Guangdong had any plan to increase the percentage of treated sewage. PEPO(WP&PG), EPD responded that this would be something for the Hong Kong-Guangdong Environmental Protection Liaison Group to pursue, but he cautioned that improved sewage treatment in Guangdong would not necessarily reduce nutrient concentrations in local waters significantly because a major source was likely to be fertiliser run-off from land application. This was an issue of water catchment management which would have to be addressed separately.
19.A Member asked what assumptions were made with regard to dealing with the sludge. PEPO(WP&PG), EPD explained that the existing practice was to dewater the sludge and dispose of it at landfill. However a review of sludge management policy was being conducted under a separate study. This was tending to the conclusion that in future sludge would have to be incinerated and the SSDS EIA costings assumed this would be the case. DEP said that the related paper would be submitted to the Council upon completion of the review.

20.Noting that the briefing document assumed that CEPT was an efficient sewage treatment method, a Member asked how CEPT was actually performing at the Stonecutters Island. MD, MW replied that the treatment plant at the Stonecutters Island had been in operation for the last 6 months and CEPT had been proved efficient in terms of removal of harmful substances. He undertook to provide a report on the performance of CEPT at Stonecutters Island to facilitate Members' decision-making on the proposed options.

21.With regard to a Member's concern over the increased chances of red tide due to the increase in nitrogen and phosphate level in the waters surrounding the outfall location, PEPO(WP&PG), EPD explained that no option would lead to a breach of the mainland WQO for nutrients in the area of the outfall(s). The inshore discharges would, however, lead to a small increase in nitrogen in southern Hong Kong waters but this was unlikely to be ecologically meaningful. That Member said he would provide EPD with copies of the publications of local experts which would be useful in assessing the incremental risk of algal blooms as a result of the marginal increase in nutrients. PEPO(WP&PG), EPD said he would welcome this information.
22.A Member asked and DEP confirmed that when EPD met with the Mainland authorities to discuss the findings of the consultancy report, the Mainland side considered that the four identified groups of options could all meet the agreed environmental criteria. They had officially stated that their initial preference would be to go for Option 1 (CEPT and a short outfall in Hong Kong waters) and monitor it closely to allow timely decisions about upgrading, if necessary.
23.Noting that the completion time for the four options ranged from 7.5 years to 10 years, a Member asked if the consultants had taken into account the population growth and pollution loads by the year 2006. MD, MW confirmed that their calculations were based on the latest projections up to year 2016 provided by Planning Department. PEPO(WP&PG, EPD) supplemented that the figure "1.5 million m3 of screened sewage" discharged to Victoria Harbour every day was the actual figure in 1996.
24.That Member then asked how the sewage from Guangdong would affect the water quality if Guangdong side did not improve their sewage treatment. PEPO(WP&PG), EPD said that the mainland waters adjacent to Southern WCZ currently complied with the nutrient objective and he doubted there would be rapid deterioration. In any event actions taken by Guangdong would not have much effect on the water quality in core Victoria Harbour as the Pearl River inflow had little influence there.
25.In response to a Member's query, MD, MW said that the improvement in water quality by using secondary or tertiary treatment rather than CEPT + disinfection would be marginal. For example, the TIN level would be 0.17mg/L, 0.17mg/L and 0.14mg/L for CEPT + disinfection, secondary and tertiary treatment respectively.
26.A Member said he was interested in some figures or graphs of the existing water conditions and flows. MD, MW said that they were happy to provide such information upon request. The Chairman said that Members should write in specific terms to the consultants if they needed more information.
27.Two Members were concerned about the extra cost per person or per cubic meter of sewage under each option. DS(E),PELB said that this figure could not be easily calculated. According to the Drainage Services Department, the present charge was $131/year for an average domestic user. The cost would definitely increase but there should not be significant implications. The Chairman said that it would be useful if the consultants could provide the Council with estimates of how much to be paid per capita or per cubic meter. PEPO(WP&PG), EPD said he had made some rough calculations which showed that the recurrent cost would be about $1/m3 for option 1 and up to $3/m3 for option 4. He would discuss it with PELB and work out a better estimate. DS(E),PELB reminded Members that the SSDS only accounted for some 15% of the total recurrent sewage treatment costs in the territory.

28.A Member asked and DEP confirmed that the Mainland authorities were satisfied with the conclusions made in the EIA study, which included option 2 with outfall location in Mainland region, and it was up to HKSAR government to decide on which option to be adopted.
29.A Member was concerned whether the "heavy polluters" could actually afford the additional treatment costs because a lot of these industries had moved northwards or simply ceased operation some 10 years ago due to the heavy sewage charges they had to pay. The Chairman said that the Council would need to decide on the preferred option before announcing it to the public.
30.A Member requested and MD, MW undertook to provide a copy of the breakdown on the population figures given by Planning Department. With regard to the effects of possible future changes in population, MD, MW said that the study had used the latest projections which took into account projected future inward migration. He said they had also run an additional high population scenario as a sensitivity test and confirmed that even in this case all the options would still be acceptable.
Montgomery Watson
31.The Chairman asked PELB to prepare a list of on-going consultancies relating to SSDS commissioned by the government. He also asked for the consultants' response to the questions raised by a Member for circulation to all Members. The Secretariat was also asked to circulate the comments made by HKUST for Members' reference. The Chairman said that the Council should choose the most sustainable and economic option that would do the job for the public.

[Post-meeting note : The questions from that Member and FoE's submission to EA Panel were sent to DEP and DDS on 28.9.98. The comments from HKUST were circulated to Members on 30.09.98.]

32.In response to a Member's question, MD, MW said that the options with lower treatment levels could be upgraded in the future.
33.A Member enquired about the estimated costs needed for Guangdong to clean up the catchment area. Though there was no such figure at hand, DS(E), PELB said that HKUST had just been granted funding from the Jockey Club to join in a major project with Guangdong institutes on a water quality study in the Pearl River estuary. The study should lead to better planning of the environmental protection policy. JPM, BC supplemented that at the moment, the capital costs for sewage treatment in Guangdong was about RMB2000/m3 and recurrent costs RMB0.5/m3.
34.Noting that sewage from Hong Kong only made up some 15% of the total load in the Pearl River Delta Region, a Member was concerned that, even if the sewage discharged from Hong Kong was free of nutrients, red tides would still occur in that region if Guangdong side did not improve their treatment facilities. DEP said that this had always been an area discussed at the Hong Kong-Guangdong Environmental Protection Liaison Group (EPLG) meetings to work out better strategies to improve the water quality with the Mainland authorities. He assured Members that SSDS would at least maintain offshore water quality, if not improve it, and that it would definitely lead to big improvements in Victoria Harbour.
35.The Principal Assistant Secretary (Environment)3, Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau (PAS(E)3, PELB) supplemented that the water pollution problem in Pearl River Delta was one of the four major joint programmes with Guangdong mentioned in the declaration announced at the last meeting of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference held on 24 September.
36.A Member asked if the hydrodynamic model built by the consultants had taken into account the weather conditions like the El Nino effect. MD, MW responded that they had drawn data from 1992, 1993 and 1996 to build up the model, but they had not specifically included the El Nino effect.
37.The Chairman said that he would prepare a paper challenging the very fundamentals on this issue over the next week for responses by the consultants. Noting that although primary treatment needed more space than CEPT, the Chairman believed the public might welcome a scheme with lower sewage charges using only primary treatment while the capital costs could be absorbed by the government.
38.Though there was no fixed consultation period, the Chairman expressed that the Council should take a little more time to deal with this issue comprehensively, and he was ready to convene a special meeting to discuss it alone. At the Chairman's request, DS(E),PELB undertook to circulate PELB's papers which had been submitted to the EA Panel to Members for reference.

[Post-meeting note : The special meeting would be convened on 22 October 1998 at 03:00 pm.]


Agenda Item 5 : Review on the Ecological Value of Agricultural Land
(ACE Paper 39/98)

39.The Chairman welcomed SADO, AFD and Atg. SEAO, AFD to the meeting. Atg. SEAO, AFD briefed Members on the general ecological value of agricultural land in Hong Kong.
40.A Member commented that the paper did not differentiate different types of agricultural lands. Noting that some of the agricultural lands with high ecological value should be recognised by the Administration, private sector developers, consultants as well as this Council, she asked if there had ever been any territory-wide study conducted to identify ecologically important agricultural land in Hong Kong. Atg. SEAO, AFD explained that according to the Technical Memorandum of the EIA Ordinance, the ecological value of lands was assessed by checking through a list of objective criteria, not types of land. Moreover, the land owners could alter their land use anytime, not subject to control by the government. AD(Cons), AFD supplemented that studies on the various important habitats in the territory such as "Ecological Study of Freshwater Wetland Habitats", "Study on the Ecological Value of Fish Ponds in Deep Bay Area" and "Biodiversity Survey" might form the basis of mapping out Hong Kong's important ecological areas, including those identified in agricultural lands. Another Member said that the key issue was that there was no legislative control over agricultural activities. A third Member followed that the farmers were undertaking an economic activity, not an ecological activity. While there was no predetermined production targets, the government could not forbid them to earn their living or force them to preserve the land with high ecological value.
41.The Chairman concluded that AFD should continue to identify ecologically important agricultural land which needed to be preserved.
Agenda Item 6 : Progress of Investigations into the Location of Permanent Aviation Fuel Receiving Facilities (AFRF) For the New Airport
(ACE Paper 40/98)

42.The Chairman welcomed the team from AA to the meeting. CDD, AA started the briefing by explaining the current position of AA regarding the recommendations made by the consultants on East of Soko Island (EOS) and South of Kau Yi Chau (KYC). SDE, AA then briefed Members on the background to and results of the study by the Consultant. He also gave the reasons as to why AA considered that neither EOS nor KYC should be pursued further. Lastly, EM, AA briefed Members on the environmental aspects with regard to Sha Chau.
43.The Chairman was concerned about a replacement site for the tank farms in Tsing Yi because it had become a residential area. He said that this should be included in the planning of the permanent AFRF site to avoid high cost being incurred again when they had to move away from Tsing Yi. The D of Plan said that Planning Department had not decided on a replacement site yet, but would need to search for one soon.
44.A Member, on behalf of another Member who had left the meeting earlier, asked if there were any sites proposed by private sectors. CDD, AA said that there were two proposals which were outside HKSAR boundary which, as DS(E), PELB remarked, had not been considered by the government. Upon the Chairman's request, CDD, AA said that they would provide Members with a summary of those proposals after conferring with PELB to see if the information could be released.

45.In response to a Member's question, AD(Cons), AFD replied that the study commissioned by AFD on the suitability of EOS to be designated as a marine park was in progress.

[Post-meeting Note : The study would be completed by May 1999.]

46.In response to a Member's concern about the impact on Chinese White Dolphins from increasingly frequent marine traffic of ferries operating between Tuen Mun and Discovery Bay, and the high speed of those vessels, EM, AA said that the frequency was actually lower compared with that in the past few years, while the speed was little changed.
47.The Chairman asked AA to update Members on the investigations with a progress report in 6 months' time, CDD, AA agreed.

Agenda Item 7 : Any Other Business

Tentative Schedule of Work for ACE in 1998

48.Members noted the tentative schedule which was tabled.
49.The Chairman drew Members' attention to the paper on the update on the Fish Pond Study which was scheduled to be discussed at the October meeting.
Briefing by Cheung Kong on Fung Lok Wai Development
50.Mr. Victor Li of Cheung Kong had invited Members to attend a briefing on the development of Fung Lok Wai in October at his office. The Secretariat would inform Members of the details in due course.

[Post meeting note : The briefing was scheduled for 16 October 1998.]


Presentation by Housing Authority
51.The Chairman had invited the Housing Authority to brief this Council on their "Efforts to Educate Public Housing Tenants on Waste Segregation" at the October or November meeting.
Information Paper on Air Quality
52.The Chairman noted that Members had received an information paper on "Study of Air Quality in the Pearl River Delta Region".
Agenda Item 8 : Date of Next Meeting
53.The next meeting had been rescheduled from 26 October 1998 (Monday) to 27 October 1998 (Tuesday).

Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau (Environment Division)
October 1998


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