Advisory Council on the Environment


Confirmed Minutes of the 61st Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 30 March 1999 at 2:30 p.m.


Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, JP (Chairman)
Mr. Clement CHEN
Mr. Barrie COOK
Mr. Paul C. H. FAN
Professor Peter HILLS
Dr. HO Kin-chung
Professor LAM Kin-che
Mr. Edwin Lau
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Dr. NG Cho-nam
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH
Ms Iris TAM
Mr. Plato YIP
Mr. Danny TSUI (Secretary)

Absent with Apologies:

Mr. CHAN Kwok-wai, JP
Professor Anthony HEDLEY, JP
Mr. Joseph LAU Man-wai, JP
The Hon. Dr. LEONG Che-hung
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Mr. Otto L. T. POON
Miss Alex YAU
Mr. Tan Teng Huat

In Attendance:


Mr. Kim SALKELD Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment) (DS(E), PELB)
Mr. Rob LAW Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Mrs. Ava NG Acting Deputy Director of Planning (Atg. DDP)
Mr. S P LAU Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD) (AD(Con), AFD)
Dr. Constance Chan Assistant Director of Health (AD of H)
Mr. David CHAN Principal Information Officer, Environmental Protection Department (EPD)
Mr. Eugene FUNG Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment)
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer (Environment), Planning, Environment & Lands Bureau (PELB)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 3 :


Mr. Patrick LEI   Principal Environmental Protection Officer(Waste Policy & Services Group), EPD (P(WS), EPD)
Mr. Herman KONG   Senior Environmental Protection Officer (Waste Policy & Services Group)5, EPD (S(WS)5, EPD)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 4 :


Mr. Graham Ross Assistant Director, Task Force (Black Spots), Lands Department (Lands D) (AD(TFB), Lands D)
Mr. Wilson Wong Principal Land Control Officer, Task Force (Black Spots), Lands D (PLCO(TFB), Lands D)



The Chairman told Members that the Economic Services Bureau had decided not to attend this meeting, after they had considered the agenda.


Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of 60th Meeting held on 2 March 1999

2.Members noted that Dr. Bill Barron was on sick leave and had not yet indicated to the Secretariat whether the part of the draft minutes concerning Agenda Item 3 was agreeable to him. As Members had not proposed any amendments, the draft minutes of the 60th meeting of the ACE were confirmed, subject to comments, if any, from Dr. Barron at a later stage.

3.The Chairman wished Dr. Barron a speedy recovery. He requested Prof. Peter Hills to convey this Council's regard to Dr. Barron.

[Post-meeting note : Dr. Barron has confirmed that he has no comments on the minutes of the 60th meeting.]


Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 6 : Invitation to Transport Bureau / Transport Department to send a representative to sit on ACE/EIA Subcommittee

4.Noting that Transport Bureau (TB) was still considering the invitation, a Member said he hoped to receive TB's favourable reply soon.


Para. 8 : Housing Department's position regarding the introduction of low flush toilets to their new housing developments

5.Members noted that the Housing Authority (HA) supported the use of low flush toilets and was currently expanding its approved lists of products to include 7.5 litres cisterns and their associated pans.


6.In response to a Member's query, the Chairman said that financial resources were not a constraint to the HA in the introduction of low flush toilets. What remained to be resolved by HA was to identify a supplier of the smaller pans at a reasonable price.

Para. 9 : Figure on water wastage due to leakage problem

7.Members noted that, as advised by the Water Supplies Department, about 636 million litres of water had been leaking out of the water distribution system every day (i.e. 232 million m3/year). This represented about 22% of the total amount of water purchased from Guangdong and collected locally from the various water catchment areas. On the basis of the Short Run Marginal Cost at 1997/98 price level, the financial implication of the present leakage problem was approximately $136 million per annum (i.e. 2.5% of WSD's total operating cost for supplying water to the territory in 1997/98).

[Post-meeting note : To reduce the problem of water leakage and burst of watermains, WSD will launch a comprehensive and systematic programme to replace and rehabilitate aged watermains, with priorities given to those watermains which are most susceptible to leakage and bursting. The first stage of the programme will start in 2000 for rehabilitating and replacing 350 km of aged watermains for completion by 2006.]


Para. 10 : Visit to the State Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental agencies in Beijing

8.Members noted that the Constitutional Affairs Bureau had written to the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office (HKMAO) to seek their consent and that of the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to receive the ACE delegation on 26 - 27 April 1999. Members would be informed of HKMAO's response in due course.


Para. 19 : DEP's speech at the year-end briefing

9.After the last meeting, EPD had sent each Member a copy of the speech.


Para. 24 & 30 : Briefing arrangements on "Heading Towards Sustainability" and proposed seminar on "Transport and the Environment"

10.Members noted that the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau would take follow up actions.


Para. 46 : Visit to Shatin Water Treatment Plant

11.The Chairman reminded Members of the visit to the Shatin Water Treatment Plant, which was scheduled for the morning of 17 April 1999.


Para. 49 : Fishing permits in Marine Parks

12.The Chairman thanked AD(Con), AFD for conveying his concern about fishing activities inside Marine Parks to AFD. He said that the AFD officer responsible for the subject had explained to him in writing the criteria for issuing fishing permits and the enforcement actions AFD had taken against unauthorised fishing and destructive fishing practices inside Marine Parks. A copy of AFD's letter had been sent to Members for reference.


Agenda Item 3 : The Report of the EIA Subcommittee for 1 March 1999
(ACE Paper 11/99)

13.The EIA Subcommittee Chairman reported that the EIA Subcommittee had considered two EIA reports at its meeting on 1 March 1999, namely the "Planning and Engineering Feasibility Study for Development near Choi Wan Road and Jordan Valley" and "Tai Po Development - Formation and Servicing of Area 12 (Part) and 39 Pak Shek Kok, Supplementary Environmental Study". He said the EIA Subcommittee recommended that :


(a) the former be endorsed on the condition that a review on the landfill gas hazard assessment, including an additional investigation on the fault lines in particular, and a rigorous monitoring programme be undertaken by the project proponent, and that the EIA Subcommittee should be consulted on the proposed mitigation measures if problems were identified during the investigation; and
(b) the latter be endorsed without conditions.

14.The Chairman proposed and Members agreed to endorse the two reports as recommended by the EIA Subcommittee.

Agenda Item 4 : Beach Water Quality 1998
(ACE Paper 12/99)

15.The Chairman welcomed P(WS), EPD and S(WS)5, EPD to the meeting. P(WS), EPD briefed Members on the paper.


16.A Member welcomed the proposal for making available the weekly beach grading results on EPD's website. However, since not every household had access to Internet, she proposed that EPD should, for the convenience of the general public, consider broadcasting the weekly beach grading results on radio channels during the bathing season, particularly on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Another Member commented that it would help enhance public awareness if the announcement of the weekly beach grading results could be made an integral part of the news report and weather forecast program on the TV channels.

17.P(WS), EPD responded that EPD had been disseminating the weekly beach grading results to the media through the issue of press statement on every Friday during the bathing season. Moreover, the grading of a particular beach was also shown on the Grading Notice Board displayed at every gazatted beach during the bathing season. DEP supplemented that EPD would be willing to discuss with the RTHK the possibility of using their air time to announce the weekly beach grading results, but it could not force the latter to do so. Likewise, EPD could not force any newspapers to publish the weekly beach grading results for it. He said that notwithstanding public's grave concern about the air quality of Hong Kong in the past few months, it was only recently that the South China Morning Post had started publishing the Air Pollution Index (API) in their newspaper. There was still no sign that the other newspapers would follow suit in this regard. The Chairman said that if the public was as concerned about Hong Kong's air and beach water quality as they were concerned about the weather, the media would respond to that need by reporting on API readings and weekly beach grading results. He hoped that the current state of environmental conditions in Hong Kong would subsequently cultivate such an environmental culture in the community.

18.A Member proposed that a hotline be set up for the public to make enquiries about beach grading. P(WS), EPD said that the public could make use of the existing EPD hotlines to obtain information on beach grading.

19.In response to a Member's query, P(WS), EPD explained that the water quality of the Ting Kau Beach was very poor because the sewerage works at its hinterland were not yet completed and untreated sewage from the squatter areas in its hinterland was still being discharged onto the Beach. He said that the completion of the sewerage works in the area by 2002 would bring improvements to the water quality in the Ting Kau Beach and the other beaches in that area.

20.In response to a Member's query, P(WS), EPD explained that heavy rainfall would cause short-term deterioration in beach water quality, particularly if the hinterland of the beach was unsewered. This was because heavy rainfall would cause sewage to overflow from septic tanks and increase polluted surface run-off. However, the impact would not last long and the beach water quality would normally resume to normal within three days after the rain had stopped. For precautionary sake, EPD therefore considered it advisable to have advisory signs displayed at beaches that were susceptible to the impact of heavy rainfall to alert swimmers of the potential deterioration of the water quality in those beaches after heavy rainfall. That Member asked and P(WS), EPD replied that the advisory signs would be posted at those beaches after heavy rainfall regardless of their grading. DEP supplemented that this practice was also adopted in various other countries such as Australia.

21.The Chairman thanked EPD for presenting the report to ACE well before the commencement of the 1999 bathing season.

Agenda Item 5 : Half Yearly Progress Report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Flytipping Control (March 1999)
(ACE Paper 13/99)

22.The Chairman welcomed AD(TFB), Lands D and PLCO(TFB), Lands D to the meeting. AD(TFB), Lands D briefed Members on the efforts of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Flytipping Control (IWG) in controlling flytipping activities in the past six months.


23.As many of the previous complaints about flytipping were directed at Housing Department's (HD) sub-contractors in carrying out development works for HD, the Chairman proposed that HD be invited to join the IWG. He said that this would prompt the HD to take a realistic look at the issue and find ways to stop their sub-contractors from flytipping. AD(TFB), Lands D undertook to invite HD to the IWG.

Lands D

24.A Member informed Members that the Waste Reduction Committee (WRC) had accorded high priority to the problem of illegal dumping of construction waste. The Construction Waste Task Force will soon be set up under the WRC and its members would comprise representatives from the construction industry and architects. HD would also be invited to be on the Task Force. He undertook to let Members know more about the work of the Task Force in due course .

That Member

25.In response to a Member's query, DEP provided Members with the following statistics:
        Penalties (HK$)
Year Complaints Inspections Convictions Max. Min. Average
1997 293 1,741 42 20,000 400 5,700
1998 491 8,340 80 25,000 500 5,000

26.The Chairman said that statistics on enforcement and prosecution actions taken by departments against flytipping would provide useful information for assessing the judiciary's perception of the seriousness of the problem and ultimately the effectiveness of the control measures. He requested and AD(TFB), Lands D undertook to include these statistics in the progress report in future.

Lands Dept.

27.DEP drew Members' attention to the fact that although the number of inspections by EPD had increased by almost five times from 1997 to 1998, the number of convictions had only doubled in that period. He said this demonstrated the practical difficulties in having to catch the offenders red-handed, which was what the law required at present.

28.A Member said that the lack of manpower and the personal safety of staff in carrying out surveillance were the two major constraints which departments were facing in controlling flytipping activities. He asked whether it was possible to install automatic cameras at hidden positions in popular flytipping sites to gather evidence and prosecute offenders afterwards on the basis of the photographs taken. AD(TFB), Lands D said that it would be extremely difficult to position the cameras in such places that would always be able to take clear photographs of offenders in action and that evidence obtained in such manner was usually not useful to convict offenders. Moreover, information about the locations of these cameras would spread among potential fly-tippers quickly. PLCO(TFB), Lands D remarked that the cameras in remote areas could be subject to damage. Therefore, the effectiveness of this method was doubtful and the IWG had not adopted it.

29.A Member said he was concerned about the illegal dumping activities that had taken place in Wong Yue Wan near Shuen Wan, Tai Po. He said that several hectares of wetland and fish ponds in that area had been filled up by people in just a couple of days and trees had been planted on top of it. PLCO(TFB), Lands D informed Members that part of the aforementioned area belonged to "Old Schedule Agricultural Lot" whereas the others were fish ponds. All of them were private land. As far as the "Old Scheduled Agricultural Lot" was concerned, there was not much that departments could do since the land lease conditions did not prohibit the planting of trees. However, if the condition of the land caused nuisance to the environment, RSD could then take actions under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance to require the owner of the land to clean up the site. As regards the filling of Shuen Wan Marsh, Atg. DDP informed Members that Planning Department had taken prosecution action against the persons responsible for the filling. The case would be heard by the magistrate within a few days.

30.A Member said he was concerned that some of the worst flytipping cases were carried out by developers wishing to deplete the ecological value of a piece of land or fish ponds so that developments would be allowed and no compensation of wetland would be required. DS(E), PELB said this highlighted the need to develop an effective conservation policy which would recognize the development pressure of land with ecological value and provide a mechanism to manage the tension between development and conservation. He said that the partnership approach, which this Council had indicated support earlier on, seemed to be a promising solution to that direction. Under the partnership approach, a developer would be allowed to develop a certain portion of a piece of land or fish ponds of ecological value but would be required to help re-create and preserve the wetland and provide active management to them. He said that a lot of useful research work on the ecology of Hong Kong had been carried out by different parties and they provided essential data and information which was crucial to the formulation of an effective and practical conservation policy for Hong Kong. The Biodiversity Study which was being carried out by the University of Hong Kong and the Wetland Compensation Study which was being carried out by AFD were two examples. He said that PELB would draw on these results in formulating the conservation policy.

31.Noting that it was within the terms of reference of the IWG to consider and recommend initiatives, including legislative measures, to prevent and control illegal dumping activities, a Member proposed that IWG consider increasing the maximum penalties for the various offences related to flytipping. She said that the penalties which the magistrates had imposed on the offenders were too low to achieve the deterrent effect. Also, many of the offenders would simply consider the amount of fines as part of their operating costs. DEP said that under the existing law, the maximum penalty for flytipping was a fine of $200,000 and imprisonment of six months, which should be an effective deterrent. However, the actual punishment which offenders received was much lower than the maximum penalty, as demonstrated by the fact that the average amount of fines imposed by magistrates was $5,000 per case in 1998. He said that EPD would from time to time arrange a briefing to the magistrates on the environmental impact of flytipping and other polluting activities so that the latter could formulate a better understanding of the seriousness of such offences. However, EPD could not influence the independent judgement of the magistrates under our system of justice.

32.DEP said that the introduction of the trip ticket system for the disposal of construction and demolition (C & D) material later this year would enable the Administration to keep track of the movement and disposal of these material arising from government contracts, as the waste collectors would be issued a ticket for disposal of these material which had to be surrendered to the management staff of the public filling facilities or landfills upon arrival. He said that if this system proved to be successful, it would be widened to cover the private sector.

33.A Member said that the U.S. had been very successful in deterring people from drunken driving by confiscating their vehicles. She asked whether the government had ever considered confiscating the vehicles of those convicted of flytipping. The Chairman doubted whether this would work in Hong Kong. He recalled that Mr. Tan Teng Huat had informed Members previously that the Singapore government had tried to convince their court to do so, but to no avail. This was because the court believed that doing so would hardly penalise the flytippers as the latter was usually not the vehicle owners. The Chairman commented that the long term solution to stop flytipping was to educate the public of the environmental impact of flytipping on the one hand and provide the community with more convenient public filling facilities on the other hand.

34.The Chairman urged the IWG to step up enforcement actions and consider new initiatives to prevent and control flytipping activities, and report progress to this Council after six months.

Lands D.

Agenda Item 6 : Discussion on Follow Up to the Environmental Forums on 10 & 11 March 1999

35.DS(E), PELB thanked Members for participating in the forums. He told Members that PELB had already gone through and considered all the comments made by participants at the forum or in the response forms and had come up with the proposed way forward. All who had participated in the forums would be informed of the Administration's way forward in writing shortly. Members noted that four working groups would be set up initially, each focussing on one of the following aspects, namely (i) conservation and the use of natural environment, (ii) improvement of the urban environment, (iii) better use of resources within Hong Kong, and (iv) education and public awareness. A briefing session would be held on 13 April 1999 at the University of Hong Kong for the chairmen and members of the four Working Groups to discuss how the four Working Groups should operate. DS(E), PELB supplemented that the four Working Groups would have to work very hard and meet frequently from April to June in order to complete their discussions within that period and report their recommendations to another environmental forum which is scheduled for the coming September.


36.The Chairman commented that the setting up of working groups alone would give the general public the wrong perception that there was only empty talk within the government about how to tackle the environmental problems in Hong Kong. DS(E), PELB said that the purpose of setting up the working groups was to get members of the public involved in the process of formulating environmental policies for the conditions that Hong Kong would face in the longer term. The Administration would continue to devise and implement new measures to tackle present environmental problems, such as the air pollution. Regarding the formulation of the new environmental and conservation policy, DS(E), PELB said that the Administration intended to come up with a framework for public consultation later this year. However, instead of publishing a single consultation document which would address all aspects related to the environment, the Administration was considering publishing a series of consultation documents each of which would focus on one aspect of environmental issues.

Agenda Item 7 : Any Other Business

Tentative Schedule of Work for ACE in 1999

37.Members noted the Schedule which was tabled. A Member informed Members that FoE had published a document on "Restructuring Hong Kong's Power Sector and Maintaining Environmental Priorities" and offered to present the document to this Council in May/June. The presentation would dovetail with the two power companies' presentations on their DSM Plans.

That Member

Forum on EIA Process

38.The EIA Subcommittee Chairman informed Members that the EIA Subcommittee and the Hong Kong Institute of EIA would jointly organize a forum on the EIA process in Hong Kong on the morning of 10 April 1999. He said that invitations had been sent to all the key stakeholders in the EIA process, including PELB, EPD, key project proponents, consultants and ACE Members. As far as ACE was concerned, quite a few Members had already indicated that they would attend the forum. The Chairman apologised for not being able to attend the forum since he had to chair a seminar that morning. He however encouraged Members to attend the forum as far as possible.


Green Island Reclamation

39.In response to the Chairman's query, DS(E), PELB said that the Administration was still reviewing the scope and extent of reclamation in Green Island, taking into account development needs and environmental concern.


Letter from WWF on Sha Lo Tung SSSI - Habitat Degradation

40.The Chairman said that he had received a copy of WWF's letter to SPEL reporting about deliberate burning at Sha Lo Tung and the extensive use of the site by off-road vehicle enthusiasts. He urged the Administration to raise the issue with relevant organisations, such as the Four-wheel Drive Association, with a view to soliciting their co-operation in not organising rallies in Sha Lo Tung for members. A Member said that this case had demonstrated the ineffectiveness of using zoning alone to protect private land of ecological value, if proper management and control was not in place. She hoped that the Working Group on Conservation and Use of Natural Resources and the Wetland Compensation Study would recommend a more effective control mechanism to protect and conserve land of ecological value in the long term.


41.A Member said that since the ecological importance of Sha Lo Tung was only second to that of Mai Po, immediate measures had to be taken to stop the driving activities there. AD(Con), AFD said he understood that the Transport Department and the Police were trying to restrict vehicular access to Sha Lo Tung. DS(E), PELB said that PELB would discuss the issue with the Lands Department to see what further actions could be taken. A Member said that the long term solution was to provide rally enthusiasts with the proper racing ranches.

(Post-meeting Note : The correspondence between the WWF and PELB on this issue were copied to Members for reference after the meeting.)


Progress of LPG Taxi Scheme

42.A Member asked about the progress of the LPG taxi trial scheme and government's timetable for introducing LPG as a motor fuel. DS(E), PELB said that the Financial Secretary had indicated in the Budget Speech that he did not intend to impose any duty on LPG. The outstanding issues to be resolved in introducing LPG taxis on a territory-wide basis were the need to identify adequate LPG filling stations and agree with the oil companies on the timetable for making available these filling stations. The Chairman asked and DS(E), PELB said that the Administration intended to require all newly-licensed taxis to use LPG by end of 2000 and have the whole taxi fleet switched to LPG by 2005.


43.That Member further asked whether the government would consider introducing natural gas vehicles to private motorists. DEP said that Hong Kong had difficulties in introducing natural gas vehicles as there were hardly any more space to accommodate further types of gas-filling stations. Besides, since the performance of petrol engines in terms of smoke emissions was comparable to that of natural gas engines, there was little environmental gain for the local motor fleet to switch to natural gas. He said that the priority at present was to switch the diesel fleet, which was made up mainly of buses, minibuses, taxis and light goods vehicles, to LPG vehicles.

Agenda Item 8 : Date of Next Meeting

44.The Chairman said that he would be out of town on 19 April 1999, which was scheduled for the April ACE meeting. As the Easter holidays were in early April and the Beijing visit in late April, there was not much room for rescheduling a meeting in April. Noting that the three EIA reports which the ACE had to consider before April were not regarded as controversial by the EIA Subcommittee and could therefore be endorsed by Members through circulation of paper, and there was no particular urgency to consider the other papers which were originally scheduled for the April meeting, the Chairman proposed and Members agreed that the April meeting be cancelled. Meanwhile, the Secretariat would seek Members' endorsement of the three EIA reports by sending the EIA Subcommittee Report to them for consideration.

45.The next meeting would be held on 31 May 1999.


Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
April 1999


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