Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 77th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 28 August 2000 at 2:30 p.m.


Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. CHAN Kwok-wai, JP  
Mr. Clement CHEN  
Mr. Barrie COOK  
Mr. Paul C. H. FAN, JP  
Professor Peter HILLS  
Dr. HO Kin-chung  
Professor LAM Kin-che (EIA Subcommittee Chairman)  
Mr. Edwin LAU  
Mr. Joseph LAU Man-wai, JP  
Dr. LEONG Che-hung, JP  
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming  
Dr. NG Cho-nam  
Ms Iris TAM  
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH  
Miss Alex YAU  
Mr. Plato YIP  
Mr. Maurice LOO(Secretary)  

Absent with Apologies:
Professor Anthony HEDLEY, BBS, JP
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Mr. Otto L. T. POON


In Attendance:

Mrs. Lily YAM Secretary for the Environment and Food (SEF)
Mr. Kim SALKELD Deputy Secretary (B), Environment and Food Bureau (DS(B)/EFB)
Mr. Rob LAW Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Mr. P K Chung Acting Assistant Director (Technical Services), Planning Department
Mr. S P LAU Acting Deputy Director, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (Ag.DD/DAFC)
Mr. Eric CHAN Chief Information Officer, EFB
Miss Petula POON Chief Executive Officer (B), EFB
Ms. Polly LEUNG Principal Information Officer, EPD
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer (B), EFB

In Attendance for Agenda Item 4

Mr. Kevin EDMUNDS Principal Consultant, Centre of Environmental Technology Limited (PC/CET)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 5 :

Mr. M K CHEUNG Assistant Director (Fisheries), AFCD (AD(Fisheries)/AFCD)
Mr. Joseph SHAM Senior Fisheries Officer, AFCD (SFO/AFCD)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 6 :

Mr. Marcus PHIPPS Acting Director, Trade Record Analysis of Flora and Fauna In Commerce East Asia (Ag.D/TRAFFIC)
Mr. Rob PARRY-JONES Programme Officer, TRAFFIC East Asia (PO/TRAFFIC)
Ms. Noel CHAN Assistant Conservation Officer, World Wide Fund For Nature Hong Kong (ACO/WWFHK)
Mr. Frazer McGILVRAY Executive Director, International Marinelife Alliance Hong Kong (ED/IMA)
Mr. Patrick CHAN Chairman, Hong Kong Chamber of Seafood Merchants (C/HKCSM)
Mr. M K CHEUNG Assistant Director (Fisheries), AFCD
Mr. Joseph SHAM Senior Fisheries Officer, AFCD


Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 76th Meeting held on 17 July 2000

Members noted a Member's proposed amendments to para. 9 and 37 of the minutes of the 76th meeting and confirmed the minutes subject to that Member's amendments. The Chairman asked the Secretariat to pass to EPD the confirmed minutes so that they could make reference to members' detailed comments on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on KCRC Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line.


2. In reply to the Chairman's enquiry on the statutory process after EPD's receipt of ACE's comments on the report, DEP said that he had written to KCRC asking for further information in response to the comments made by the public and ACE. While there was no time limit for KCRC to reply, he would decide whether to approve, approve with conditions or reject the report within 30 days upon receipt of their reply.

3. A Member asked whether ACE would have the opportunity to comment on KCRC's response. DEP replied that the EIA Ordinance was silent on the provision for another round of public consultation upon receiving the response from a project proponent. However, EPD would keep in view the evolving aspirations in the community and propose amendments to the Ordinance if necessary. In the meantime, the response could be made available to ACE with KCRC's consent.

4. In response to the Chairman's follow up enquiry, DEP said that the statutory process would differ from that mentioned above should KCRC propose a different alignment for the Spur Line.

5. The Chairman expressed gratitude to the EIA Subcommittee for their hard work.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 4 : Recommendations on relieving the EIA Subcommittee's work-load

6. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman reported that the Subcommittee met on 26 August and would continue the discussion on 4 September. A report setting out the subjects of concern and the respective recommendations would be submitted to the Council for further deliberation.

Agenda Item 3 : The Report of the 55th EIA Subcommittee Meeting
(ACE Paper 29/2000)

Para. 4 : Recommendations on relieving the EIA Subcommittee's work-load

7. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman emphasised that the EIA report of Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS) Stage II was not submitted formally under the EIA Ordinance. The Council's preliminary comments on the report would be handed to the SSDS International Review Panel (IRP) to facilitate their review process. He said that the major views and concerns of the Subcommittee were presented in para. 6 of Paper 29/2000.

8. The Chairman declared his interest as his firm was appointed on 16 August as the worldwide auditor for Montgomery Watson (MW), the main consultant of the SSDS EIA. He, however, was not engaged in the financial auditing of MW and the managing director of MW did not object to his taking part in the discussion of the EIA report. DS(B)/EFB reckoned and the EIA Subcommittee Chairman agreed that there was no reason for the Chairman to withdraw from the discussion on SSDS because the Council's advice would in no way lead to MW being in a position of financial advantage.

9. Noting that the SSDS IRP would come to Hong Kong in September, the Chairman offered to convene a formal or informal meeting between ACE and IRP for further exchanges. DEP explained that the purpose of the trip was to provide IRP members with an opportunity to discuss and finalize their review report. Given the time constraint, he was afraid that IRP might not be able to meet ACE. However, he undertook to convey the goodwill on the part of the Chairman to IRP and would make arrangements if needed.

10. A Member asked whether IRP would conduct the review on the basis of the existing EIA report. In reply, DEP said that apart from the existing EIA report, IRP had been provided with other information which was also available on the SSDS Review website.

11. In response to the Chairman's enquiry on whether the IRP would advise on the overall sewage strategy for Hong Kong, DEP said that the terms of reference of the IRP was to re-examine the subsequent stages of SSDS to see whether the currently proposed scheme remained the most cost effective and environmentally friendly solution to abate pollution in Victoria Harbour. SEF said that if the IRP concluded that the currently proposed scheme was inadequate to address pollution problem at hand, there was no reason why adjustment to the current sewage strategy could not be made. DS(B)/EFB supplemented that the IRP had also been given background information on the overall sewage strategy other than SSDS.

12. A Member said that one of the major concerns at the Subcommittee meeting was the ecological impact of the treated effluent which would still contain some sludge. He noted that no relevant studies had been conducted and considerable resources and time would be needed to assess the impact. He urged the Administration to bring this matter to IRP's early attention.

13. The Chairman noticed that the Works Bureau Circular 17/95 stipulated that civil engineering works contracts should be tendered on a lump sum rather than the usual remeasurement basis. Having regard to the engineering difficulties encountered in SSDS Stage I, he was concerned that entering into a lump sum contract with the contractors would compromise the flexibility in dealing with unforeseen circumstances. DEP said that they would learn from the experience in Stage I and draw up suitable contract(s).

14. The Chairman noted that Members had no further comments on the EIA report.

Agenda Item 4 : HK-BEAM - An Environmental Assessment for New Residential Buildings
(ACE Paper 21/2000)

Para. 4 : Recommendations on relieving the EIA Subcommittee's work-load

15. A Member declared his interest as the chairman of the Centre of Environmental Technology Limited. The Chairman ruled that there was no need for that Member to withdraw from the discussion.

16. The Chairman welcomed PC/CET to the meeting and PC/CET briefed Members on the environmental assessment method for residential buildings.

17. The Chairman asked whether the assessment method would take into account access for the disabled. PC/CET said that the assessment method only focused on environmental consideration at present. However, HK-BEAM was aware that other factors would also contribute to the sustainability of buildings and would conduct periodic review of the assessment criteria to tie in with recent developments.

18. In response to a Member's question on the cost of assessment, PC/CET said that the assessment fee was HK$75,000 per building and it was set on a cost-recovery basis since HK-BEAM was a non-profit making organization. He further added that the clients might need to spend more than this amount to meet certain environmental standards.

19. A Member commended HK-BEAM on its work and asked how they could prevent people from discarding bathtubs in new residential buildings. PC/CET said that HK-BEAM encouraged developers to give choice to consumers in their selection of bathroom and kitchen suites before they were installed. However, developers observed that this was at present impractical to implement and that they were required to provide bathtubs so as to obtain Occupational Permits. PC/CET supplemented, however, that only a small proportion of bathtubs were discarded statistically. That Member said that the Government should consider imposing restrictions on such dumping activities to reduce waste.

20. A Member said that it would be useful if the Government could adopt HK-BEAM's assessment criteria as one of the requirements for obtaining building permits. SEF asked to what extent the Buildings Department (BD) was involved in HK-BEAM's work. In reply, PC/CET said that although no government departments were involved in the development of the HK-BEAM, EFB was now a member of the HK-BEAM Steering Committee and that there had been informal discussions with EPD and EMSD on indoor air quality and energy efficiency respectively. As regards BD, a formal dialogue had yet to be established.

21. In response to SEF's enquiry on possible collaboration between HK-BEAM and BD, PC/CET said that some developers were keen on adopting environmental building designs which might deviate from requirements under existing building and other environmental regulations. He suggested establishing an institution or framework on building and environmental issues to reconcile those requirements. SEF noted that a lot of initiatives were taking place in different groups and she saw merits in pulling together such efforts to achieve a better result. PC/CET said that the Housing Authority has commenced environmental assessments of its new buildings, and that Government could demonstrate its commitment in this aspect if it followed suit. He also suggested that Government and private sector consider the development of a flagship "green" building to further promote environmental protection.

22. SEF asked how the 32 private buildings assessed under the said method would be show-cased. PC/CET said that it would be up to the developers' own interest to take further actions. A Member suggested that the developers could highlight the environmental advantages of their buildings in advertisements. PC/CET said that some developers did show on advertisements the certificate issued by HK-BEAM.

23. The Chairman thanked PC/CET for coming and expressed his full support for the further development of HK-BEAM.

Agenda Item 5 : Proposed Implementation of Fisheries Resources Management Measures and Artificial Reef Deployment Programme
(ACE Paper 30/2000)

24. The Chairman welcomed AD(Fisheries)/AFCD and SFO/AFCD to the meeting. AD(Fisheries)/AFCD introduced the background of the proposed measures and SFO/AFCD briefed Members on the details with the aid of a video.

25. The Chairman asked whether there was any control over recreational fishing. SFO/AFCD said that people who fished for recreation were represented in the Working Group on Fisheries Management and they supported protection of fisheries resources. He said that there was no intention to impose any restrictions on recreational fishing in the Fisheries Protection Areas (FPAs) at this stage, but would keep in view the situation and take action if necessary.

26. In response to a Member's concern over the effectiveness of the permit system to protect FPAs, AD(Fisheries)/AFCD said that permits would only be issued to fishermen who traditionally fished in those areas and no trawling was allowed there.

27. In reply to a Member's enquiry on the protection of fish fry, AD(Fisheries)/AFCD said that trawling would be banned. He added that catching by cage was allowed because it was less destructive. There was also practical difficulty on the control of mesh size because shrimps, for example, could only be caught by small mesh.

28. The Chairman noticed that there were Mainland fishermen fishing in Hong Kong waters and asked whether licenses would be issued to those vessels. AD(Fisheries)/AFCD said that no license would be issued to Mainland vessels but AFCD had been working closely with the relevant Mainland authority with regard to fisheries management in the region.

29. The Chairman asked whether the decline in fisheries resources was due to the decrease in fish fry or the high demand for local fish. In reply, SFO/AFCD said that the reliance on local fish fry had been decreasing because fish fry nowadays was purchased from Taiwan and Thailand.

30. A Member said that there was an important seabird colony at Nine Pin and asked whether the boundary of the FPA in Port Shelter would be extended to include East Nine Pin so as to protect the colony. SFO/AFCD replied that they had taken into account a number of factors such as the views of different interest groups and enforcement ability in drawing up the boundary of FPAs. If East Nine Pin were to be included in the boundary of the FPA, a lot more resources would be needed to monitor the area.

31. A Member asked if there was a ceiling on the number of licenses issued to local fishing vessels and whether there was a contingency plan to address red tide impacts in FPAs. In response to the first question, AD(Fisheries)/AFCD said that there was no ceiling at present but they would consider exercising control over new applications for fishing licenses. On the second question, AD(Fisheries)/AFCD said that there was a territory-wide Red Tide Management Plan for Hong Kong. That Member suggested that fishing licenses should be subject to a renewal mechanism which could be based on scientific research of fisheries productivity in FPAs. AD(Fisheries)/AFCD agreed with that Member's suggestion and said that the Working Group would look into the technical details.

32. The Chairman thanked AD(Fisheries)/AFCD and SFO/AFCD for the briefing. He expressed interest in visiting the artificial reefs after their deployment next year. AD(Fisheries)/AFCD said that they would make necessary arrangement if Members were interested.

Agenda Item 6 : Presentation on "The Hong Kong Trade In Live Reef Fish For Food"
(ACE Paper 31/2000 & 32/2000)

33. The Chairman welcomed Ag.D/TRAFFIC, PO/TRAFFIC, ACO/WWFHK, ED/IMA and C/HKCSM to the meeting. PO/TRAFFIC briefed members on the findings set out in TRAFFIC's report on "The Hong Kong Trade In Live Reef Fish For Food".

34. ED/IMA informed the meeting that the International Marinelife Association (IMA) was the only non-government organization in Hong Kong which worked full time on live reef fish food (LRFF) and predominantly trained fishermen in Indo-pacific on using non-destructive fishing methods. He said that a ban on LRFF trade would not discourage fishing activities in those regions because this was the only way for local fishermen to earn a living and the income of the countries concerned also depended on Hong Kong's demand in LRFF. Therefore, it was important to learn more about the biology, ecology and life cycle of LRFF so that sustainable fishing methods could be derived. He proposed setting up a centralized area where LRFF were landed, collected and marketed to facilitate data collection. In addition, he disputed the general misconceptions that all imported LRFF were caught by cyanide and that Hong Kong traders were solely responsible for destruction of Indo-Pacific coral reefs.

35. C/HKCSM said that Hong Kong traders had all along been complying with the restrictions imposed by LRFF exporting countries. Since the Two-spot Red Snapper and Moray eel were often found containing ciguatoxin and it was not practical to test every imported fish for the toxin, the Hong Kong Chamber of Seafood Merchants (HKCSM) had decided not to import those fishes since December 1999. The ciguatoxin poison cases reported this year were caused by fishes caught by local fishermen in South China Sea and they were not traded through HKCSM. As most of the fishing activities had stopped in Indonesia since mid-1999, Australia was the main source for LRFF and export fish were subject to examination by the Australian Government. Furthermore, he said that the allegations that imported Giant Groupers contained ciguatoxin were untrue because that was now cultured in Taiwan.

36. AD(Fisheries)/AFCD said that the Government, the green groups and the traders were all working towards the same goal of sustainable utilization of LRFF. He said that AFCD had been taking an active role in participating in international conferences to promote sustainable fisheries. With regard to TRAFFIC's recommendation to require locally licensed fishing vessels and fish transportation vessels to make trade declarations, SFO/AFCD said that this would create a tremendous workload and he considered the existing data collection mechanism adequate.

37. The Chairman said that trade declaration by local fishing vessels could not solve the smuggling problem. C/HKCSM said that smuggling of fish was impossible because the fish weighing and selection process would take as long as 2 days during which the vessel would have to drift on the sea and be easily spotted.

38. PO/TRAFFIC said that although smuggling should be noted, the main issue under discussion was the collection of import data from locally licensed vessels involved in the LRFF trade with the purpose of facilitating monitoring of the trade into Hong Kong. He said that at present all import of reef fish by foreign licensed vessels or by air were required to comply with trade declaration requirements; locally licensed fishing and transport vessels involved in the LRFF trade were not currently required to declare imports. IMA and TRAFFIC recommended subjecting locally licensed fishing and transport vessels involved in the LRFF trade to those same requirements so as to enhance monitoring and data collection of LRFF. In reply, the Chairman said that it was difficult to require all the vessels to land at one single point since there were at least seven landing points at the moment. PO/TRAFFIC said that the trade in LRFF was well-organized that it was known which locally licensed vessels were involved in the import of LRFF into Hong Kong, and thus whether there were one or seven landing points, it should still be possible to collect trade declarations from the traders. The Chairman opined that it was not a suitable forum to dwell into the details of a feasible solution and urged AFCD, TRAFFIC, IMA and HKCSM to hold detailed discussion at a convenient time.

39. A Member asked how a consumer could identify a restaurant where only fish imported through HKCSM, which was supposed to be safe from ciguatoxin, would be sold. In reply, C/HKCSM said that HKCSM had disseminated on its website and in newspapers information on the dangers of consuming certain fish species. However, owing to low price, people would still buy them at local wet markets. On the specific point raised by that Member, C/HKCSM said that HKCSM would consider seeking co-operation from restaurant associations but noted that it would not be an easy task.

40. A Member said that part of the problem could probably be solved by improving communication between the food surveillance authority and the trade concerned. He urged EFB to play a greater role in this area.

41. PO/TRAFFIC asked AFCD whether they had plans for re-classification of licence for fishing vessels. AD(Fisheries)/AFCD clarified that the vessel licensing system and the classification of fishing vessels were under jurisdiction of the Marine Department. The proposed fishing license programme discussed under Item 5 was intended to control commercial fishing activities.

42. The Chairman urged the parties concerned to come up with an agreed feasible solution in the near future.

Agenda Item 7 : Any Other Business

Tentative Schedule of Work of ACE

43. In reply to the Chairman's enquiry, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that no EIA reports were scheduled for consideration in August and September.

Interim Report on River and Marine Water Quality in Hong Kong in 1999 (ACE Paper 25/2000)

44. The Chairman referred to the above report and was glad to learn that more pig farms were subject to control as far as untreated effluent discharge was concerned. DEP said that it was difficult to solicit the co-operation of livestock farms because the farmers were reluctant to spend money on the operation of their sewage treatment systems. He noted that incidences of illegal discharge of untreated effluent were not uncommon. He added that the Administration would keep up the effort in controlling livestock waste and would target at unsewered villages in the next step.

45. A Member wondered why the number of monitoring stations decreased from 86 in 1996 to 81 in 1999. DEP said that the decrease might be attributed to the change of land use but he would check about the reason for the decrease.

Air Pollution Control (Petrol Filling Stations) (Vapour Recovery) Regulation

Air Pollution Control (Petrol Filling Stations) (Vapour Recovery) Regulation

46. A Member said that the Motor Traders Association considered that the next step to reduce benzene emissions during the petrol filling process was to require petrol filling stations rather than vehicles to install vapour recovery system. The Chairman said that there was no harm in installing the system in newly manufactured vehicles in the future.

Agenda Item 7 : Date of Next ACE Meeting

47. The next meeting was scheduled for 19 September 2000 (Tuesday).

Environment and Food Bureau
September 2000


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