(ACE Paper 11/2001)
At its meeting on 9 April 2001, the Subcommittee considered the findings and recommendations of the broad assessments on the environmental, landscape and conservation aspects of the Study on South East New Territories (SENT) Development Strategy Review.
2. Members are requested to note the comments and concerns of the Subcommittee.
VIEWS OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE
Study on South East New Territories (SENT) Development Strategy Review-Environmental Assessments
(ACE-EIA Paper 2/2001)
Need for the Study
3. The main objective of the SENT Study is to formulate an up-to-date development strategy for the SENT Sub-region within the planning context set by the Territorial Development Strategy Review (TDSR) completed in 1998. The TDSR has recommended that the strategy growth area in the SENT be confined to Tseung Kwan O New Town with the rest of the sub-region predominantly reserved for conservation and recreation purposes. Since the future development of Tseung Kwan O New Town is being investigated under a separate study, the SENT Study focuses mainly on Sai Kung area.
Description of Development
4. As part of the study process, the Study consultants have prepared a Preliminary Development Strategy (PDS) for technical assessments which is based on a selected option in favour of recreation and conservation with limited development. The PDS has taken into account the land use framework set out in current town plans and comprises the following major proposals-
designating Tung Lung Chau as a Country Park and extending Ma On Shan Country Park to cover areas of conservation value at upper Ho Chung Valley;
proposing a potential site near Shelter Island for Marine Park and a potential Marine Conservation Area along the coastal areas of High Island, Tai Long Wan, Long Ke Wan, Bluff Island, Sharp Island and Kau Sai Chau;
protecting and enhancing the Tin Hau Temple at Sai Kung Town, Pak A and Tai Miu Wan, the Che Kung Temple at Ho Chung, the Sheung Yiu Folk Museum, and the Rock Inscription at Joss House Bay, Tung Lung Chau Rock Carving and Tung Lung Chau Fort;
promoting Sai Kung Town as a "Gateway Centre" for visiting the district and a transportation hub for the SENT sub-region;
upgrading boatyards in Hebe Haven;
building an artificial beach to the south of the Clear Water Bay First and Second Beaches; and
proposing "Inshore Water Recreation Area" at Tsam Chuk Wan, Sha Ha, Hebe Haven to Silverstrand, Clear Water Bay and Sharp Island.
Views of Environmental Working Group (EWG)
5. Members of the EWG considered that the environmental assessments had identified broad environmental concerns and some broad environmental issues. Some of the environmental issues (such as the proposed village housing developments at Tai Long and the proposed leisure link) need further investigation to confirm their environmental acceptability. EIAs for individual designated projects would have to be carried out under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (EIAO) to confirm the environmental acceptability of each project and would be subject to statutory consultation with the public and the ACE. The findings of this EA and the statements in the ACE Paper shall not pre-empt the statutory process under the EIAO.
Views and Recommendations of EIA Subcommittee
6. The EIA Subcommittee discussed the assessment report of the Study on 9 April 2001. Members' discussion focused on the population estimate, the impact of increase in tourist population on sewage treatment capacity, transportation arrangements, impact of uncontrolled village expansion and marine conservation.
7. Members expressed concern about the housing development proposals of the Study and the environmental impacts brought by these developments. The proponent pointed out that the Study had recommended to maintain the currently planned level of residential development [which amounts to 118,000 population] and to allow limited addition [around 6,600] so as to facilitate rural upgrading/restructuring of the Sai Kung Industrial Area. The estimated population had provided input to the various technical investigations, particularly on environmental, transport and infrastructural aspects, in assessing the overall sustainability of the proposals in the Study. Given the need for rural upgrade/restructuring in the Study Area, the proponent indicated that reduction in the population level was not recommended. Nevertheless, the proponent agreed that population growth in Sai Kung District should be closely monitored.
8. Members noted that visitors to the Sai Kung District would increase from the current 5.5 million per year to 7.4 million per year by 2016, putting immense pressure on sewage treatment system therein. Members were concerned whether the existing and planned sewage treatment facilities in the area would be able to cope with additional sewage flows.
9. The proponent indicated that the Study had already taken into account the projected resident population as well as the projected number of tourists/visitors, with input from the then Hong Kong Tourist Association. There was also plan to upgrade the Sai Kung Sewage Treatment Works by 2007. Phase two of the upgrading works would keep the total inorganic nitrogen content within the limit of the Water Quality Objectives and would be adequate to sustain the planned development up to 2016. The Study had therefore taken into account the sewage treatment capacity of the expanded Sai Kung Sewage Treatment Works in devising its developments and recreation proposals. Any further development proposal for Sai Kung beyond the population and tourist/visitor level proposed in the current Study would be subject to a separate sewage impact assessment.
10. On transportation, the Subcommittee was concerned that Sai Kung District was very congested even on a weekday and that improving the access to the District would induce more traffic in the long run. The proponent pointed out that the Study recommended a series of traffic improvement measures, including a proposal to upgrade the section of Hiram's Highway between Marina Cove and Sai Kung Town, the promotion of the "park and enjoy" concept to increase transport capacity of existing roads and the use of environmental friendly transport options. The Study also recommended a comprehensive assessment with environmental sustainability as one of the key considerations when formulating options for improving the capacity of the Hiram's Highway.
11. Members agreed that a rail-based transport system was not viable in the area and that a clean-fuel road-based transport system would be more feasible. Members also noted that the Study had recommended to pursue environmental friendly transport in the Sai Kung District to tie in with the tourism/recreation themes and landscape/conservation objectives.
12. The proponent agreed that improvement to transport capacity would not be an ultimate solution to address growing traffic demand in the area. The Study recommended that the Government should closely monitor the traffic pattern and instigate further study to identify appropriate traffic management measures for the area.
13. On marine conservation, the proponent confirmed that the Study recommended the delineation of the coastal area of High Island and its neighbouring islands which had included most areas of coral growth, as Marine Conservation Area. Three non-anchorage points within the Marine Conservation Area (namely the north shore of Bluff Island, the northwest shore of Long Ke Wan and the west shore of Sharp Island) were proposed to protect coral resources. If these non-anchorage points are proved to be effective, more may be designated upon further studies.
14. Members noted that AFCD had identified a potential Marine Park around Shelter Island and planned to designate the whole of Port Shelter as a Fisheries Protection Area where trawling would be prohibited. In addition, artificial reefs would be deployed for fisheries enhancement.
15. In relation to Members' concern that village houses relied mainly on conventional septic tank system which was not environmentally sustainable in the long run, the proponent pointed out the difficulty to disallow village expansion given existing policies on small houses. The Study had recommended package sewage treatment plant or communal septic tanks to address the sewage issue of the remote villages. On the other hand, the proponent confirmed that village housing development in Tai Long Wan area was being controlled by the current Tai Long Wan Outline Zoning Plan. Apart from the area set aside for village expansion, most of the agricultural land in Tai Long Wan was protected by the "Conservation Area" zoning.
16. Finally, the Subcommittee impressed upon the proponent that the views and comments raised at the meeting would not pre-empt the statutory process of individual projects under the EIAO. Each individual project would need to fully comply with the requirements of the Ordinance and to present all reasonable and practical alternatives at the time of submission of EIA reports.
EIA Subcommittee Secretariat