Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 55th Meeting of the Environmental Impact Assessment Subcommittee of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 27 June 2000 at 3:00pm, 6 July 2000 at 3:00pm, and 11 July 2000 at 2:00pm

Professor LAM Kin-che (Chairman)
Mr. Barrie COOK (on 27 June)
Dr. Ho Kin-chung (on 6 July & 11 July)
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Dr. NG Cho-nam
Mr. Otto POON
Miss Alex YAU
Miss Petula POON(Secretary)

Absent with Apologies:
Professor Peter HILLS
Mr. Plato YIP

In Attendance:
Mr. Joseph LAU ACE Member (on 27 June & 6 July only)
Mr. Elvis AU Assistant Director (Environmental Assessment & Noise), Environmental Protection Department (EPD) (AD(EA)/EPD)
Mr. S P LAU Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) (AD(Conservation)/AFCD)
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer (B), Environment and Food Bureau

In Attendance for Agenda
Item 3(on 26 June)

Mr. Benny Wong Assistant Director (Waste & Water), EPD (AD(WW)/EPD)
Dr. Malcolm Broom Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Water Policy & Planning), EPD (PEPO(WP)/EPD)
Mr. Alan Kwok Project Co-manager of SSDS EIA Study, Montgomery Watson HK Ltd (PM/MW)
Mr Liao Xian Gui Project Co-director of the SSDS EIA Study, Binhai Wastewater Treatment & Disposal (Hong Kong) Consultants Ltd (PD/Binhai)
Mr. Ian Sehested Hansen Chief Engineer, Danish Hydraulic Institute

In Attendance for Agenda Item 4 :
Mr. James Blake Senior Director, Capital Projects, KCRC (SD(CP)/KCRC)
Mr. Lee Kang-kuen Director, East Rails Extensions, KCRC (on 27 June) (D(ER)/KCRC)
Mr. Hugh Wu Manager, Capital Project, KCRC (on 6 & 11 July)
Mr. Vic McNally Environmental Manager, KCRC (EM/KCRC) (on 6 & 11 July)
Ms. Lisa Poon Senior Environmental Specialist, KCRC
Mr. Roy Fan Environmental Specialist, KCRC
Mr. Raymond Wong Corporate Affairs Manager, KCRC
Mr. Selwyn Lai Operations Planning Manager, KCRC (OPM/KCRC)
Mr. Richard Deacon Binnie Black & Veatch HK Limited (on 27 June) (TD/BBV)
Dr. Lynn Smith Binnie Black & Veatch HK Limited (Con1/BBV)
Mr. Michael Leven Binnie Black & Veatch HK Limited (Con2/BBV)
Mr. Paul Leader Binnie Black & Veatch HK Limited (on 27 June & 6 July) (Con3/BBV)
Mr. Christopher Foot Binnie Black & Veatch HK Limited
Mr. William Shiu Principal Assistant Secretary, Transport Bureau (TB) (PAS(9)/TB)
Mr. Wan Man-lung Principal Assistant Secretary, TB (PAS(7)/TB)
Mr. L T Ma Acting Government Engineer/Railway Development, Highways Department (Hy D) (on 27 June)(Ag. GE(RD)/HyD)
Mr. P K Chan Chief Engineer/Railway, Hy D (CE(Railway)/HyD)
Mr. Joseph Lau Senior Engineer/Railway Planning, Hy D (on 27 June)
Mr. H M Wong Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Territory Assessment), EPD (PEPO(TA)/EPD)
Mr. David Cox Senior Environmental Protection Officer (NWNT), EPD (on 27 June & 6 July) (SEPO(NWNT)/EPD)/td>
Mr. Tom Tam Acting Senior Environmental Protection Officer (NWNT), EPD (on 11 July)
Mr. Dennis Mok Acting Senior Nature Conservation Officer, AFCD (on 6 and 11 July) (Ag. SNCO/AFCD)


The Chairman welcomed Miss Petula Poon, the new Subcommittee Secretary, to the meeting.

2. The Chairman suggested and Members agreed going through the housekeeping items before the discussions of the two EIA reports.

Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 53rd and the 54th Meetings held on 8 May and 12 June 2000 respectively

3. As no comments were received on the two draft minutes of meetings, the minutes were confirmed.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 22 : A sustainable overall solution to the long-term transport demand in the territory

4. Members noted that their concern was conveyed to the Council at its meeting on 26 July 2000.

Para. 25 : A quorum for ACE EIA Subcommittee Meeting

5. The Chairman informed Members that the issue was raised at the Council meeting held on 26 July 2000 and it was considered more desirable for this Subcommittee to have a dedicated discussion on the issue first, and suggest possible options for the Council's further consideration at its meeting in September.

Agenda Item 5 : Monthly Update of Applications under the EIA Ordinance

6. Members noted the monthly update of applications under the EIAO, the tentative schedule for submission to ACE EIA Subcommittee, and the lists for designated/non-designated projects not selected for submission (as at 25 June 2000).

Agenda Item 6 : Any Other Business

7. In view of the anticipated long discussion on the EIA report of the KCRC Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, Members agreed to reserve 6 July 2000 at 3:00pm for further discussion if necessary.

Agenda Item 3 : Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme
(SSDS)(ACE EIA Paper 10/2000)

8. The Chairman welcomed the presentation team to the meeting. PM/MW then briefed Members on the paper.

9. The Chairman reminded Members that since the SSDS was under review by the SSDS International Review Panel (IRP), this EIA report was not submitted formally under the EIAO for endorsement but for early comments to be conveyed to the IRP.

10. Noting that the outfall in Lema Channel was not a preferred option according to the report, the Chairman asked whether further studies were conducted to eliminate the option. PEPO(WP)/EPD said that the option was not preferred because it took much longer time to complete and would encounter a higher degree of uncertainty of geological conditions. Also, the Mainland felt uncomfortable with the idea of treated effluent being discharged in their waters. He said that though fieldwork had not been carried out, further information on the geological structure of the seabed was being collected.

11. The Chairman asked whether any measures would be taken to bring the mercury concentration down to meet the water quality objective (WQO). PM/MW said that the WQO adopted in this study was based on the Mainland's standard which was already lower than the ambient concentration. In response to a Member, PEPO(WP)/EPD said that Hong Kong had no specific WQO for mercury concentration but instead a general requirement for toxic substances not to be discharged at levels which would result in accumulation in biota and a consequent potential threat. This study had assessed the toxic substances concentration in effluent in terms of risk to ecology, wildlife and human health. It was concluded that the minimal increase in mercury resulting from the proposed discharge would have no significant adverse impact on the marine ecology.

12. A Member noted that the effluent discharged after chemically enhanced primary treatment (CEPT) would increase suspended solids (SS) concentrations by less than 1 mg/L in the water column, compared to the current ambient concentrations of 5 - 10 mg/L (approximately 10% - 20% increase). He said that some countries' standards only allowed a less than 10% increase in SS concentrations by discharged effluent. In this regard, that Member asked whether there was a more exact figure of the estimated increase. In reply, PEPO(WP)/EPD said that the WQO accepted a less than 30% increase at the edge of dilution zone which would prevent adverse marine ecological impact. That Member considered that the standard might be too lenient and suggested that the marine ecological impact of the discharge should be studied.

13. In response to a Member's enquiry on sludge quantity and sludge disposal, AD(WW)/EPD said that SSDS would ultimately produce about 1,600 tones per day of dewatered sludge. The strategy to deal with sludge was examined under the Sludge Treatment & Disposal Strategy Study. The Study had recommended that the sludge be incinerated before disposal at landfill. In reply to a Member, AD(WW)/EPD confirmed that since sludge was a by-product of sewage treatment, the IRP would take it into account in the context of cost and environment acceptability of various options. PM/MW supplemented that Members of ACE had been consulted on the findings of the Sludge Treatment & Disposal Strategy Study earlier this year.

14. A Member noted that the schematic design for mitigating odour problem generated under normal operating conditions and during emergency overflow was to build a deodorisation unit with 99% or better deodorizing efficiency. He urged the Administration to identify technology to achieve such efficiency.

15. A Member queried why the disinfection method was still subject to review while UV had been used in the schematic design. She also asked whether chlorination would be replaced when better disinfection technology was available. In reply to the first question, PM/MW said that since the next stage of SSDS would not commence at least eight years later, they needed to leave room for considering new disinfection technology developed during the period. As regards the second question, PM/MW said that chlorination had not been ruled out but it was subject to further studies due to its uncertainties.

EIA Subcommittee
16. Noting that the EIA study was conducted based on cost figures in 1998, a Member asked whether the consultants could update the estimates to reflect the current status of the options. AD(WW)/EPD said that the cost figures given in the EIA report served the purpose of options comparison. Updating the cost figures would unlikely affect the selection of the preferred option. However, he said that the cost estimates of the preferred option would be updated in the Preliminary Project Feasibility Study process.

Members' views and recommendations

17. The Chairman concluded that the Subcommittee had no strong objection to a treatment level with CEPT plus disinfection and an outfall in the Lema Channel provided that there was flexibility for upgrading or downgrading the treatment level in future when necessary. He also reiterated that Members' other concerns included the ecological impact from a not more than 30% increase in SS concentrations by effluent at the edge of dilution zone in the affected water bodies; identification of possible technology to achieve no less than 99% odour removal efficiency; and sludge disposal management. AD(WW)/EPD asked if Members felt there were any significant deficiencies in the approach or scope of the EIA. After seeking views from the Members, the Chairman concluded that there did not appear to be any such deficiencies, although a Member suggested that the IRP should consider specifically the possible impact of the predicted rise in suspended solids at the edge of the initial dilution zone. A

Agenda Item 4 : Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line
(ACE EIA Paper 9/2000)

18. The Chairman appealed to Members not to be prejudiced against the project by recent news reporting and that they should raise questions which were pertinent to the recommendation to be put forward to the Council.

19. The Chairman welcomed the presentation team to the meeting and invited Members to raise questions.

20. With reference to a recent newspaper reporting, a Member sought clarification from KCRC on whether the Ma On Shan and Tsim Sha Tsui East Rail Extensions would be aborted should this Subcommittee not recommend endorsement of the EIA report of the Spur Line project. In reply, SD(CP)/KCRC assured Members that the Spur Line was a stand-alone project in itself and it would not affect the status of the other two East Rail (ER) extensions.

Need for Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

21. Given that a number of planned or committed projects would be carried out in the vicinity of the Spur Line, the Chairman asked whether an SEA had been conducted to assess the overall cumulative impacts. In reply, PEPO(TA)/EPD said that an environmental assessment (EA) was carried out under the Planning and Development Study of North East New Territories (NENT Study) which had covered the area in question including the Kwu Tung Strategic Growth Area (SGA). In reply to a Member's follow up enquiry, PEPO(TA)/EPD confirmed that the Fanling Bypass was included in the NENT Study.

22. Upon enquiry from a Member, Con1/BBV said that the Planning and Development Study of North West New Territories (NWNT Study) identified a SGA at Hung Shui Kiu on which further EA was conducted.

23. A Member said that for the benefit of assessing the cumulative impacts arisen from the Spur Line project and other planned or committed projects in the region, it would be useful if an SEA were conducted. In response, PEPO(TA)/EPD said that the EA of the NENT Study had already taken into account future railway developments and other planned or committed projects in that area. AD(EA)/EPD supplemented that the Council was consulted on the EAs of the NENT and NWNT Studies a few months ago.

24. The Chairman requested the Secretariat to check whether the EAs of the two Studies were submitted for advice or for information and what views had the Council offered.

[Post-meeting note : The EA reports of the NWNT and NENT Studies were respectively considered at the EIA Subcommittee meeting held on 13 December 1999 and at the ACE meeting held on 20 December 1999. The records of discussion were circulated to Members on 28 June 2000.]

Ecological Value of Long Valley

25. A Member said that the ecological importance of Long Valley was not only recognized in the EIA of the Spur Line project (as stated in para. 2.2.6 of the EIA Report), but also in the SEA of the Second Railway Development Study (RDS-2). The latter report even concluded that "the Recommended Outline Development Plan is currently being revised to rezone the area to a classification of 'Other Specified uses (Nature Park)'. Following the completion of the re-zoning, the site will have statutory protection and will therefore, for the purposes of this strategic study, need to be considered as an absolute constraint" (quoted from para. 7.4.25-26 of the Final SEA Report of RDS-2). PAS(9)/TB said that the RDS-2 and its SEA were formulated, inter alia, on the basis that a total of six new railway projects, including the Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, would be implemented as scheduled. The Railway Development Strategy 2000 had mapped out the preferred railway network expansion plan for the HKSAR to further expand the rail network up to the year 2016 and the earliest implementation of the new schemes would be around 2008.

26. In response to the Chairman, AD(EA)/EPD said that Long Valley was currently neither designated as a site of conservation importance under the Outline Zoning Plan, nor did it fall into the categories of "no go areas" stipulated in the Technical Memorandum of EIAO. At this juncture, a Member informed Members that the World Wide Fund For Nature Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society had submitted a request to the Town Planning Board to rezone Long Valley as a conservation area. Also, under the Scheme of Bird Life International, Long Valley would be recognized as an internationally important birds habitat.

27. On the same subject, a Member said that in the Sha Lo Tung case, the Council had advised to restrict residential developments in Sha Lo Tung when the area was not yet designated as "no go area". She felt that the same could apply to Long Valley. In reply, AD(EA)/EPD said that in considering the Spur Line project, the principle of "avoiding the sensitive area where practicable" had been applied. The Chairman agreed with AD(EA)/EPD and said that before Long Valley was legally designated as "no go area", Members should perhaps focus on whether the proponent had exhausted all possible alternative alignments to avoid Long Valley.

28. A Member pointed out that the Spur Line project would encroach on the Wetland Conservation Area (WCA) and he was concerned about the compensation for the impact on the WCA. SEPO(NWNT)/EPD said that there was a precedent case in the Eastern Main Drainage Channel project in which the project was located within the WCA. The proposed compensation for that project was considered adequate by this Subcommittee. AD(EA)/EPD added that an important consideration for all mitigation measures was that there should be "no net loss" of the ecological and environmental conditions of the project location.

Alignment Options

29. A Member asked why the Spur Line must be extended from ER instead of West Rail (WR), and why it must branch off from Sheung Shui. In response, SD(CP)/KCRC said that the Spur Line was originally part of the WR Phase II project. However, whilst WR Phase II was deferred for further planning study, cross-border travel had increased at a rate that exceeded the capacity of the Lo Wu Station. It was therefore concluded that the Spur Line project be advanced by using ER train services.

30. In response to a Member's second question, D(ER)/KCRC said that branching off at south of Fanling was also impracticable because for the same engineering problems, Fanling Station must be demolished, and passengers from Sheung Shui and Fanling must travel southwards to Tai Wo Station before heading northwards to Lok Ma Chau, which was considered too inconvenient to passengers.

31. A Member queried why the passengers from Sheung Shui and Fanling could not cross the border at Lo Wu Station whereas passengers from elsewhere would use the Lok Ma Chau Station. In response, SD(CP)/KCRC said that the railway strategy was drawn up taking into account passengers' preference.

32. A Member asked if it was possible to shift the Southern Route 2 further suoth to avoid villages in Tsung Pak Long. In reply, D(ER)/KCRC said that that would also require demolition of the Sheung Shui Station and the drawbacks were just explained. Another Member asked why the proponent had assumed that passengers traveling to Lok Ma Chau Station would mainly come from Sheung Shui. SD(CP)/KCRC said that apart from people living in Sheung Shui and Fanling, passengers from NWNT would also start off at Sheung Shui Station to cross the border.

33. A Member asked if the Southern Route 2 could shift southwards and ran on Fanling Highway to minimize the affected area. He said that there were successful examples of highway running on top of railway in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. In reply, SD(CP)/KCRC said that the Fanling Highway was not designed as a double deck road to accommodate a railway. He further explained that in the Bangkok case, there were more space available and less utility ducts alongside the highway. The situation in Hong Kong was quite different. Finally, SD(CP)/KCRC said that in terms of engineering, no alignment was impossible but the impacts would be insurmountable.

34. Noting that WR was planned to connect to Lok Ma Chau and a link would be built joining WR and ER at north of Sheung Shui, a Member asked if passengers could travel to Lok Ma Chau Station by changing platforms at Lo Wu Station instead of through the Spur Line. D(ER)/KCRC responded that there was no room to build another platform at Lo Wu Station and even if there were, it would require a longer traveling time and would defeat the purpose of relieving congestion at Lo Wu Station.

35. The Chairman said that to enable Members to recommend an alignment option which had the minimum environmental impacts, it would be useful if the proponent could explain why the Central Alignment was preferred. In response, SD(CP)/KCRC briefed Members on the engineering difficulties and other impacts of the other four alignments. The Northern Route was considered undesirable because should the route be built on a safe curve angle, the track would encroach into a substantial part of the Shek Wu Hui sewage treatment works and the Sheung Shui slaughterhouse. As regards the River Beas Route, inadequate space was available between the railway and the sewage treatment works to construct the viaduct support column foundations on which the Spur Line would be built. For Southern Route 1, Po Shek Wu road bridge, which formed a critical part of the road network connecting to the Man Kam To boundary crossing, had to be demolished and rebuilt. This was considered unacceptable in terms of its degree of hindrance on the heavy traffic in the area. Southern Route 2 brought adverse impacts on Tsung Pak Long and Yin Kong villages, and potential damage to sustainable environmental planning of Kwu Tung SGA.

36. Noting the close proximity of the branch off points of the Central Alignment and River Beas Route, a Member said that the two alignments should have the same engineering problem and wondered why the former could overcome the problem whilst the latter could not. Con1/BBV and Con2/BBV referred respectively to para. and Fig. 2.2 (10 of 11) of the EIA report, and explained that Central Alignment branched off from a straight section of ER and thus could avoid the constraints arising from Shek Wu Hui Sewage Treatment Works and the Sheung Shui Slaughter House.

37. A Member was not convinced why WR or an alignment branching off at south of Sheung Shui could not relieve the congestion at Lo Wu Station. The Chairman echoed that Member's remark and asked the proponent to provide supporting evidence at the next meeting. In response to another Member's request, the Chairman agreed to further pursue the alignment options at the next meeting.

38. Noting that Members' major concern was the impacts on Long Valley, a Member suggested the proponent to explain how the affected ecology of Long Valley could be compensated. The Chairman agreed that the Proponent should explain at the present meeting to be followed by a detailed discussion at the next meeting. Con2/BBV said that the ecological impacts of the Central Alignment and the River Beas Route were almost the same. However, the former was preferred because it would provide better opportunity for off-site mitigation. Con3/BBV supplemented that the number of Greater Painted-snipes had been decreasing in recent years due to land-use changes. On the other hand, recent monitoring results in the construction works in WR showed that the construction works there did not affect the species.

39. A Member pointed out that the project proponent had double counted the proposed mitigation measures in meanders No. 1 and 2A because the two meanders were supposed to be mitigation measures for the Main Drainage Channels for Fanling, Sheung Shui and Hinterland project. In response, TD/BBV undertook to seek clarification with the New Territories Development Department and to provide a written answer before the next meeting.
40. Since the meeting could not cover all the issues and there was insufficient information for Members to make a recommendation, the Chairman concluded that discussion would continue at another meeting scheduled for 6 July at 3:00pm. At the request of a Member, SD(CP)/KCRC agreed that site visits would be arranged in the morning of 6 July and 8 July 2000 respectively to facilitate Members to have a better understanding of the subject. 41. To facilitate discussion at the next meeting and to enable the project proponent to prepare in advance, the Chairman invited Members to raise questions and to list out information required by them.

42. A Member requested the following :

  1. The impacts of the access roads to various stations, in particular, the access road from Lok Ma Chau Road to Lok Ma Chau Station;
  2. A list of emergency vehicular access roads and the impacts arising from them;
  3. A map showing the locations of the proposed noise barriers, especially the 2m-high barriers located north of Tsung Pak Long;
  4. the impacts along the alignments, other than the areas in Lok Ma Chau and Long Valley which were the major focus of the EIA report, in particular, the area near Chau Tau where the Savannah Night Jar and Eagle Owl were inhabited;
  5. the planned extension(s) of the two tracks coming out from Lok Ma Chau Station.

43. Another Member requested the following :

  1. A copy of the ERM 1999 Ecological Study Report;
  2. the impact of the footprint of works area during construction phase;
  3. further to (4) of the first Member's request, the mitigation measures of those impacts; and
  4. schedules of construction works and implementation of mitigation measures of the Spur Line.
44. A third Member requested the following :
  • (1) Comparison between the environmental impacts brought by an open viaduct and a closed viaduct.
45. The Chairman asked and SD(CP)/KCRC agreed to provide answers to the above requests by the morning of 5 July 2000. SD(CP)/KCRC also undertook to collate replies to the queries raised in the letters from various interest groups, for example the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society and circulated them to Members before the next meeting.

46. The meeting was adjourned at 8:00pm and resumed discussion at 3:00pm on 6 July 2000.

47. The Chairman felt that the discussion might not reach a consensus, so the aim should be to go through every issue of concern and to bring the key controversies to the attention of the main Council.

48. In response to a Member, the Chairman said that a number of outside organizations had submitted to the Council comments and questions on the Spur Line project. He asked the proponent to provide to the Council written answers to questions raised by those organizations.

49. AD(EA)/EPD informed Members that so far EPD had received 24 sets of public comments submitted under EIAO.

Alignment Options (Con't)

50. In reply to a Member's query, SD(CP)/KCRC explained that the ER minimum service level required 20 trains per hour per direction (tphpd), which would ensure passengers to wait not more than 3 minutes to board a train. The maximum service level was currently 24 tphpd. Since the peak hour passenger travel demand for Lok Ma Chau Station would require a service level of 12 tphpd, if the Spur Line branched off south of Fanling, the service level from Tai Po Market to Fanling, Sheung Shui and Lo Wu could only be 12 tphpd. This was considered unacceptable in terms of service level because passengers would need to wait for 5 minutes to board a train. That would induce severe competition between train and other transport services. That Member felt that the patronage demand could be met if given appropriate operation management arrangements. She requested the proponent to provide information of the current ER train service level, both in terms of tphpd and number of boarding, on a weekday and a weekend.

51. Upon enquiry from the Chairman, SD(CP)/KCRC said that the Southern Route 2 was infeasible due to engineering constraints. SD(CP)/KCRC explained that the route conflicted with the existing Sheung Shui Station which must be demolished to give way to the railway. To maintain undisrupted operation of the ER, a new station would need to be built before demolishing the existing one but there was no suitable location for building a new station.

52. A Member asked whether the constraints of River Beas Route could be overcome. SD(CP)/KCRC said that since the route would cross four tracks of the ER and the slaughterhouse delivery sidings at an obtuse angle, a bridge with a span of approximately 250 metres must be built. However, there was no room between the tracks, the trunk sewer inlet pipes and the five Dongjiang Watermains to locate the foundations for the viaduct. Thus, this option was practically impossible.

53. In response to a Member's same query regarding the Northern Route, SD(CP)/KCRC said that to enable a safe turn of the Spur Line, a curved section of the ER must be straightened and this would encroach into a substantial part of the Shek Wu Hui STW and the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse. Discussions with the relevant parties, including Drainage Services Department, Architectural Services Department, Water Services Department and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department concluded that the impacts would seriously compromise the operations of the facilities and were thus unacceptable. CE(Railway)/HyD confirmed SD(CP)/KCRC's statement and undertook to provide the relevant minutes of meeting to Members for reference. That Member felt that these constraints could be overcome provided that there were sufficient time and financial resources. To ascertain from the relevant parties that the impacts arising from this route were insurmountable, the Chairman asked the Secretariat to invite responses from them.

54. A Member was not convinced why an alignment extending from WR could not relieve congestion at Lo Wu Station. Another Member echoed that Member's comments and asked whether all the connections between ER and WR were necessary to cater for passengers' demand in the long run. PAS(7)/TB confirmed that the Spur Line was necessary to divert cross-boundary traffic, and the Northern Link was required to provide convenient transportation from WR to the boundary crossings and to ER such as Tuen Mun to Tai Po Market.

55. Considering that Members might not have time to study the supplementary information provided by the proponent which was only circulated the day before, a Member suggested the proponent briefly highlighting the major points of information. Apart from those explained in detail before, SD(CP)/KCRC said that Southern Route 1 was infeasible because the route clashed with Po Shek Wu Road bridge which must be elevated to provide adequate headroom for the Spur Line viaduct. This would however affect the busy traffic network connecting to the Man Kam To boundary crossing. Also, resumption of Jumbo Plaza would be required for the diversion of the Dongjiang Watermains. Experience from WR had shown that resumption of such premises was out of the question. As regards the alignment running along Fanling Highway, SD(CP)/KCRC said that the Highway would have to be widened by about two lanes, resulting not only in impact on schools and other buildings, but also in impact on villages in Tai Tau Ling and Tsung Pak Long.

Hy D
56. A Member asked if it was possible to reduce the size of the foundations for the viaduct of River Beas Route by making a sharper turn on the down track to bring the two tracks closer together. SD(CP)/KCRC said that a sharper turn would exceed the railway safety limit and EM/KCRC supplemented that even if the tracks could be brought closer together, the size of the foundations could not be significantly reduced. That Member felt that the Central Alignment should face similar engineering constraints and requested the proponent to provide a detailed color map showing how this option could be practically feasible. To avoid confusion, the Chairman asked that Member to draw on a map his proposed alignment so that the proponent could explain the impossibility of such alignment more specifically.[Post-meeting note : The Secretariat sent a sketch of that Member's proposed alignment to KCRC on 10 July.]

57. A Member asked whether the two tracks of the River Beas Route could be shifted southwards to avoid the problems with the down track. In response, SD(CP)/KCRC said that the down track would still need to cross ER and the same problems would exist.

That Member
58. A Member recalled having sight of a proposed route further north of the Northern Route, and asked whether it had been taken into consideration as a possible option for the Spur Line. In reply, EM/KCRC said that that option was impossible because the Lo Wu Goods Yard would be rendered unusable. That Member requested for written information on the feasibility assessment of this route.
59. To facilitate discussion at the main Council, the Chairman asked the proponent to list out the constraints and impacts of all the alignments in a table form.

Adequacy of Ecological Assessment

60. A Member said that according to para. 4.3.20 and 4.3.35 of the EIA report, there was a lack of ecological information of amphibians, reptiles and mammals, especially in Chau Tau and Lok Ma Chau. Furthermore, the report was written only based on literature review of the ERM (1999b) report and no field survey had been carried out to verify or supplement the existing ecological data. As the EIA Study Brief and TM required the proponent to conduct a 12-month ecological survey of the study area, that Member opined that the proponent had not met the requirements of the Study Brief and TM.

61. PEPO(TA)/EPD said that according to the EIA Study Brief, the proponent was firstly required to review findings of relevant studies and collate all available information regarding ecological characteristics of the study area, then to evaluate the information collected and identify any information gap, and thirdly to carry out necessary field surveys which should at least be 6-month covering wet and dry seasons. That Member was not satisfied with the ecological assessment of the project because despite the EIA report revealed that there was a lack of information, the proponent had not carried out field surveys to fill in the gap.

62. Con2/BBV said that they had targeted the ecological assessment at major conservation issues like birds. For other fauna, they had adopted the work done by other experts and the baseline data was sufficient for designing necessary mitigation measures. EM/KCRC believed that the assessment was adequate for they had adopted a precautionary approach and designed the mitigation measures based on a worst-case scenario. Ag. SNCO/AFCD agreed that every ecological assessment had its own focus. In this case, after incorporating comments received during the exhibition of the project profile, the main scope of the assessment on habitat and wildlife as detailed in the Study Brief included fishponds, freshwater marshes, agricultural land, shrub and woodland, and avifauna.

63. A Member drew Members' attention to para. 4.2.8 of the EIA report. He said that if it were agreed that butterflies and dragonfly larvae could be used as indicators of habitat diversity and water quality, no further field survey would be needed because the concerned baseline data was available from the study conducted by ERM previously. Another Member said that that Member's assumption was true based on the logic of ecological food chain, but care must be taken to ensure that the consultants had not over-interpreted the second hand data.

64. The Chairman said that this issue should be brought to the attention of the main Council and asked that Member to make clear his concern. That Member said that a four-season ecological survey should be carried out in the vicinity of the project, in particular Chau Tau and Lok Ma Chau, to fill in the information gaps of the literature review with regard to amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Otherwise, the requirements stipulated in the EIA Study Brief would not be met and it was difficult to judge whether the mitigation measures were adequate. Another Member supplemented that there was also a question of whether ERM had actually carried out a 6-month ecological survey.
65. AD(EA)/EPD said that AFCD had confirmed that the ecological assessment of this project had been done in compliance with the scope set out in the Study Brief. From this point of view, one could not say the report had failed to meet the Study Brief requirements. However, he encouraged Members to put up comments for DEP to consider. He suggested the proponent to explain if the information gaps would affect the EIA study findings and the proposed mitigation measures and provide justifications. He also proposed and SD(CP)/KCRC agreed that ERM should be involved in the response.

Cumulative Ecological Impacts

66. Con2/BBV briefed Members on the methodology for calculating cumulative ecological impacts as well as the specific issues considered during the assessment. PEPO(TA)/EPD supplemented that the development of Kwu Tung SGA had also been taken into account.

67. A Member was concerned over the conservation plan for Long Valley because there was at present no protection against development in that area despite its widely recognized conservation value. For fear that Long valley was subject to habitat fragmentation by various projects, that Member said that an SEA for that area should be carried out and proper conservation measure be taken before considering any individual project in that area. The Chairman said that that Member's concern was well noted and suggested bringing it to the attention of the main Council. PEPO(TA)/EPD supplemented that a Schedule 3 EIA study for that area was being undertaken by TDD and was anticipated for completion in six-months' time.

Residual Impacts

68. Noting that 9.5 ha. of wetland would be lost after compensation, a Member was not satisfied that the principle of "no net loss" had not been adhered to. In response, EM/KCRC said that under the Railway Ordinance, KCRC could not resume land to provide compensation for adverse environmental impacts. He then added that 28.5 ha of existing fishponds in Lok Ma Chau would be enhanced in functions to compensate for the habitat loss.

69. A Member said that the proposed mitigation was unacceptable and argued that the principle for compensation should be both by function AND by area. At this juncture, AD(EA)/EPD clarified that according to the TM of EIAO, it should be by function OR by area. Con2/BBV then added that the interpretation of the principle by the Government and by ACE had been by function OR by area and cited Shenzhen River widening project as an example. That Member said that the Town Planning Board (TPB)'s criteria for evaluating the adequacy of compensation in a WCA under a private development proposal was by function AND by area. She said that if there were discrepancy between the requirements under EIAO and TPB, the Administration must clarify why this is so. She also disagreed with the citing of Shenzhen River project as an example because the EIAO had not been implemented when the project was approved. She said that from past experience, it was possible to observe "no net loss" principle without taking off-site land. AD(Conservation)/AFCD explained that there was no "one-to-one" ratio of compensation policy. He also undertook to check TPB's Guidelines for Application for Developments within Deep Bay Area in relation to WCA. The Chairman said that the conflict in interpretation of compensation would be brought up in the main Council.

(Post-meeting notes : TPB's guidelines in relation to WCA stated that for essential infrastructural project with overriding public interest, it should not result in net loss in wetland function and negative disturbance impact. A practical wetland compensation scheme would be required. A copy of the Guidelines was distributed to Members of the EIA Subcommittee on 10 July.)

70. The Chairman proposed to continue the discussion at 2:00pm on 11 July 2000.

Any Other Business

Lamma Power Station - Conversion of two existing gas turbines into a combined cycle unit (The Hong Kong Electric Co. Ltd.)

71. AD(EA)/EPD informed Members that the HKEC had applied for permission to apply directly for environmental permit to carry out the captioned conversion in the existing power station to increase the power generating capacity. He said that the project profile was currently exhibited for public inspection and he would like to seek Members' comments on the application. A copy of application and project profile was tabled for Members' reference.

72. The Chairman asked Members to consider the application and indicate their support or objection at the next meeting.

73. The meeting was adjourned at 7:45pm and resumed discussion at 2:00pm on 11 July 2000.

Alignment Options (Con't) - Underground option

74. In response to the Chairman, SD(CP)/KCRC said that the underground option had been examined but was concluded impossible because given gradient consideration, the Spur Line would be well into Long Valley before it could go underground. EM/KCRC supplemented that this option would also bring about serious construction impacts and operational problems given the fact that the area was a flood plain.

75. In reply to a Member's suggestion that the Spur Line start heading underground after the Fanling Station, SD(CP)/KCRC said that it was also impossible because of insufficient space along side the existing railway to accommodate the Spur Line. Furthermore, it would also affect the operation of East Rail during the construction period.

A Member's proposed alignment (Para. 56)

76. A Member briefed Members that his proposed alignment would branch off at the same point of the Central Alignment and run north as near as possible to River Beas, heading south later to join the western part of the Spur Line. He said that if this route was feasible, the fragmentation of Long Valley and the related landscape impact could be reduced.

77. SD(CP)/KCRC displayed a map showing the proposed alignment after taking into account safe railway tangent and curvature. He said that the proposed alignment would end up between the Central Alignment and the Beas River Route. Con2/BBV said that the ecological impacts of the proposed alignment would be much greater than the Central Alignment.

78. That Member pointed out that the railway curvature could be compromised by adjusting the train speed. The Chairman suggested that the alignment could be more flexible if the Kwu Tung Station could be re-located. PAS(9)/TB thanked Members for the suggestions and undertook to take a further look into the proposed alignment with the Project proponent. SD(CP)/KCRC agreed to work on the alignment and brief Members on the results at the main Council meeting. In response to AD(EA)/EPD's query, the Chairman said that it was the sentiment of the Subcommittee Members to accept that Member's proposed alignment if it imposed less ecological impacts to the Long Valley.

Adequacy, effectiveness and funding and management plan of mitigation measuresLong Valley - adequacy

79. Con2/BBV said that in working out the compensation, actual land loss and disturbance to fauna along side the viaduct had been taken into account so that 1.7 ha of undisturbed habitat should be provided. In the EIA report, they proposed 2.4 ha of re-created wetland underneath and parallel to the viaduct and 1.4 ha of enhanced meanders along River Beas as compensation.

80. A Member re-iterated that the meanders concerned were already a committed mitigation site of the Main Drainage Channel project undertaken by TDD which had also undertaken to provide long-term management of the meanders. SD(CP)/KCRC said that KCRC's proposed enhancement to the meanders would add value to the seasonally wet habitats created by TDD, through the provision of a diversity of habitats, permanent and controlled water levels and a management programme that would enable long-term sustainability of the wetland habitat for the target species of concern. Con2/BBV supplemented that they had designed the mitigation measures on the basis of the relevant information provided by TDD.

81. A Member said that the proposal was unacceptable because if the meanders failed to achieve their proposed function, it would be difficult to attribute the responsibility to TDD or KCRC. Another Member cautioned that it was also difficult to ascertain whether the meanders would achieve functions doubled of that proposed by TDD whilst TDD had not yet completed the mitigation works. The Chairman concluded that while the constraint of land resumption for ecological compensation was well taken, it only reflected the lack of coordination between government departments and bureaux and should not be accepted as an excuse for not acquiring sufficient land for compensatory purpose. Having regard to Members' concern that adequate compensation was not put in place, the Chairman suggested bringing this matter as well as the issue of land resumption for further consideration at the Council meeting.

Long Valley - effectiveness

82. The Chairman asked if there were experience elsewhere with regard to the effectiveness of re-created wetland. A Member said that according to the ecological monitoring results of Route 3, there was reduced bird use of about 63% in the re-created wetland underneath the viaduct and high level of zinc and lead in the sediments in the area. The spotted species were common species in Hong Kong. SD(CP)/KCRC however pointed out that this experience was not entirely comparable to their proposed wetland because Route 3 was a road, not a railway. Con2/BBV said that Hong Kong was a unique city of high population density and there would be no need for other countries to carry out mitigation underneath a viaduct. He was of the opinion that wetland was not difficult to create provided that there was good design and proper long-term management for the habitat. Indeed, Mai Po was a successful example. That Member disagreed with Con2/BBV's second point because no viaduct was built over Mai Po.

83. A Member cited figures from a study conducted in the United States that 50% to 73% of re-created wetland failed to function as anticipated. The Chairman also noted that Prof. David Dudgeon of the University of Hong Kong had expressed a similar concern, in particular regarding the effectiveness of the temporary mitigation measures.

84. Upon enquiry from a Member on the implementation schedule of mitigation and construction works, Con1/BBV said that piling, ground works, and planting for the temporary mitigation area (TMA) would start around July 2001 and was anticipated to take effect around March 2002. Construction works in Long Valley would start in early 2002 in area away from the TMA and would be completed by 2002. The TMA would be restored to its original state at the end of the construction works in Long Valley. She assured Members that there was ample time for the TMA to take effect before construction works started in Long Valley. That Member noted that the birds would be impacted twice from moving to and fro between Long Valley and TMA within a year or so. Con2/BBV said that the Greater Painted-snipe, the major species of conservation importance, was accustomed to moving from patches of areas for feeding at night and the critical point was to provide a day-time refuge site for their roosting.

85. A Member noted that the project proponent had committed to ensure that works in Long Valley marsh would not start before the TMA would function as a wetland marsh. She asked how "function" was defined. Con2/BBV explained that it was demonstrated by the usage of a representative cross section of the targeted bird species of conservation importance in Long Valley. In reply to another Member, Con2/BBV said that breeding of the Greater Painted-snipe should not be taken as a criterion to determine the functioning or otherwise of the marsh because the number of that species was usually low during dry winter weather.

86. Given that some Members were not satisfied with the successful rate of re-created wetland, the Chairman asked the proponent what fallback option had been proposed. SD(CP)/KCRC said that as far as temporary mitigation was concerned, they could approach the landowners for agreement to use the land to carry out temporary enhancement measures. Con2/BBV said that as regards permanent mitigation, enhanced management of sub-regions of the re-created wetland could be employed to compensate for the possible failure.

87. A Member asked why the ecological impacts of the Beas River Route would be more serious than that of the Central Alignment as he thought there was less fragmentation in the former route. In response, Con2/BBV explained that the ecological value along side the Beas River had been higher than the central part of Long Valley in the past. Although the value had depreciated due to the channelisation activities, he believed it was only temporary. Therefore, they could preserve the area better by pushing the alignment southwards and leave as large a corridor as possible in the northern part of Long Valley to provide ecological linkage to the fauna there. Another Member disagreed and said that the way to minimize the fragmentation of Long Valley should be to keep the developments, namely the Spur Line, the proposed Fanling Bypass, and the WR Phase II, as close to each other as possible. Con2/BBV indicated that the alignment of the proposed Fanling Bypass was still under planning.

88. A Member referred to Fig. 4.12 of the EIA report and asked why the existing access road would need to be widened to 6.7 meters whereas 3.5 meters was the standard. In response, EM/KCRC said that the widening was required by the Fire Services Department for the use of fire engines in emergency situations.

Lok Ma Chau

89. The Chairman said that the controversy over the adequacy of mitigation in this area stemmed from the principle of wetland compensation in the context of by area "and" or "or" by function. He noted that the Subcommittee had been adopting the former because it was more tangible. He said that if loss were to be compensated by enhanced function, the proponent would need to demonstrate how the mitigation would work. A Member cautioned that it would make the assessment of future proposed mitigation measures more difficult if enhanced function was accepted in this case because no vetting criteria had yet been developed. Another Member said that according to the results of the Fish Pond Study, compensation by function was not recommended because any reduction in area would reduce the ecological function of that area.

90. EM/KCRC said that they had followed the TM of EIAO to provide mitigation measures to the extent that was practicable and this was the best they could propose. AD(EA)/EPD said that given that resumption of land for compensation was not possible, it would be useful if the proponent could provide reasons to substantiate the adequacy and effectiveness of their proposed mitigation measures.

91. A Member said that the footings of Lok Ma Chau Station would impinge on the mitigation site of the Shenzhen River Regulation Stage II project in which fishponds would be enhanced. Con2/BBV undertook to clarify the issue at the main Council meeting.

92. The Chairman asked whether there were examples of enhanced fishponds in Hong Kong. In reply, Con2/BBV said that Pond 20 in Mai Po was an example. The species carrying capacity of the pond had been increased by 20 times. Two Members said that the enhancement was brought about by a change in habitat characteristic, and the species attracted were not the target species. One of the two Members said that this example was not comparable to the proposed enhancement concerned.

93. A Member asked why the proposed mitigation was considered appropriate while the EIA report stated that there was insufficient information on amphibians, reptiles and mammals in that area. Con2/BBV emphasised that the target fauna was bird species of conservation importance and they were confident that the fauna groups mentioned by that Member would also accommodate into the enhanced habitat.

94. AD(EA)/EPD said that to facilitate Members of the Council to consider the adequacy of mitigation measures, it would be useful if that Member could advise on what conditions the mitigation by function would work. In response, that Member regretted that there was limited experience in Hong Kong. The Chairman said that it should be the proponent's responsibility to convince the Council that the mitigation was adequate, and requested the proponent to provide such evidence at the main Council meeting.

Funding and Management Plan of Mitigation Measures

95. SD(CP)/KCRC said that a Trust arrangement with interested green groups would be adopted for long-term management and the funding would be by way of a lump sum to meet the recurrent expenditure. Prior to that, KCRC would be responsible for all the set-up cost for the mitigation measures.

96. In response to a Member, AD(EA)/EPD said that stringent requirements on long-term maintenance and management of the mitigation measures would be stipulated in the Environmental Permit, and the Permit holder would be held responsible for failure to meet the requirements, even after the Trust was established.

97. A Member noted that there was no access road through the Long Valley and asked how the works could be carried out in that area. EM/KCRC said that no access road was built due to their intention to minimize impacts. Farmers who were trusted to manage the area could only use tools for normal agricultural activities. Con2/BBV supplemented that the detailed design of the re-created wetland was yet to be worked out but the spirit was to minimize the scale of work so that management could be carried out by ordinary farmers.

98. Noting that an independent water supply would be put in place in Long Valley, a Member was concerned whether that would affect the hydrology of the existing farmland. In response, Con1/BBV assured him that they would keep the water flow away from the natural water courses to ensure that existing farmland would not be affected.

Environmental monitoring and auditing

99. The Chairman noted that the summary report of the environmental performance of WR contained mainly pledges. For the purpose of making reference to the proponent's performance in meeting the requirements stipulated in the Environmental Permit, he asked the proponent to provide data on exceedances of environmental standards. A Member added that it would be more meaningful to know how often these exceedances were repeated. EM/KCRC undertook to provide the data before the main Council meeting.

Members' views

100. The Chairman concluded that whilst the need for the railway was outside the Council's remit, Members' major concerns were whether the proponent had exhausted all possible alignment options to avoid Long Valley, and whether the proposed mitigation measures were adequate and effective. He urged the proponent to further examine the alignment option suggested by a Member, taking into account possible adjustment of train speed and the location of Kwu Tung Station. He appreciated the constraint of resuming land for compensation purpose and said that the Administration should consider the possibility of providing land for off-site mitigation. Finally, it was considered unacceptable to make use of the same site for mitigation measures for different projects.

101. SD(CP)/KCRC and PAS(9)/TB thanked Members for their comments and undertook to address their concerns as far as possible.

102. Following the departure of the proponent's team, Members went on to discuss what statement the main Council could make should it decide against the project and what conditions should be attached should it decide to endorse the EIA. Members agreed with the following statement and conditions-

Grounds for rejecting the EIA report

  1. The Central Alignment would bring serious, significant, and unavoidable habitat fragmentation in Long Valley which is known to have high ecological value.
  2. The Central Alignment involves the use of viaducts. This has adverse landscape impact which is again impossible to mitigate.
  3. The project proponent has not explored and adequately evaluated all possible options with respect to the construction methods or alignment.
  4. The proposed mitigation measures are inadequate and ineffective:
  • no benchmark functional value is defined, both for the meanders and for the existing Lok Ma Chau fishponds which are proposed for compensation;
  • in the case of the meanders, the mitigation proposed to be carried out by Territory Development Department has not yet been implemented;there is therefore no way to measure the benchmark value;
  • the equivalent functional value needed for ecological compensation has not been defined/quantified; and
  • no scientific evidence/insufficient information is available to substantiate that the enhancement measures proposed could achieve the functional value required for mitigation.
  1. Information available overseas shows that the failure rate of re-created wetland is about 50% to 73%.The Project proponent has failed to provide any contingency or fallback in the event of failure.

Conditions for incorporation by DEP in endorsing the EIA report

  1. All measures set out in the EIA report must be implemented.

  2. Construction work in Long Valley cannot commence until the proposed temporary mitigation area is functional as demonstrated by the presence of the cross section of species inhabited in the affected area.
  3. If the functions of the proposed temporary mitigation area are not achieved or not retained, the Project proponent should acquire an equivalent area (1.8 ha as stated in the EIA report) in Long Valley to serve the proposed temporary mitigation purpose.
  4. A detailed management plan of the long-term implementation of mitigation measures should be submitted to ACE and DEP.(e) Environmental monitoring and auditing data should be made available to the public in the shortest possible time on the website managed by the Project proponent.(f) Operation of the Spur Line cannot commence until the permanent mitigation measures are demonstrated to have achieved the required functional equivalency of wetlands at Long Valley and Lok Ma Chau.(g) At least another 0.85 ha of permanent freshwater wetland in Long Valley and another 9.5 ha of coastal wetland in Lok Ma Chau should be created.



EIA Subcommittee Secretariat
July 2000



Back to topdot_clear.gifTable of Content
User defined date2: 
Friday, 28 April, 2006