Environment Hong Kong 2006 Chapter 1: IntroductionChapter 2: Cross-boundary and International Co-operationChapter 3: Community AwarenessChapter 4: Customer Service and PartnershipChapter 5: Environmental Assessment and Planning
Chapter 6: AirChapter 7: NoiseChapter 8: WasteChapter 9: WaterChapter 10: ConservationChapter 11: Environmental Compliance
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Chapter 5 Environment Assessment and Planning
 
Mission:

To pre-empt environmental problems associated with development projects, plans and strategies, by assessing their environmental implications and ensuring that measures are implemented to avoid any potential problems that are identified.
 
Highlights in 2005
  • Launched the web-based Strategic Environmental Assessment knowledge centre and interactive 3-D continuous public engagement in EIA.

  • Organised two seminars for practitioners on SEAs.

  • Received a merit award for our 3-D tool for public engagement at the Hong Kong Outstanding Software Applications competition.

  • Included 3-D visualisation of key EIA findings as part of the requirement for major EIA studies.

  • Received the first delegation of officials from the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) under a formal agreement on staff exchanges that was reached between SEPA and the EPD in 2004.

  • Saw the successful commissioning of Hong Kong Disneyland, meeting all relevant environmental requirements.

  • Saw Long Valley protected during and after completion of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation Spur Line tunnels.


SAFEGUARDING our FUTURE ENVIRONMENT


Information on Strategic Environmental Assessments is accessible through the EPD web site.

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) seeks to secure a sustainable environment for Hong Kong. Planning and prevention are central tools for achieving this goal and we have established frameworks for assessing the environmental consequences of new policies, plans and projects. However, these alone cannot fully resolve all differences and problems. Responsible behaviour by both proponents and the public, and a willingness to communicate, are also essential ingredients for achieving a consensus on development.

 

Proponents have a responsibility to provide information, and the public to be informed. Both parties also have to demonstrate a commitment to work together to resolve issues. To facilitate this process, the EPD has created a level playing field through the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (EIAO), a tool that requires all major projects to properly assess and mitigate potential impacts. We have also developed Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) for policy-making and planning so the environmental consequences of different options, for instance, rail versus road transport, can be considered before any development decisions are made. In both cases, the EPD has sought to ensure information is presented in an accessible, easily understood format so the public can participate in a meaningful dialogue with proponents.

Assessing Projects

The EIAO has made a measurable difference to Hong Kong’s environment. Proponents are required to conduct detailed studies, consult the public, avoid adverse environmental effects to the maximum extent possible and carry out mitigation where necessary. Since being enacted in 1998 the EIAO has protected 1.5 million people from adverse environmental consequences and been applied to projects worth a total $340 billion, such as new roads, railways, reclamation, power lines and major building developments. Significant environmental problems have been avoided and natural habitats protected as a result of the findings.

The pagoda at Ping Shan is a site of cultural interest. Ground vibration is monitored there during construction of the KCRC's West Rail.

BENEFITS OF THE EIAO
The EIAO has brought many benefits to Hong Kong since being implemented in 1998.
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No. of EIAs approved : 93, worth approximately $340 billion
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No. of permits issued : 476
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No. of project profiles or reports exhibited for public and ACE comment : 371
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No. of people protected : approximately 1.5 million
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Approximate aggregate size of fish ponds protected by a change of alignment : 14 ha
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No. of documents on the EIAO web site : 847
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No. of visitors to EIAO web site : approximately 1.2 million
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No. of site inspections to identify issues/check compliance : approximately 5 500
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Types of projects covered
: approximately 150 km of roads, 80 km of railways, 660 ha of development projects, 100 km of drainage works, 24 km of power lines, 1 power station, 164 ha of airport decommissioning.
   
       

A flood control channel in Yuen Long has been re-routed (section coloured in light blue) to avoid fragmenting fish ponds. Kam Tin River has mangroves planted along some sections.

One case that has received much media coverage is the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation’s (KCRC) Spur Line at Lok Ma Chau. This was the first case to go through the EIAO appeal process and the end result has set an encouraging precedent for other developers. The KCRC was required to modify its project to protect the sensitive habitat at Long Valley and it embraced this task wholeheartedly. It set up an environment committee with multi-stakeholder involvement to monitor its work, installed a 24-hour webcam and carried out a range of mitigation measures to reduce the impact of the new rail line (see box). Significantly, in 2005, large numbers of migrating birds flocked to the area. The disruption was so minimal that some villagers were unaware the work was underway.

Government projects also submit themselves to the EIA process. For example, one of the largest land de-contamination projects in Asia has been underway at the old Kai Tak airport site. Aircraft-related work, such as maintenance and re-fuelling, has contaminated the site with oil and chemicals. The Government, through a combination of on- and off-site measures conducted under highly controlled conditions, has de-contaminated the land, thereby protecting the 200 000 people who live near the site. The cleanup will enable another 100 000 people to live on the site in future.

The old Kai Tak airport site is going through the EIA process before re-development.

LOK MA CHAU

The KCRC development at Lok Ma Chau has resulted in a number of mitigation measures to reduce impacts on the ecologically sensitive Long Valley. Key mitigation measures of the Spur Line EIA include:

A tunnel replaced the original viaduct design to avoid ecological impacts in the Long Valley, which has a high conservation value.

A 15-hectare ecological compensation area at Lok Ma Chau was established prior to construction, to provide a habitat for birds affected by building activities for the new Lok Ma Chau station. The area will be expanded to 30 hectares as work progresses. The KCRC has undertaken to provide long-term management of the compensation area.

A 5-hectare reed bed/marsh area was set up to filter the effluent generated from the new Lok Ma Chau station and thus achieve zero pollution loading to a nearby waterbody.

A comprehensive monitoring and audit programme on the environmental performance of the project is being carried out throughout the construction and operation stages. All monitoring results are available to the public through a dedicated web site, providing a high degree of transparency on the project. A system of web cameras is also installed on-site to provide the general public with real time visual monitoring of the condition of the ecological compensation area and new station at Lok Ma Chau. The KCRC is the first non-government body to install web cameras for environmental monitoring purposes.

An Environmental Committee has been set up comprising representatives of major green groups and academics, to promote stakeholder participation during implementation of the Spur Line. Members meet regularly to advise the KCRC on the performance of the environmental mitigation measures.

The EIAO provides a framework for assessing and preventing problems from projects like these. It cannot, however, address the environmental sustainability of policy issues. These issues are best explored through a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), a new and evolving tool that is being adopted by a growing number of governments around the world.

Assessing Policies

Strategic Environmental Assessments are used to analyse and evaluate the environmental impacts of major policies, plans and programmes at an early stage, when it is much easier to devise alternative options and avoid or minimise the impacts. The profile of SEAs was boosted in Hong Kong in 2005 when the Chief Executive, Mr Donald TSANG, announced in his October policy address that all major government policies would be subject to environmental protection scrutiny. The Government had already applied SEAs in several obvious areas. Now their application is to be systemised, broadened and deepened.

Since 2002 SEA reports have been posted on the EPD web site, starting with the Territorial Development Strategy Review, the Second Railway Development Study, the Third Comprehensive Transport Study and the Study on Sustainable Development for the 21st Century. We also have an on-going SEA for "Hong Kong 2030: Planning Vision and Strategy" to assess long-term policies and directions, in which the public has been widely consulted.

Mr Elvis AU, Assistant Director of EPD, speaks at the Workshop on Strategic Environmental Assessment. Professor K C LAM, Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Environment (left), Mr ZHU Xingxiang, Director of SEPA of China (centre), and Mr K K KWOK, Permanent Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works (Environment) (right), launch a new web-based centre on Strategic Environmental Assessments.

Public participation is a cornerstone of our approach to the SEA process. Apart from posting SEAs on the EPD web site, we have set up a separate web-based SEA knowledge centre to provide guidelines, information, local examples and practices, best international practices and other material of use to both the lay person and the SEA practitioner. The SEA knowledge centre was launched in December 2005 by the Director General of the State Environmental Protection Administration of China, Mr ZHU Xingxiang, and the Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Environment, Professor K C LAM. A version of the site in simplified Chinese is also being developed so we can share our knowledge and experience with our counterparts and the public on the Mainland.

DEVELOPING CAPACITY

The Strategic Environmental Assessment process provides a framework for assessing policies, programmes and plans. In order to succeed, it requires a body of professionals who understand the responsibilities and implications of that process. The EPD is working to build capacity in Hong Kong in this field. In June 2005 we held a workshop for 200 people from the private sector and Government with the Hong Kong Institute of Planners, the Hong Kong Institute of Environmental Impact Assessment and the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management Hong Kong. In December a gathering for 100 was held with the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers. We also disseminated information, best practices and Hong Kong experiences in SEAs through a dedicated SEA web site.

Strategic Environmental Assessment is the focus of an EPD workshop in June 2005.
 

Continuous Public Involvement

The posting of SEAs on the EPD’s web site was part of our overall strategy to improve public access to information and empower the community to be involved in planning and development in Hong Kong. EIA reports are also posted online and public comment is invited, a measure that has drawn much praise. However, meaningful dialogue is not achieved solely by making information available. That information has to be understandable, too. The EPD therefore promotes Continuous Public Involvement (CPI) in the planning process.

A virtual reality model shows the predicted impacts of a project.

AWARDS

The EPD has developed a 3-D public engagement tool that creates visualisations of the environmental impacts of different options for projects, and provides an interactive platform for the public to contribute comments. This public engagement initiative received praise and interest from around the world in 2005, for example at the International Association for Impact Assessment annual conference held in Boston in May 2005 and the Hong Kong Government’s Innovation Festival. It also won a merit award at the Hong Kong Outstanding Software Applications Competition, competing against major local and multinational companies. We were the only Government body to receive an award.

 

The primary objective of CPI is to facilitate public engagement during the inception stage of the planning process, in order to avoid insurmountable environmental problems at later stages when changes in design may be costly. CPI also gives project proponents better control over their programmes by reducing unforeseeable delays or objections. The EPD has applied the latest technologies in promoting CPI. A 3-D EIA public engagement tool has been developed by the department, which enables users to enter a virtual reality model, inspect a project from any angle and review the predicted impacts. This gives everyone a much better understanding of the project and its associated environmental impacts. It also breaks down barriers between professionals and the general public by doing away with technical jargon. The 3-D EIA tool also has a user-friendly feedback mechanism so people can input their comments onto the model and send them via email.

The use of advanced technologies such as the 3-D tool can greatly enhance public understanding of EIA studies and promote informed and constructive discussions for building consensus and identifying better alternatives. By the end of 2005 eight major proposed projects had indicated they would incorporate the 3-D tool into their EIA reports. These included the four landfill extensions, CLP Power Hong Kong Ltd’s liquefied natural gas terminal, the Logistics Park, the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme and the Sha Tin-Central Link.

Sustainable development in Hong Kong requires co-operation, communication and above all a sense of responsibility towards the environment. A systematic and transparent process has been established for assessing environmental impacts. Proponents have an obligation to follow the process and do their utmost to ensure their projects and policies can meet the needs of the community. The public also has a responsibility to be informed and be willing to discuss options. The EPD, for its part, is committed to facilitating discussion between all parties to resolve differences over future developments. Through EIAs and SEAs, we have a framework that enables everybody in the community to participate in protecting their environment and that of future generations.

LOOKING AHEAD

  • Implement a commitment in the Chief Executive’s 2005 Policy Address that "all new major government policies will be subject to environmental protection scrutiny".

  • Continue to apply Strategic Environmental Assessments to major policies, strategies and plans to pre-empt environmental issues at an early stage.

  • Maximise the contribution of the EIAO in protecting the environment and communicating environmental outcomes to the public and other stakeholders.

  • Continue to promote and facilitate Continuous Public Involvement for various stages of the EIA process and further apply the 3-D EIA public engagement tool to enhance public involvement.

 




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