Environment Bureau Environmental Protection Department ENVIRONMENT HONG KONG 2008
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Message from the Permanent Secretary / Director
             
           
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We are not simply aiming to fix the problems of the present day, but to achieve long term, sustainable improvements that will provide a quality living environment for coming generations.

Ms Anissa WONG, JP Permanent Secretary for the Environment / Director of Environmental Protection


What kind of Hong Kong will our grandchildren live in? That is a question at the heart of our work. We are not simply aiming to fix the problems of the present day, but to achieve long term, sustainable improvements that will provide a quality living environment for coming generations. As you will read in this report, we are making good progress towards these aims across our full range of programmes.

Air pollution is the most talked about issue that we deal with. There is intense concern in the community about air quality and we are tackling it from several angles. Locally, in 2007, we continued to reduce roadside emissions and we imposed new limits on volatile organic compounds in specified products. We also announced new regulatory arrangements to reduce emissions from power plants, which will help us meet the regional air quality targets we have agreed with Guangdong.

These initiatives will achieve immediate results, but we also recognise the need to consider stricter air quality standards. Recent international research suggests that the acceptable limits of certain pollutants need to be reduced to protect human health. Hong Kong has launched an 18-month study to devise new air quality objectives and develop a long-term strategy for achieving them. The study will be completed by the end of 2008 and present recommendations on new air quality standards and additional strategies for sustaining healthy air in future.

Another area where we are trying to achieve greater sustainability is waste management. Our three strategic landfills are running out of space and we urgently need to reduce waste and identify options for waste treatment and disposal. The Programme on Source Separation of Domestic Waste, which brings waste separation and recycling close to people's homes, was extended to 42 per cent of the population in 2007 and will reach 80 per cent by 2010. We are proposing legislation to mandate that new domestic buildings provide material recovery rooms on each floor to facilitate source separation of domestic waste. We are also developing integrated waste management facilities for waste treatment and making preparations to extend the capacity of the existing landfills. These facilities will be designed and operated to the latest international environmental and safety standards.

All three elements, waste reduction, treatment and disposal, will need to be in play to achieve sustainable waste management. We are working hard to ensure the community understands this, through public consultations, stakeholder engagement on specific issues such as the site of waste treatment facilities, and public education programmes.

This approach of public consultation and raising awareness in order to build a consensus in the community has been successfully demonstrated in our water programme. The Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) initially faced many objections, often ill informed. We undertook extra studies and launched public consultations and publicity programmes to inform the public about the benefits of the scheme. In the end, people not only accepted the need for HATS, they also accepted the need to apply the polluter pays principle to sewage charges. This laid the ground for a proposal to increase sewage charges and achieve fuller recovery of operating costs, which was accepted by the Legislative Council in 2007.

Scenic photo

Public engagement is also used extensively in other programme areas to develop new initiatives, assess projects and policies, and inspire action. Ultimately this helps to achieve greater sustainability because it mobilises people's support for greener actions. In 2007, we consulted the public on proposals to charge for plastic bags, ban idling engines and introduce mandatory Building Energy Codes. We continued to strengthen the high degree of public involvement in the environmental impact assessment process by expanding the use of three-dimensional tools that let people clearly see and even hear the impacts of new developments. We also launched the new "I Love Hong Kong! I Love Green!" campaign, which promotes the adoption of environmentally friendly lifestyles.

A final area where we are working towards sustainability is in the natural environment. Our nature conservation policy seeks to strike a balance: areas that are sensitive or vulnerable are protected through partnerships between non-government organisations and private landowners, while development is allowed in less-sensitive areas. That balance is what we hope to achieve overall for Hong Kong, a dynamic city that still has much potential for change and growth. Hong Kong must continue to progress, but it must also meet the aspirations of its citizens for a healthy, quality environment for all residents.

 

Anissa WONG

Anissa WONG, JP
Permanent Secretary for the Environment /
Director of Environmental Protection