Environmental Noise

A four-pronged approach is adopted by the Government to tackle environmental noise in Hong Kong.

The four prongs are as follows :

  1. planning - proactive participation in the planning and policy making process,
  2. abatement - formulating abatement strategies and implementation of noise abatement measures,
  3. control - control on noise by enforcing the Noise Control Ordinance, and
  4. partnership - promoting partnership with various stakeholders.

(a) Planning

Planning is better than cure. The Government has prescribed standards with due regards to noise in planning new development or redevelopment projects. Considerable efforts have been devoted to pre-empting noise problems that may arise from land use and public work planning activities. These efforts ensure that new noise-sensitive receivers such as homes and schools will not be exposed to excessive noise and new infrastructure will not cause insurmountable noise problems. Further, whenever opportunities for urban re-development arises, these opportunities will be seized to improve the noise environment through environmentally friendly urban design.

Examples of proper planning to avoid or solve noise problems abound in the territory. When the Kai Tak Airport was operating, about 380,000 people were affected by extreme noise of up to 100 decibels from aircraft less than 100 metres overhead, as the airport was surrounded by residential blocks. The relief came when the airport was relocated to Chek Lap Kok in mid 1998. Today, the number of people exposed to severe aircraft noise is about 200. The aircraft noise impact will be further reduced with the forthcoming full commissioning of the Three Runway System and placing the South Runway on standby mode during night-time. For the NEF contours of 2030, please click here.).

There are many good examples of how good planning can reduce noise. The integrated planning of North Lantau New Town has helped to prevent future noise problems. By proper layout of the roads, railway and buildings as well as by proper design of the new airport, developers and Government have endeavoured to ensure peace and quietness for Tung Chung residents.

Photos of North Lantau New Town

Let us look at three more examples to see how proper planning helps prevent homes from exposure to excessive traffic noise. Please click on the demo button to see the details.


(b) Abatement

Abatement is one of the means to resolve existing noise problems, which are caused by busy highways running through populated areas and schools affected by noise from aircraft or road traffic.

In 1989, the Government implemented the Quiet Road Surface Programme. Under this programme, suitable road sections are re-surfaced with noise absorptive materials which help to reduce traffic noise up to 5 dB(A). This programme was completed and a total of 11 kilometres of roads were resurfaced, providing noise relief to some 15,650 dwellings. Now, noise absorptive materials are standard features of all new highways. Please click on the demo button to see the details.

A large number of schools in Hong Kong have been badly affected by noise from road traffic, and from aircraft noise when the Kai Tak airport was still in operation. A School Insulation Programme to redress the noise problem for a quieter learning environment for students was implemented in 1987 under which improved windows including good quality glazing and air-conditioning were provided to the affected classrooms. The programme is now completed and some 11,000 classrooms have benefited from the programme. Please click on demo button to see the details.

A policy has been implemented to address the noise impact of existing roads. The following measures will be adopted at excessively noisy road sections where practicable:

  1. Erect road-side noise barriers or enclosures;
  2. Pave roads with low-noise resurfacing materials; and
  3. Implement traffic management scheme, such as restricting or diverting traffic at certain sensitive hours.

However, not all existing roads can be implemented with the above measures because of site constraints such as space limitations, safety and disruptions caused.

(c) Control

Many forms of environmental noise are under statutory control. A key instrument for control is the Noise Control Ordinance (For details, please click here.) which was first implemented in 1989. The Ordinance controls construction noise, noise from commercial and industrial premises, neighbourhood noise and noise from newly-registered motor vehicles. In addition to the Noise Control Ordinance, Road Traffic Ordinance also provides control over noise generated from motor vehicles (For details, please click here.).

The Civil Aviation (Aircraft Noise) Ordinance (For details, please click here.) also controls environmental noise. It requires aircrafts flying in and out of the Hong Kong International Airport to be certified as meeting the most stringent noise standards.

Occupational noise is not classified as environmental noise but as noise at workplace, which is generated inside a factory or other industrial undertaking affecting employees working there. This is controlled under the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (For details, please click here.), the enforcement of which is carried out by the Labour Department.

(d) Partnership

Apart from controlling pollution through law enforcement, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) also encourages compliance by developing partnership programmes with various trades and industries affected by pollution control laws. These include the construction industry, restaurant trade, vehicle repair workshops and property management sector which are the subject of most public complaints over the past decade.

The programmes adopt a holistic approach and involving multiple stakeholders. Training and education is one of the main focuses of the partnership programmes. Materials, in the forms of promotional leaflets, posters, guidebooks, CD-ROM, videos and dedicated websites, are produced and provided to the trade organizations to help educating the operators on environmental awareness. For details on the programmes and the results, please click here.