LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1538/95-96
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/EA/1
LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs
Minutes of Meeting
held on Wednesday, 1 May 1996 at 8:30 a.m
in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building
Members Present :
Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai (Chairman)
Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling (Deputy Chairman)
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
Hon IP Kwok-him
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Hon MOK Ying-fan
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Member Absent :
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, OBE, JP
Public Officers Attending:
- Mr. A. G. Cooper, JP
- Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment)
- Mr Marco WU
- Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Special Duty)
- Mr Stanley WONG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Planning)
- Miss Angela LUK
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment)
- Mr Kenneth CHENG
- Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment)
- Mr Ronald CHIN
- Chief Engineer/Energy Efficiency
Electrical and Mechanical Services Department
- Mr Robert J S LAW
- Director of Environmental Protection
- Mr M J Stokoe
- Deputy Director of Environmental Protection
- Dr Michael CHIU
- Assistant Director of Environmental Protection
- Mr Fred Tromp
- Assistant Director of Environmental Protection
- Mr C W TSE
- Assistant Director of Environmental Protection
- Dr Mamie LAU
- Officer-in-charge (Waste Facilities Planning)
Environmental Protection Department
Staff in Attendance :
Ms Sarah YUEN, SAS(1)1
Ms Connie SZE-TO, SAS(1)5
(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1244/95-96 and LegCo Paper No.CB(1)1260/95-96)
The notes of the meetings held on 8 February 1996 and 6 March 1996 were confirmed.
2. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the Panels next regular meeting scheduled for 5 June 1996:
- Environmental education (Members of the Education Panel would be invited to take part in the discussion of this item)
- Sustainability and Development for the 21st Century (SUSDEV 21)
|3. Members also decided to write to the Economic Analysis Division of the Financial Services Branch direct for a briefing on demographic projections to be given by the Census and Statistics Department before the summer recess. The focus of the first part of the briefing would be the methodology used by the Census and Statistics Department in compiling the figures and the assumptions they had taken into account. The Planning, Environment and Lands Branch would then brief members on how they used the figures and, in particular, on the Territorial Development Strategy Review. All Members would be invited to attend the first part of the briefing.
( LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1222/95-96, Appendices I and II to LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1299/95-96, letter to the Administration dated 26 April 1996 and paper tabled)
4. The Chairman referred representatives of the Administration to the papers before them and invited them to respond to members concerns and comments contained therein. These papers, listed below, provided the basis for the discussion of this agenda item:
- The internal discussion paper the Chairman prepared for the Panels special meeting held on 25 April 1996 to discuss the subject (LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1222/95-96); and
- The summary of concerns raised at the 25 April 1996 meeting (letter to the Administration dated 26 April 1996).
5. Mr A G Cooper, after thanking the Chairman for providing the consolidated views of the Panel on the subject for their easy reference, shared members comment that the 1989 White Paper only provided the green foundations and it might be time now to start thinking how to go beyond these baselines and prepare another White Paper. However, he also pointed out that while the 1989 White Paper was a straightforward action plan, with sustainable development as the future theme the new White Paper would be more difficult to compile. Forging sustainability would require much more debate within the community and because of the complexity, there was need to go forward in phases. He assured members that in two years time, when the Administration would review the 1989 White Paper again, it was the Administrations intention that a suitable way forward would perhaps be to prepare a consultation document setting out environmental indicators and objectives.
6. Members were in general content with Mr Coopers reply and stated they would look forward to this consolidated document. They then went through the Third Review Report with the Administration section by section.
7. In response to members general comments and suggestions on the general approach of waste reduction, representatives of the Administration made the following points:
- The Administration agreed that waste reduction should be an urgent and top policy priority and that success would depend on co-operation from and co-ordination with all policy branches and key public bodies. In this regard, results of the Waste Reduction Study had been presented to the Chief Secretary and the Executive Council. In addition, while the Sectoral Scheme would include government departments, there were also other schemes carried out by the departments themselves. The Government Supplies Departments green purchasing scheme was one example.
- The Administration also agreed that even at the current consultation stage of the Waste Reduction Study, relevant bodies should be made to recognise and adopt waste reduction as their policy priority as well. The Administration at present was consulting the two Municipal Councils with a view to preparing a statutory waste reduction plan on the basis of the consultation that would end in June 1996. The draft plan would also be published for consultation with small waste collectors.
- The Administration preferred to go for voluntary waste reduction measures in the first instance because it was not the appropriate time to rush into a mandatory programme where specific instructions were required. It was hoped that through discussion with various sectors that produced waste, there would be more spontaneous suggestions on how to minimise waste. If after that it appeared necessary to introduce legislation to ensure that all members of the sector would get in line, appropriate action would be taken.
8. In response, the Chairman made the following comments:
- The Panel would like to hear from the top level of Government at some stage that the whole government would give waste reduction top priority.
- The Panel supported the Administrations move to pressurise the two Municipal Councils and other relevant public bodies to also make a public statement to endorse waste reduction as their top priority.
9. A member pointed out that in anticipation of problems that might be encountered in implementing the various waste reduction schemes, the Administration should take a more proactive approach in enlisting public support and minimising resistance. For example, the Administration might seek the help of the media to get the message out. In response, Mr Cooper made the following points:
- The Administration had been adopting a consistent public education approach since the early nineties to educate the community to share the cost of environmental protection. Public consultation was also conducted to draw out what people actually thought. The Administration was seeking to overcome opposition by identifying the focus of the problems and giving the public more detailed briefings, and then depending on the feedback, make suitable modification to the schemes.
- While education on household waste could be more general in nature, industry-related education would have to be more specific. There were thus limitations to how the media could assist.
10. Some members opined that the Administration should facilitate waste reduction by promoting green techniques among small businesses and making practical and specific recommendations to the public so that they could easily follow the waste reduction direction. For example, the Post Office could help by discouraging the use of plastic packaging. In response, Mr Cooper explained that one of the thrusts of the waste reduction plan was that it was not right for the Government to teach the businesses how to enforce waste reduction, especially as some of the production processes could be very complicated. Thus it would be better for the businesses to design how to reduce waste themselves while Government would ensure that they would follow the direction. Moreover, the Administration had already taken the initiative to help. For example, it had issued advisory notes on recycling to offices and domestic premises. It had also conducted a major study on waste reduction in 1991 and produced an executive programme fully funded by the Industry Department to help industries comply with environmental standards in reducing waste.
11. Dr Mamie LAU then briefed members on the paper entitled Supplementary Information Note on Waste Reduction and Landfill Capacity provided in response to members request for a total picture of the Administrations waste reduction targets and timetable. Members noted that the Administration recognised the problem of construction waste, which had been taking up two-thirds of landfill space. In mid 1995, construction wastes taken to the landfills amounted to about 15,000 tpd, but after the Government had started implementing the construction waste management strategy, about half of the wastes originally going to the landfills was being taken to public dumps instead. Part of the wastes was also sent to the intermediate sorting plant. In fact, the short-term recommendations for the reduction of construction wastes outlined in the paper of the Hong Kong Construction Association Ltd. (HKCA) (attachment to the letter from the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce members received earlier) coincided with the Administrations short-term strategy. The Administration would review the current strategy with a view to formulating the long-term strategy for construction waste, and HKCAs recommendations on the long-term strategy would be taken into account. At members request, Dr LAU also made the following points in respect to HKCAs recommendations:
- It is a Government Policy to restrict inert granular waste dumping at the three strategic landfill sites.
- The Government acknowledged the role of intermediate sorting plants which could sort out the inert construction waste as fill materials at public dumps. Actually, one such plant had already been set up at the SENT Landfill and in operation.
- The Administration agreed that suitable provisions should be included in Government funded projects to specify on-site sorting of wastes. In fact, the Civil Engineering Department was working on a technical circular to require on-site sorting for government works contracts.
- The Administration had been pushing for provision of more public dump outlets and there has been some improvement recently. Continued in this way together with additional measures, the life span of the strategic landfills would be extended by another eight years.
12. Representatives of the Administration also emphasised that they had taken a long time to study the recommendations of HKCA because there were problems in gaining co-operation from the trade as well as from relevant government departments. Even though as a facilitator, the Government had set up sorting plants to allow sorting done outside and there was market for sorted materials, there were difficulties in promoting recycling and reuse. Firstly, it was not very economical to transport wastes mixed up to a remote sorting plant and then elsewhere from that site again. Secondly there were technical limitations in the degree of sorting that could be achieved once everything was mixed up together. It was thus better to do the sorting on-site. Nevertheless, the move to incorporate on-site sorting requirements in government works contracts was met with unco-operation, and while some of the reasons given for non-compliance were genuine practical problems, others were simply excuses for avoiding the additional hassles.
13. Noting the difficulties the Administration encountered in gaining support form various government departments and public bodies in waste reduction, members agreed that a short report to the House Committee should be prepared to seek Members endorsement for the Chairman of the House Committee to bring up this matter with the Chief Secretary at his weekly meeting with her. It was hoped that this move would help to secure a firm commitment from all departments and public bodies concerned to reduce waste.
(Post-meeting Note: Report to the House Committee was issued vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1409/95-96)
14. A member commented that since public dumps also took up a lot of space, other solutions such as incineration should be explored for the treatment of construction waste. In response, Mr Robert LAW pointed out that although incineration had got a role to play in construction waste reduction, a large part of construction waste would inevitably have to be disposed of by dumping because Hong Kong was continually redeveloping itself and growing and incineration alone just simply could not cope with the large quantities of construction wastes that would be generated for many years to come. The search for outlets was not easy. Though reclamation might be a way out, the public was not in favour of a lot of it. Nevertheless, members were assured that the Administration was aware of the need to look at different ways of construction waste treatment in parallel and it would do its best to ensure adequate outlets.
15. Responding to members comments and interest shown on incineration, Mr M J Stokoe reported that the Administration had already considered bulk waste reduction by incineration in principle and indeed gone into some details of how it might be done and what the costs would be. The next stage would be to conduct a full feasibility study, conduct environmental impact assessment (EIA) and search for sites. The Administration was actually preparing the programme for that work and hoped to bring it forward in the relatively near future for the Finance Committees support. When the Administration had finalised its proposals by autumn, a paper would be provided for members. At members request, the Administration also agreed to provide an update on the progress of the Central Incineration Facility.
16. On the identification of landfill sites, Mr M J Stokoe reported that although the Administration was actively identifying sites, it had not yet embarked on a full-scale site search or any feasibility study for the next generation of landfills. It was still considering whether it should conduct site search in conjunction with that for the incinerator because the cost of transporting residue from large incinerators to landfills for final disposal had considerable impact on the economics of both the incinerators and the landfills. It was thus desirable to place the two together to make them more efficient. The Administration agreed to come back to the Panel at least with some early ideas later.
17. In response to members concern about the progress of the landfill charging scheme, Mr Cooper explained that the scheme had been delayed because of resistance from the trades concerned. It was reported that when the Administration tried to implement the scheme, the waste collectors blockaded the landfills and left rubbish all over the territory, creating a public hygiene problem. However, representatives of the Administration assured members that they would continue to negotiate with the trades concerned for an agreement. To minimise resistance in future, they also undertook to enhance the transparency of various waste disposal charging schemes.
18. Addressing members concern on the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS), representatives of the Administration made the following clarifications:
- The total volume of sewage from the Urmston Road, Pillar Point and Siu Ho Wan outfalls was only 170,000 cu m/d now and it was anticipated that it would increase to 340,000 cu m/d by 2000.
- Construction of Stage I of SSDS was in full progress with completion scheduled for mid 1997. The EIA contract for Stage II had also just been signed with the Consultants. This would take two years to complete. In parallel with Stages I and II, the Administration was also looking into the feasibility of Stages III and IV, connection of all the sewerage on the Hong Kong Island. So far, every stage had been on schedule and sticking with the programme members endorsed some time earlier.
- The SSDS was intended to be a phased upgrading programme with Stage I being used to intercept about 70% of the pollution loading at present being thrown into Victoria Harbour. It was planned that the Administration should use Stage I to monitor the effectiveness of the system and decide on the timing of the upgrading. Although the Administration would like to build the entire thing as one project, there were practical as well as political problems to overcome.
- The sludge created by Stage I was at present dewatered to reduce its volume before being sent to the landfills. However, in the longer term, the Administration was considering incineration as an alternative outlet.
19. Commenting on a members suggestion to use sink grinders to reduce household organic waste and keep household waste clean, Mr Michael CHIU explained that because of the large presence of oil and grease in local household waste, the local sewage system would have difficulty coping with the household waste water so produced, not to mention that most of the buildings in Hong Kong were high-rise and the blockage of side branches would be a big problem.
20. Responding to members concerns and requests regarding the section on air, Mr C W TSE reported the following developments:
- A set of guidelines on air pollution in tunnels was circulated to tunnel operators and related government departments for compliance. Apart from monitoring the level of carbon monoxide, the Administration was also watching the level of dust particulates and nitrogen dioxide. If no improvement was shown, the Administration would consider introducing legislation. Health effects were the main factors considered in identifying the best indicators of air pollution in tunnels.
- The Administration had drafted a set of technical guidelines for carparks for consultation with professional bodies. These guidelines would be circulated to relevant parties for consideration to improve the present situation. For covered traffic interchanges, an experiment was being conducted in Lam Tin by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department to find out the most cost-effective mitigation method. Results might be ready for report to the Panel within 1996.
- The consultancy study on indoor air pollution was commissioned in November 1995 and was going on smoothly. Measurements were started in April 1995 and should be able to complete around April 1996 for a one-year record of seasonal changes. Apart from closely liaising with various buildings, public places and shopping malls to conduct the study, telephone and questionnaire surveys were also carried out. Cigarette smoke was covered in the study and the study results would be released by June 1997 for recommendations to be made.
- Hong Kongs air quality objectives were based on standards of the World Health Organisation and the States and were at present up to international standards. The Administration was also closely monitoring changes in world standards for timely adjustment of the local standards.
21. Mr C W TSE also undertook to follow-up with the Housing Department regarding the ventilation problem in public estate markets brought up by a member. If found to be relevant, this concern would be looked at in the indoor air pollution consultancy study. The Housing Department and district offices would be approached for information.
22. In response to a members reference to a case covered by the newspapers, where a developer claimed that reports about actions being taken by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) against his project were rumours, Mr Fred Tromp gave a brief account of the incident. Members noted that a construction noise permit was granted to a contractor for the said site on the basis that the relevant noise level would be met. At the compliance check carried out immediately after the permit was issued, no non-compliance was detected. But when the Administration carried out a second check in response to complaints, the contractor was found to be in breach of the permit conditions. As a result, the Administration had promptly withdrawn the permit and was taking actions to prosecute the contractor.
23. Mr Tromp also referred members to the Enforcement Figures of the Noise Control Ordinance tabled to show that the Administration had been quite active in taking necessary actions. Members noted that the performance pledge of the EPD was that they would respond to complaints within five working days. Their attention was also drawn to the fact that during the seven years that the Ordinance had been in force, only two projects, the Lantau Fixed Crossing project and a project related to the new airport, had been exempted. Such exemptions were also only granted by orders subject to negative vetting.
24. Representatives of the Administration confirmed that visual pollution was covered in the EIA Bill as an environmental issue.
25. The Administration admitted that the present conservation policy was, as members pointed out, not comprehensively presented. The Administration was thus reviewing it and hopefully proposals would be firmed up in May 1996 for a comprehensive policy to be mapped out for consultation with the Panel.
26. As regards the further designation of country parks, Mr Stanley WONG explained that the process was inevitably a progressive one although he would also like to see more resources allocated to this area. He also agreed to take note of a members comment that designation of country parks in the urban areas should be given higher priority.
27. Responding to comments that the Administrations proposed amendment to the Country Parks Ordinance would downgrade the degree of protection, Mr WONG clarified that the proposed amendment was aimed at strengthening the control of developments in country parks. For example, at present the Administration did not have any power to limit and control new developments in designated country parks. The power only related to proposed parks shown on draft maps. With the proposed amendment, the Administration would be able to do so for both designated and proposed country parks. Mr WONG further clarified that what had been made available was only a draft of the drafting instructions for consultation with the Country and Marine Parks Board regarding the scope of the amendment exercise. Drafting instructions had not been issued to the law draftsmen yet. However, in view of the misunderstanding, the Administration would take steps to clarify the situation with the Board and some of the green groups. At members request, a paper on the proposed amendment would also be provided for the Panel in due course.
28. Concerning the White Dolphin Sanctuary, Mr Stanley WONG reported that the draft map of the sanctuary had been gazetted on 12 April 1996 under the Marine Parks Ordinance for public consultation for six months.
29. As for water conservation, Mr Cooper pointed out that while the sewage and trade effluent charging schemes were important to water conservation, a more direct water conservation measure might be to increase water charges. In response, the Chairman urged the Administration to introduce new technologies to reduce the flow of water and to decrease water loss from leakage instead.
30. Regarding the legal and practical problems that prevented Hong Kong from formally adopting the Convention on Biological Diversity, Mr WONG referred members to the Hansard for details of a motion debate on environmental protection on 2 December 1992. He also agreed to provide supplementary information to update members on developments since the debate. As a result, the Chairman instructed the Clerk to circulate the relevant pages in the Hansard to members.
(Post-meeting note: an extract from the Hansard was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1366/95-96)
31. The Chairman instructed the Clerk to convey to relevant government departments members wish to receive a report for every international environmental conference Hong Kong attended.
32. Members noted that environmental education and the future directions embraced in SUSDEV 21 would be discussed at the next Panel meeting.
(Appendices III, IV and V to LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1299/95-96)
33. Mr Ronald CHIN and Mr Cooper briefed members on the Administrations papers, which provided answers to members questions on what the Energy Efficiency Office had done and should be able to help members understand the work involved in drafting the various Building Energy Codes.
34. In reply to members questions, Mr CHIN made the following points:
- Application of sensors was one of the technology issues being worked out by the Administration .
- The Building Energy Codes were not applied to hospitals because it had been agreed that health and safety should take precedence over energy efficiency. Moreover, methodology in hospitals was always changing. If the Codes were applied to hospitals, they would have to be constantly reviewed.
- Apart from issuing guidelines, the Administration was also giving seminars to big organisations such as the City University and the Hong Kong Hotel Association to provide information and support to their in-house energy audit campaigns.
35. A member was not convinced that the Codes should not apply to hospitals. In his opinion, the Codes should at least be applied to the public areas of hospitals and the Administration should not go for a broad-brush exemption to hospitals. Another member also warned the Administration of the danger of going too far and enforcing the Codes too hastily so that another kind of wastage might result.
36. The meeting ended at 10:30 a.m.
1 June 1996
Last Updated on 18 Aug, 1998