Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1)469
(These minutes have
been seen by the

Ref: CB1/PL/EA

Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of meeting held on Monday, 13 October 1997, at 8:30 am in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Dr Hon Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin (Chairman)
Hon LAU Kong-wah (Deputy Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Henry WU
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Members attending :

Hon WONG Siu-yee

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon MOK Ying-fan
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Public officers :

Mr Bowen LEUNG, JP
Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands

Mr Benjamin TANG
Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)

Mr Rob LAW
Director of Environmental Protection

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Odelia LEUNG,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

Ms Pauline NG,
Assistant Secretary General 1

Ms Connie SZE-TO,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)1

Policy briefing by Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands on the Chief Executive's Policy Address 1997

The Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (SPEL) briefed members on the progress of on-going programmes and new policy commitments in respect of environmental protection in the year ahead as detailed in the Progress Report and Policy Programmes.

Importance of protecting the environment

2.In response to a member's comments that the 1997 Policy Address accorded a lesser priority to environmental protection, SPEL advised that the Administration's commitment to protecting the environment was enshrined in the Chief Executive (CE)'s Policy Speech which stressed, inter alia, the importance of developing a quality environment as a means to enhance Hong Kong's competitiveness. The proposed commission on strategic development of which the CE would be the chairman would study and review policies and programmes relating to environmental protection. To strengthen co-operation with Guangdong, a high level framework involving the Special Administrative Region Government, the Guangdong Provincial Government, in conjunction with relevant Central Government departments, would be established to study and co-ordinate major cross-border issues including environmental protection. The Administration had also commissioned a consultancy study on sustainable development of Hong Kong for the 21st century which would be completed in 2000. The objective of the study was to develop a system which would enable incorporation of the concept of 'sustainable development " into the process of policy formulation, strategic planning and implementation to achieve an acceptable balance between safeguarding Hong Kong's quality environment and maintaining social and economic growth.

Air pollution

3.Responding to members' concern over the safety of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles and the proposed safety measures to be adopted in the LPG taxis trial scheme, the Administration made the following points -

  1. LPG vehicles were widely used in many countries, notably Japan, the Netherlands and Australia, for over 30 years. The overseas experience had shown that these vehicles were no worse than diesel or petrol vehicles in terms of safety. The inter-departmental working group set up to study the feasibility of using LPG vehicles in Hong Kong had made reference to overseas experience, examined safety issues involved and concluded that these vehicles were safe and technically feasible in Hong Kong;

  2. the main purpose of the LPG taxis trial scheme was to collect information on costs and maintenance of LPG taxis as well as to gain local operational experience to address the concerns of the transport trade and the public. The trial scheme would last for a year and initially cover 30 vehicles. To ensure compliance with the required safety standards, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department would require vehicle repairers to obtain appropriate licences for maintaining and servicing LPG vehicles;

  3. suitable locations had been identified for building four temporary LPG filling stations. Concerned parties including relevant provisional district boards had been informed of the arrangements. The stations would provide filling service for up to 100 LPG taxis. Each station would be at least 55 metres from residential buildings. This requirement was more stringent than the minimum distance of 20-metre imposed in Japan. In constructing permanent filling stations, storage tanks of LPG would be buried underground so as to reduce fire risk and enhance safety;

  4. the Administration would introduce legislative amendment very soon to enable LPG vehicles to use tunnels in Hong Kong. The Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau would seek information from the Transport Bureau on the reasons for prohibiting LPG vehicles from using tunnels in some overseas countries and revert to the Panel; and

  5. a series of publicity activities and educational programmes would be organised to draw public attention to the LPG taxi trial scheme. To be distinct from diesel taxis, all LPG taxis would be labelled.

4.To take forward the proposal of using LPG as an alternative fuel to improve air quality, SPEL said that subject to satisfactory results, the trial scheme would be extended to cover more vehicles and a detailed plan for introducing LPG as a cleaner fuel for other light duty vehicles such as light buses and light goods vehicles on a large scale in Hong Kong would be worked out. Due to technological constraints, the Administration had no plan to phase-out heavy duty diesel vehicles such as buses and heavy goods vehicles.

5.In addition to the plan to introduce LPG as a cleaner fuel, SPEL further advised that more stringent emissions and fuel standards would be imposed for petrol and diesel vehicles. At present, about 3,800 diesel private cars had been registered in Hong Kong and around 270 new vehicles were registered every year. More than 80% of registered private cars had switched to use unleaded petrol. With the enhanced emission standards to be introduced in 1998, new diesel private cars would be precluded from first registration. It was envisaged that existing diesel private cars would be phased out gradually. To tighten control over emissions from diesel vehicles, a new chassis dynamometer test would be used to detect smoky vehicles for enforcement action.

6.As regards the targets of improvement in air quality and the time needed to achieve these, SPEL said that the Air Pollution Control (Construction Dust) Regulation which came into effect in June 1997 would help to reduce dust emissions from construction activities by up to 80%. However, control over vehicle emissions was less straight-forward. There were about 150,000 diesel vehicles registered in Hong Kong which accounted for over 60% of total vehicle mileage. These vehicles emitted over half of respirable suspended particulates (RSP) in the urban area. Nevertheless, the Administration would step up implementation of the integrated vehicle emission control strategy. It was expected that emissions of RSP would be reduced by 50% if all light duty vehicles switched to use LPG or unleaded petrol with catalytic convertors.


7.Noting a member's concern about restrictive use of noisy hammers in percussive piling works, SPEL advised that a new regulation to phase out the use of noisy diesel, steam and pneumatic hammers in the urban area would become effective in early 1998. The construction industry was in the process of replacing noisy hammers with quieter hydraulic hammers and envisaged no difficulties in complying with the new regulation. The Administration had taken the lead in promoting the use of quieter hammers in government projects through administrative means from June 1997 onwards.


8.Members noted that the Administration would introduce the Waste Reduction Plan in 1998 the objectives of which were to curtail the growth of municipal wastes requiring disposal with a view to prolonging the life of landfills. The overall target was to reduce 40% of municipal wastes in ten years so that the life span of existing strategic landfills would be extended by 11 years. The Administration had received more than 100 written submissions on the draft Plan during the public consultation exercise and the majority views were in support of it.

9.Addressing a member's concern about the cost-effectiveness of landfill strategy and environmental problems associated with landfills, SPEL explained that the Administration recognized the problems generated by older landfill sites and the need to designate these for alternative uses. The existing three strategic landfills were properly prepared and managed and met the modern environmental standards. With improved technologies and management both landfill and incineration were effective means of waste disposal. On the member's suggestion of examining the feasibility of introducing advanced incineration technologies into Hong Kong to convert waste into energy, SPEL said that it was recommended in the Waste Reduction Plan to use modern waste-to-energy incinerators in Hong Kong and the Administration had engaged consultants to study the feasibility of building two large incinerators capable of reducing waste volume by up to 90% after combustion. The study would cover areas including cost-effectiveness, site identification and emission standards for such facilities.

10.In reply to enquiries about the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre at Tsing Yi, SPEL advised that the Centre provided an integrated chemical waste treatment facility to assist chemical waste producers in complying with cradle-to-grave control measures on chemical wastes. The Centre was capable of meeting existing and future demand for chemical treatment services in Hong Kong. As far as operation of the Centre was concerned, disposal charges were increased where necessary to recover part of the rising operating cost due to expansion on the scope of treatment services and the need to pay operating charges to the Centre operator which were adjusted in line with inflation.

11.On a member's enquiry about the Administration's role in promoting environmental friendly practices in production processes and daily life, such as to avoid the use of plastic bags and to segregate wastes, SPEL said that it was an on-going commitment to educate the public on environmental protection and provide environmental support to industries. Environmental education would be strengthened in the school curriculum. Changes in social attitudes and co-operation from the commercial and industrial sectors were a pre-requisite to the success of any programmes. He added that a number of large retail chain stores had been promoting the use of reusable bags and providing customers with recyclable plastic bags. The Waste Reduction Plan would also include measures to encourage proper segregation of wastes.

12.Regarding control on import and export of hazardous and contaminated wastes, members noted that since the commencement of a new law on 1 September 1996 to comply with the Basel Convention, only two illegal shipments of contaminated wastes en route through Hong Kong to the Mainland had been detected. Notwithstanding the absence of evidence to show that Hong Kong had become a transhipment port for large quantities of contaminated or hazardous waste, the Administration would step up co-operation with the Mainland to prevent illegal importation of wastes.


13.On the targets to be achieved in improving water quality, SPEL said that the Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works commissioned in May 1997 treated 25% of wastewater entering the Victoria Harbour. Upon completion of the High Priority Programme, which was made up of Stage I of the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS) and six Sewerage Master Plans, in early 2000, up to 70% of the sewage from the urban area would be properly treated. The Administration would conduct Preliminary Project feasibility studies for the remaining stages of the SSDS.

14.Responding to members' concern about the delay in completing the six underground tunnels under Stage I of the SSDS, SPEL explained that the Administration had to re-enter the contracts because of unsatisfactory progress of works effected by the original contractors. The delay was not related to the design of the projects.

Environmental impact assessment

15.SPEL advised that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Ordinance would be implemented in early 1998. The Ordinance consolidated and strengthened existing EIA system to make it mandatory for development projects to carry out EIA studies. The Technical Memorandum on EIA Process was enacted in June 1997. The Administration would introduce to the Provisional Legislative Council in early October 1997 subsidiary legislation on EIA Appeal Board and fees payable for various applications.

16.Addressing the concern over possible delay in completing housing projects upon implementation of the EIA Ordinance, SPEL explained that the Ordinance would only apply to residential developments of not less than 2,000 units and not served by proper sewerage system, or in environmental sensitive areas. As such the Ordinance should have no impact on the majority of housing projects.

Energy efficiency and conservation

17.SPEL explained that the aim of the Administration's energy conservation strategy was to promote efficient use and conservation of energy. To this end, co-operation from both the public and private sectors was enlisted. The Administration had established a comprehensive energy end-use database for Hong Kong and gradually extended the voluntary energy efficiency labelling scheme to electrical appliances. Draft codes on energy-efficient design of buildings and building services had been drawn up and energy audit surveys for buildings conducted. The Economic Services Bureau would require the power companies to implement in full scale demand side management programmes in 1998 which would soon be submitted to the Energy Advisory Committee for consideration.

Regional and international co-operation

18.In reply to members' enquiries about co-operation with Guangdong on control and prevention of pollution problems of mutual concern, SPEL advised that the Hong Kong - Guangdong Environmental Protection Liaison Group was set up in 1990 to enhance co-operation and co-ordination between Hong Kong and Guangdong in this area. Major achievements of the Liaison Group included formulating a joint environmental management strategy and action plan for Deep Bay, which might be extended to Mirs Bay, and carrying out joint studies on Chinese White Dolphins and air quality in the Pearl River Delta Region. The next annual meeting of the Liaison Group would be held by the end of 1997 or in early 1998. It was envisaged that co-operation with the Mainland on environmental protection issues would be further strengthened with the setting up of the proposed high level framework to consider issues of mutual concern.

19.In the international arena, SPEL said that Hong Kong had joined the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) and supported actions taken by APEC members to promote environmental friendly production practices in the commercial and industrial sectors.

20.There being no other business, the meeting ended at 9:40 a.m.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
10 November 1997