PLC Panel on Environmental Affairs
Information Paper on the Work of the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
concerning Environmental Protection
This paper outlines the main ways in which the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region tackles pollution and creates a better environment for Hong Kong.
2.Our overall policy objectives for environmental protection are to create an environment in which people can enjoy clean air and water and are protected from excessive noise; and to ensure that economic development incorporates appropriate respect for our environment.
3.The Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau has overall policy responsibility for the environment and is responsible for formulating policies and legislations on and controlling resources for environmental protection. The Environmental Protection Department is responsible to the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands for policy advice and programme development and enforcement in pollution control and environmental management. Other departments including Agriculture and Fisheries, Planning, Drainage Services, Territory Development, Civil Engineering, Electrical and Mechanical Services, Marine, Urban Services and Regional Services also play an important role in protecting the environment.
4.The Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) advises the Government on matters related to pollution control and sustainability of the environment. Relevant sectors are represented on ACE including academics, professionals and eight members nominated by green groups and trade and industry associations.
PLANNING AGAINST POLLUTION
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
5.The enactment of the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance in January 1997 is a major step forward in enhancing our environmental planning system. It outlines the statutory framework of the EIA process which provides for the incorporation of project-specific and site-specific, preventive environmental requirements in the design, construction and operation of a major development project. The Technical Memorandum on EIA process which sets out the detailed assessment methodologies and criteria to be adopted in EIA studies was made in May 1997. Regulations setting out appeal procedures and fees provisions are being prepared. We are also developing the administrative and enforcement framework for the implementation of the statutory EIA procedures. We shall implement the EIA Ordinance once these instruments are in place by early 1998.
POLLUTION PREVENTION AND CONTROL
6.Our overall policy objective for air quality management is to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of air quality to safeguard the health and well-being of the community. For practical purposes, a set of Air Quality Objectives (AQO) which set out the acceptable levels of seven common air pollutants1 were established in accordance with current international standards.
Control on Various Polluting Sources
7.Air pollution in Hong Kong is mainly caused by industry, construction activities and road traffic. The Air Pollution Control Ordinance enacted in 1983 provides the statutory framework for measures to abate air pollution. Various industrial facilities and processes are controlled by means of a licensing system. Operators of these facilities are required to adopt rigorous emission control measures based on the best practicable technology. Control schemes on open burning activities which cause serious dark smoke emissions, handling of construction dust and asbestos were also introduced to control these specific pollutants.
Motor Vehicle Emissions
8.To tackle vehicle emission problems, a vehicle smoke control programme was introduced in 1988 to control smoky vehicles. Unleaded petrol was made available in 1991. Sulphur content of motor diesel has progressively been reduced to 0.05% in April 1997. We have also set stringent emission standards in line with international trend to further control emissions. Vehicles not meeting these standards are precluded from first registration. A pilot programme was launched in August to conduct more rigorous smoke emission tests using dynamometer on smoky vehicles which are spotted repeatedly. A more thorough emission check on commercial diesel vehicles undertaking the annual road worthiness inspection will be applied on a sampling basis from September 1997 onwards.
Diesel to Gas Scheme
9.Air Pollution from diesel vehicle emissions remains our priority concern. An inter-departmental working group was set up last year to study technical issues such as safety, repair and maintenance infrastructure and refuelling arrangements of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles as clean fuel replacements for diesel vehicles. A one-year trial of 30 LPG taxis will commence in late 1997 to ascertain their reliability when used under the local intensive driving environment, and to gauge the necessary operating cost data for devising a viable motor fuel strategy. The trial will be conducted with urban taxis operated by professional taxi drivers in real market situations. Depending on the outcome of the study and the trial, we will develop a motor vehicle emissions control strategy based on the gas vehicle technology.
Air Quality Monitoring
10.Air quality monitoring is a vital part of our overall air pollution control strategy, which allows us to assess our compliance with the AQO, and help us evaluate the effectiveness of current policies and develop further air pollution abatement measures. Air quality is monitored at selected locations throughout the territory. An Air Pollution Index (API) is developed to announce the daily air quality measurements and forecasts the following day ' s air quality. The public is informed of the daily API through the media. A Roadside Air Pollution Index is being developed for daily announcement from early 1998 onwards.
Ozone Layer Protection
11.The Ozone Layer Protection Ordinance was enacted in 1989 to give effect to Hong Kong's international obligation under the 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The Ordinance prohibits local manufacturing of a list of ozone depleting substances and imposes controls on the import and export of these chemicals through registration and licensing. We have effectively imposed a complete ban on the import of halons products and CFCs, thereby placing us among the first batch of developed domains in the world to have achieved full compliance with the Montreal Protocol.
12.Our objective is to protect noise sensitive receivers (including residential premises, schools and hospitals) against excessive noise nuisance and to promote the use of the best practicable environmental option to prevent and mitigate noise impacts.
13.The Noise Control Ordinance, which was first implemented in 1989, is the key instrument for the control of environmental noise. The Ordinance provides statutory controls to restrict and reduce specific sources of environmental noise. Noisy construction works are subject to permit control. A permit is required for conducting general construction work during sensitive hours, i.e. at night (from 1900 hrs to 0700 hrs) and on general holidays. Contractors are required to adopt the best practicable noise mitigation measures to minimise noise disturbance. At other times, percussive piling requires a permit which restricts the duration and timing of piling operations. Other noisy products such as hand held breakers and air compressors are required to comply with statutory noise standards and be fitted with noise emission labels. Since 1996, vehicles are required to comply with stringent noise emission criteria for first registration. If noise levels generated cause noise nuisance to the neighbourhood and exceed specified noise criteria, a Noise Abatement Notice will be issued to require that improvements be made to mitigate the noise.
Control on Traffic Noise
14.Traffic noise is another major source of nuisance. Through proper planning, we are able to identify effective prevention and mitigation measures, such as alignment, buffer distance, noise barriers and enclosures etc, to alleviate noise impacts arising from new roads. Under the School Insulation Programme, acoustic window insulation and air conditioning are provided on a prioritised basis to classrooms affected by high noise level. We are conducting a study on engineering feasibility of retroactive noise mitigation measures for existing roads. The study is scheduled for completion by mid 1998. On the basis of the findings, we will review our policy for providing redress against excessive traffic noise from existing roads.
15.The Waste Disposal Ordinance (WDO) provides an overall framework for managing the collection and disposal of waste, and requires the government to prepare and publish a Waste Disposal Plan (WDP). The current statutory WDP gives effect to the comprehensive waste disposal strategy set out in the 1989 White Paper. It includes a programme for the phasing out of old waste facilities and the development of cost-effective new waste facilities of higher environmental standards. These new facilities include a Chemical Waste Treatment Centre (CWTC) at Tsing Yi and three very large strategic landfills in West New Territories, South East New Territories and North East New Territories, which are fed by a network of nine refuse transfer stations (RTS). Waste delivered to the RTSs are compacted, containerised and transported in bulk containers via sea or land to the three strategic landfills for final disposal. The WDP also proposed to built special facilities for clinical waste and low radioactive waste.
Landfill Charging Scheme
16.The Waste Disposal (Charges for Disposal of Waste) Regulation which gives statutory effect to the landfill charging scheme was endorsed by the Executive Council on 21 May 1995. The Regulation set down the legal framework of the proposed charging scheme which was based on a per-tonne charging system and the use of prepaid tickets. However, the Regulation was opposed by the waste collection trade because the proposed charging arrangement would cause them cashflow and bad debt problems and was against the trade practice of the construction waste hauliers who were paid by their clients on a vehicle load basis. Some trade associations protested against the scheme by staging a landfill blockade on 16-17 June 1995. The blockade ended with the Administration undertaking not to implement landfill charging before reaching agreement with the trade. Meanwhile the Regulation was amended by the Legislative Council to enable landfill users to pay the charge by tonnage as well as by vehicle load.
17.In order to address the trade ' s concern, a total of eighteen meetings had been held with the relevant trade associations. The Administration has also put forward a revised charging proposal which we believe will address their problems. The proposal consists of three charging options, namely the prepaid ticket system for ad hoc landfill users, the chit-based account billing system for construction waste hauliers, and the vehicle registration mark-based account billing system for commercial/industrial waste hauliers. The Administration has held three meetings with all relevant trade associations to brief them on the latest charging proposal. We will continue to liaise with the associations concerned with a view to arriving at a set of mutually acceptable charging arrangements as soon as possible.
Refuse Transfer Stations Charging Scheme
18.In 1996, the combined handling capacity of the three operating RTS is only adequate to provide waste transfer service to the two Municipal Councils (MC) which collect most of the household waste in the territory. With the commissioning of the Island West Transfer Station in April 1997 and the West Kowloon Transfer Station (WKTS) in June 1997, there is excess capacity in the RTS network which could be used to accept privately collected municipal wastes (non-MC wastes). We plan to open up two of the existing RTSs, namely the Island East Transfer Station and the WKTS to accept privately collected waste and to impose a charge on private waste collectors who choose to use the RTS service.
Centralised Incineration Facility
19.In accordance with the WDP, we intended to build a Centralised Incineration Facility (CIF) as a long term disposal solution for the territory's clinical waste, animal carcasses and government's security waste. The feasibility study for the CIF Project was completed in 1995 and our proposal was submitted to the Legislative Council Public Works Sub-committee (PWSC) for funding approval on 17 May 1995. However, in view of PWSC members' reservations on various aspects of the Project, the PWSC paper was withdrawn. Since then, we have been exploring various alternatives to replace the CIF.
20.We have now identified the combination of utilising the CWTC for clinical waste incineration, building a stand-alone animal carcass cremator for animal carcass disposal and utilising the CWTC together with landfills for security waste disposal as a satisfactory alternative to deal with the problem. To verify the performance of the CWTC incinerator in treating clinical waste, a trial burn of clinical waste was conducted at the CWTC in November 1996. The trial burn results indicated that it is technically feasible to incinerate clinical waste at the CWTC. We are now undergoing further technical and financial assessments on the alternative proposal. We are also working on a legislative control scheme on clinical waste.
Waste Reduction Plan
21.Hong Kong's landfills are being filled much quicker than originally anticipated. If waste generation continues as forecast, we will have to look for new landfill sites within the next few years. This will be very difficult given the competition for land and other constraints. In view of the problem, a Draft Waste Reduction Plan has been released in May 1997 for a four-month public consultation which ends on 30 August 1997.
Water Control Zones
22.The Water Pollution Control Ordinance provides for declaration of 10 water control zones to cover the whole of Hong Kong. Each zone has water quality objectives. Standards are determined depending on the use to be made of the water. The last zone was declared in April 1996 and all discharges into the control zones are now subject to licensing control. The licence stipulates conditions of the discharges for safeguarding the water quality.
23.To abate the water pollution problems, a Sewage Strategy was adopted in 1989, the crux of which are a programme called the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS) and 16 sewerage master plans (SMPs) for improvement of regional sewerage schemes. The SSDS is a 10-year 4-stage capital programme intended as a long-term solution to the pollution of Victoria Harbour. It proposes that ultimately all of the sewage which flows into the Harbour should be collected and treated at a new treatment works; once treated, the effluent would be discharged into deep ocean waters through tunnel to the south of Hong Kong. Because of the urgent need to solve the serious pollution in the Harbour, the Government has devised a High Priority Programme (HPP), consisting of Stage I of the SSDS and the six related SMPs around the harbour. Construction of the HPP started in April 1994. The Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works (SISTW), a key component of the SSDS, was commissioned in May 1997. It is now operating, treating the sewage from West Kowloon which represents about 25% of the total design flow. The balance of the flow will be available in two to three years when the construction of the six collector tunnels is completed. The HPP will then be fully constructed, connected and commissioned. This will significantly improve the marine environment throughout the Harbour by intercepting 70% of the 1.5 million cubic metres of untreated sewage which flows into the Harbour daily. A full solution to the pollution of the Harbour will be achieved when the remaining stages of the SSDS are completed in the early years of the next century.
24.One of the greatest pollutants of Hong Kong's rivers and streams used to be livestock waste generated by some 10,000 pig and poultry farms. In 1987, the Government introduced a Livestock Waste Control Scheme under the Waste Disposal Ordinance, which was revised in 1994, to regulate livestock keeping and to ensure effective controls over livestock waste. Under the scheme, livestock keeping has been banned in urban and built-up areas; and where they are allowed, all farms must be licensed to ensure they are equipped with proper waste treatment facilities. As from 1 July 1997, all livestock farms are subject to control under the scheme. The implementation of the scheme has a dramatic effect on pollution in rivers and streams, reducing the load due to livestock waste from 840,000 tonnes per annum in 1987 to 170,000 tonnes by the end of 1996.
25.Floating refuse is an eyesore, a potential health hazard and a danger to shipping. As a preventive measure, Marine Department is providing garbage reception service to both foreign and local vessels, using a combined fleet of Government and contract vessels. Enforcement actions are taken through collaboration between Marine Department, Urban Services Department, Regional Services Department and Agriculture & Fisheries Department. An inter-departmental Working Group on Marine and Littoral Refuse chaired by Director of Marine has been formed to discuss and formulate longer term measures to improve the marine environment of Hong Kong.
Review of Trade Effluent Surcharge
26.A sewage charging scheme based on the polluter pays principle was introduced in April 1995. It has two components : a sewage charge (SC) which is levied on all users of sewage services and a trade effluent surcharge (TES) which is payable by 30 specified trades.
27.A review of the TES has been conducted and completed in April 1997. This was followed by a 6-week public consultation which ran until 10 June 1997. We are carefully examining the consultant's recommendations for possible changes to the current TES scheme. We shall consult this Panel on our findings and recommendations in due course.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND CONSERVATION
28.We are developing measures to promote energy efficiency in the design of commercial buildings, the selection of electrical appliances and the management of public properties. We are developing an energy end-use database to facilitate the forecasting and simulation of future energy demand and the evaluation of various energy efficiency policies. We are also working with the Economic Services Bureau and the two power companies to examine the costs and benefits of implementing electricity demand side management programmes in future.
POLLUTER PAYS PRINCIPLE
29.According to the 'polluter pays principle' (PPP), those who cause environmental damage should pay for the costs of that damage, without subsidy, and should seek to curtail such damage by internalising the costs of pollution. The Administration is committed to extending the PPP so that environmental objectives can be met and, gradually, the community makes a fair and reasonable contribution to the cost of providing services necessary to protect the environment. With the introduction of charges for the disposal of chemical waste at the CWTC in March 1995, sewage charge and trade effluent surcharge in April 1995 and MARPOL charge in August 1995, we have put PPP firmly into practice.
30.The Environmental Campaign Committee was established in 1990 to promote public awareness in environmental protection issues and to encourage the public to contribute towards a better environment. To set a good 'green' example for the private sector, the Government established the Green Manager Scheme in January 1994. Under the Scheme, a Green Manager is appointed in each government bureau or department to oversee green housekeeping matters in their offices. In August 1994, the Government set up the Environment and Conservation Fund to promote individual behavioural and lifestyle changes to protect the environment and achieve sustainable development. The ECF supports education and research projects and activities initiated and executed by local environmental groups and community organisations.
REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
Hong Kong-Guangdong Environmental Protection Liaison Group (EPLG)
31.The EPLG was set up in 1990 to enhance the cooperation and coordination between Hong Kong and Guangdong on environmental management and pollution control efforts in areas of mutual concern. The Group is made up of senior officials of both Governments. Annual joint meetings are held alternately in Hong Kong and Guangdong. A Technical Sub-group has also been formed to implement the annual work programme of the EPLG. Numerous visits, workshops and seminars have been organised for both sides to learn more of each other ' s systems and to exchange views on specific topics. Closer cooperation between the two sides is expected in the post-1997 era.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
32.APEC was set up in 1989 to sustain growth and development in the region, strengthen multilateral trade, and reduce barriers to trade and investment and Hong Kong, China is a member. The Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau represents Hong Kong at APEC fora on aspects related to the environment, conservation and sustainable development.
33.Members are requested to note the contents of this paper.
Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
15 August 1997
1--The seven pollutants include ozone, lead, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, respirable suspended particulates and total suspended particulates.