LC Paper No. CB(1)147/98-99
Ref : CB1/SS/1/98
Paper for the House Committee meeting on 4 September 1998Purpose
Report of the Subcommittee on Water Pollution Control (Sewerage)
(Amendment) Regulation 1998
This paper reports on the deliberations of the Subcommittee on Water Pollution Control (Sewerage) (Amendment) Regulation 1998.
2. The Water Pollution Control (Sewerage) Regulation (the Regulation) was enacted in June 1994. Under the Regulation, gazetting is required for both major and minor sewerage works. This is done during the planning stage in parallel with the conduct of impact assessment studies and consultation with parties concerned. However, in the case of sewerage works which involve closure of roads on a limited scale, instead of taking six months to complete the gazettal process before proceeding to tender, pre-construction and construction stages, the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) has resorted to administrative means to execute minor sewerage works without gazetting them. This is by way of section 2 of the Regulation which states that DEP may construct, maintain, repair or demolish any sewerage and carry out related works.
3. However, according to the advice of the then Attorney General's Chambers in 1996, section 2 of the Regulation does not empower DEP to close roads for sewerage works. The only power available to DEP to close roads for the purpose of carrying out sewerage works is conferred by section 17 of the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance, Cap 370 (the Roads Ordinance) for which gazetting is required. The practice of resorting to administrative means could therefore be subject to legal challenge.
4. Under section 4 of the Roads Ordinance, the Secretary for Transport may, without having to gazette a scheme of works, execute any works which, in his opinion, are minor in respect of any physical or structural operations involved (section 4(1)(a)), and in respect of which the only powers required by him are :
- to close a road which does not serve any useful or lawful purpose (section 4(1)(b)(i));
- to close a road to use for a period not exceeding 14 days in any period of three months (section 4(1)(b)(ii)); or
- to close part of the width of a road to use but not to such an extent as will interfere unreasonably with the normal flow of traffic on that road and for no longer than is reasonably necessary to execute the works (section 4(1)(b)(iii)).
The application of this section was considered unnecessary at the time the Regulation was drafted and was therefore not included in Schedule 2 (Application of the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance) of the Regulation. In view of the large number of sewerage works which require closure of roads on a limited scale and the need for timely implementation of essential sewerage works, DEP now proposes to apply section 4(1)(b)(i) to (iii), 4(2) and 4(3) of the Roads Ordinance to the Regulation.
5. The purpose of the Amendment Regulation is to apply section 4(1)b(i) to (iii), 4(2) and 4(3) of the Roads Ordinance to sewerage works of limited scale so that the works do not have to be gazetted during the planning stage. The Regulation also seeks to rectify a typographical error in Column 3 of item 9 in Part I of Schedule 1.
6. Members agreed at the House Committee meeting on 24 July 1998 to form a Subcommittee to study the Amendment Regulation. Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing was elected Chairman of the Subcommittee. The Subcommittee has held two meetings with the Administration. The membership list of the Subcommittee is set out in Appendix I.
Deliberations of the Subcommittee
7. During the two meetings of the Subcommittee, members sought clarifications on the present gazettal arrangements for different sewerage works, in particular on the effect of waiving the gazettal requirement. Members also expressed concern about the power of the Administration to close a road without informing members of the public.
8. According to the Administration's explanation, under the existing legislation, the execution of sewerage works, regardless of their scale, has to be gazetted during the planning stage in parallel with the conduct of environmental impact assessment study and traffic impact assessment study and in consultation with Provisional District Boards concerned. The Amendment Regulation would only exempt the gazettal requirement for sewerage works of a limited scale before a funding application is made to the Public Works Subcommittee of the Finance Committee for such works, or where this is not applicable, before tender is invited for the works. Where road closure is deemed necessary at the construction stage of the works, the Commissioner for Transport is required under regulation 27 of the Road Traffic (Traffic Control) Regulations to publish a notice for road closure, for both partial or full closure, in Gazette or in one issue of at least one English newspaper and one Chinese newspaper circulating in Hong Kong. However, regulation 28 of the Road Traffic (Traffic Control) Regulations authorizes the Commissioner for Transport to close a road temporarily for any period not exceeding 72 hours without publishing a notice for emergency situations.
9. Members generally consider gazetting not an effective means to convey a message to members of the public as it is unrealistic to expect them to read the Gazette. Consultation with Provisional District Boards is also not the best way to achieve the purpose either. Members have pointed out that although minor sewerage works may last only a few days, these works may create great inconvenience to residents in the vicinity should their only means of access be obstructed by or even be closed for the works. To keep the affected persons timely informed of the works, members suggest that the Drainage Services Department (DSD) should consult the Area Committees of the district concerned and owners' incorporations of buildings in the vicinity. Moreover, to enable road users to have prior knowledge of the impending road opening works, a board containing information on the works, such as nature of the works, commencement and expected completion dates, and telephone number for enquiries, should be displayed at the site some days before the commencement of the works.
10. The Administration advises that there is no problem in including local residents'organizations likely to be affected by the project, such as Area Committees and owners' incorporations, in the consultation process. DSD will liaise with the relevant District Office to work out the detailed arrangements. However, the Administration expresses concern that the proposed display of a notice board on the road or the nearby pavement might cause obstruction and endanger to vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic. Nevertheless, it is prepared to explore the feasibility of displaying a notice board on the railings near the works site a few days before the anticipated commencement of such works on a trial basis subject to the condition that no objection is raised by the relevant departments, including the Police, Transport Department and District Lands Office. The Administration will review the new arrangement after it has become operational for 12 months.
11. The Subcommittee supports the Amendment Regulation but considers that the amendment should have been introduced earlier as the Administration was aware of the need to amend the Regulation far back in 1996.
12. Members are requested to support the recommendation of the Subcommittee.
Legislative Council Secretariat
31 August 1998
Water Pollution Control (Sewerage) (Amendment) Regulation 1998
|Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP (Chairman)
|Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
|Hon Christine LOH
|Hon LAU Kong-wah
|Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP
|Total : 5 members