Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1)1886/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref: CB1/PL/EA/1

LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of meeting
held on Friday, 2 July 1999, at 10:30 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Christine LOH (Chairman)
Hon HUI Cheung-ching (Deputy Chairman)
Ir Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP

Non-Panel members attending :

Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, SBS, JP
Hon Martin LEE Chu-ming, SC, JP

Member absent :

Prof Hon NG Ching-fai

Public officers attending :

For all items

Deputy Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Environment)

Mr Rob LAW
Director of Environmental Protection

For item IV

Director of Water Supplies

Mr CHAN Wing-sang
Deputy Secretary for Works (Works Policy)

Mr KU Chi-chung
Assistant Director/Supply & Distribution(1)
Water Supplies Department

Mr CHEUNG Tze-leung
Chief Waterworks Chemist
Water Supplies Department

Mr KWONG Hing-ip
Chief Assistant Secretary for Works
(Technical Services)

For item V

Mr Howard CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Environment)

Miss Agnes KWAN
Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Environment)

Mr MOK Wai-chuen
Principal Environmental Protection Officer
Environmental Protection Department

Mr Patrick HO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Mr Lawrence KWAN
Acting Chief Traffic Engineer
Transport Department

Mr CHIU Yue-wing
Senior Engineer/Motor Vehicle
Transport Department

Attendance by Invitation :

For item IV

Dr HO Kin-chung
Programme leader in Environmental Studies
Open University of Hong Kong

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Odelia LEUNG, Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

Mrs Mary TANG, Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2

I Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LC Paper No. CB(1)1496/98-99)

The minutes of the meeting held on 29 March 1999 were confirmed.

II Date of next meeting and items for discussion

2. Members noted the list of outstanding items for discussion and the list of follow-up actions arising from discussion, which were tabled at the meeting.

3. Members noted that the Administration did not intend to bring up any proposed items for discussion during the summer recess. Members agreed that the regular meeting in August 1999 need not be held. They would decide at the special meeting on 23 July 1999 whether any regular meeting should be held in September 1999.

III Information papers issued since last meeting

4. Members noted the following paper which was issued since the last meeting -

LC Paper No. CB(1)1516/98-99 - letter from the Administration regarding the stoppage of works at the Kwun Tong to To Kwa Wan Tunnel

IV Quality of Dongjiang water
(LC Paper Nos. CB(1)1603 and 1632/98-99)

5. The Chairman reminded members that Annexes A, C, D and H to LC Paper No. CB(1)1603/98-99 and Dr HO Kin-chung's survey findings at LC Paper No. CB(1)1632/98-99 were restricted information and should not be made available to the public or the media. However, members could refer to the information contained in the papers for discussion at the meeting. A separate paper prepared by the Administration which had not included the restricted information was made available to the public and the media.

6. Mr LAU Kong-wah and Mr Martin LEE queried the rationale for restricting the documents to LegCo Members only. The Deputy Secretary for Works (DS/W) explained that Annexes A, C, D and H to the Administration's paper contained information from the Guangdong side, who had requested that such information was for LegCo Members only and should not be made available to the public or the media. Annex A was an extract from the relevant parts of the Agreement for Supply of Dongjiang water. Annex C listed out the water quality data at Dongjiang intake point. Annex D was an value-for-money analysis for the closed aqueduct project. Referring to Annex E which was an extract from the discussion at the meeting of the 10th Hong Kong - Guangdong Environmental Protection Liaison Group held in November 1998, DS/W said that water quality data was regarded as confidential information by the State. Since members could refer to the information on water quality at the meeting for discussion, it did not matter whether or not the documents were restricted.

7. Mr Martin LEE expressed reservations about the present arrangement. He was concerned that the Mainland's request for restricting circulation of certain documents might become a standard practice and this would complicate the conduct of LegCo meetings which were open to the public. The Chairman said that the Administration should give further thought to the dissemination of documents which contained confidential information.Admin.

Meeting with Dr HO kin-chung

8. At the invitation of the Chairman, Dr HO Kin-chung said that since the findings of his surveys had yet to be published, he would like to reserve ownership of the document and the data contained therein. Dr HO said that a research team of the Environmental Studies Programme of the Open University of Hong Kong had conducted water quality surveys at the main stream of Dongjiang since April 1996. A total of nine locations had been selected for sampling. The results indicated that the water quality at Dongjiang generally complied with Class II water quality standard stipulated in the Environmental Quality Standard for Surface Water (Class II Standard) published by the People's Republic of China. However, signs of pollution from domestic, agricultural and industrial sources were recorded. Soluble iron and zinc in the water samples occasionally exceeded the stipulated limits but the levels were unlikely to be detrimental to health. The levels of nutrients, as represented by the concentrations of dissolved oxygen, Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and ammonia nitrogen, were marginally acceptable. There was a deteriorating trend for these parameters which was probably attributed to increased organic pollution at the Dongjiang catchment areas. The increasing amounts of fluoride and chlorides detected might be related to pollution from chemical industries and the widespread use of agricultural chemicals. An analysis of the Dongjiang river sediments revealed low levels of organic compounds like PCBs and PAHs which were carcinogenic. The presence of these compounds indicated possible pollution from industrial and domestic effluents at Wei Zhou, which was at the downstream of Dongjiang.

Meeting with the Administration

9. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Director of Water Supplies (DWS) said that a distinction should be made on the quality of raw water and treated water. The trends that Dr HO had demonstrated from his sampling were as expected but there was no cause for complacency. The Administration was concerned about the quality of raw water and was monitoring it on a daily basis. Although there was a slight trend of increase in the levels of copper and iron, the actual results were well within the Class II Standard. He further pointed out that while river sediments were a matter of concern, the important point was the quality of water coming across the border. In that context, sediments were not a direct factor affecting the water quality. DS/W said that the quality of Dongjiang water since 1999 had significantly improved. Since water was pumped from Dongjiang, contamination by river sediments could be minimised.

10. Mr CHAN Wing-chan enquired if Dr HO's findings had been made available to the Mainland authorities. Dr HO said that he had just completed his research work and the findings were not made known to the authorities. Since some of the studies were conducted jointly with the Guangdong side, the authorities should be aware of his findings.

Level of coliform

11. Referring to Table 11 of Dr HO's report, Mr LAU Kong-wah expressed concern about the increasing levels of coliform in various sampling locations of Dongjiang. Dr HO confirmed that coliform levels had been on the rise from 1996 to 1998. Contamination by faecal material was the source of coliform. However, it was observed that the level of coliform recorded in March 1999 was lower than in January 1999.

12. Noting that the general standard for coliform was stated to be less than 1000 cells per 100 millilitre (ml) of water in Table 11 of Dr HO's report, DSW enquired whether this was an international standard. Dr HO said that the said limit of 1000 cells per 100 ml was the 1989 standard for coliform under the Class II Standard. This standard was being tested and might not be acceptable.
Levels of PCBs and PAHs

13. Mr LAU Kong-wah noted with concern the presence of PCBs and PAHs in river sediments. Since these pollutants were not regular monitoring items as shown by the information provided by the Administration, he enquired about the way of detection. Dr HO referred members to Table 12 of his report which set out the results of chemical analysis of river sediments. He said that since levels of PCBs and PAHs were difficult to be detected in water samples, the way was to analyse samples of river sediments. PCBs and PAHs were organic compounds which were by-products of petroleum, resin and refrigerants. These were carcinogenic substances which might cause liver and intestinal tumor. Although undetectable in water, PCBs and PAHs, when present in river sediments, might release to the water. Dr HO said that PAHs were one of the elements being monitored under the Class II Standard.

14. The Chief Waterworks Chemist, Water Supplies Department (CWC) said that close liaison had been maintained with the Mainland authorities in monitoring the quality of raw water. A set of results of water quality tests at Dongjiang intake had been provided by Dongshen Water Supply Bureau at Annex C to the Administration's paper. Owing to resource constraints, the Guangdong side could not provide water quality data on each and every item stipulated in the environmental quality standard for surface water GB3838-83. Testing at Muk Wu Pumping Station had confirmed that the levels of PAHs were within the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The Administration would confirm in writing whether PCBs and PAHs were regular monitoring items for Dongjiang water quality by the Guangdong side and provide the test results on carcinogenic substances found in Dongjiang water with reference to the classification made by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.Admin.

15. Mr HUI Cheung-ching enquired about the process of chemical analysis of river sediments and whether the recent desilting works in Shenzhen could resolve the problem of contamination of river sediments. Dr HO said in response that PCBs and PAHs had low solubility and would accumulate in river beds. A chemical analysis of samples of river sediments was thus necessary to detect their presence. Desilting would definitely improve the water quality because the contaminants at the river bed would be removed.

16. Mr LAW Chi-kwong expressed concern that random testing of water samples might not detect PAHs and PCBs which were present in certain portion of water at a certain time. He was concerned that these substances would be absorbed by human through food chain. CWC said that the frequency of testing and the method of collecting samples were done in accordance with the guidelines set by WHO. He stressed that it was practically impossible to conduct testing on all portions of any water by Dongjiang. PCBs and PAHs were not soluble in water but were highly soluble in fat/oil. It therefore was unlikely that PCBs and PAHs would be absorbed by human through breathing or water consumption. He agreed that human would most likely absorb PCBs and PAHs through food.

17. Dr LEONG Che-hung sought further information on absorption of PCBs and PAHs through food, but not water. He enquired if PCBs and PAHs had been detected in the treated water and if so, whether there was a trend of increase. He also questioned whether relocating the water intake point further upstream would reduce contamination of these substances.

18. DWS said that based on the information received on the intake of dioxin for people in North America, the exposure levels were found to be much higher for beef and dairy products. The information showed that intake of dioxin through water consumption was virtually negligible and that the intake through food was the main problem. Owing to their insolubility, PCBs and PAHs could be removed by sedimentation which was used in the water treatment process employed in Hong Kong. Therefore, although the presence of PCBs and PAHs was of concern, their magnitude was not of a problem. Hence, no international standards on these substances were established. CWC confirmed that levels of PAHs in raw water were below the detection limit and there were no indications of an increase over the years.

Quality of raw water and treated water

19. Mr Edward HO enquired whether there was evidence to suggest that the quality of treated water had deteriorated as a result of the worsening raw water quality. He also sought the Administration's opinion on the adequacy and effectiveness of the measures taken by the Guangdong side to protect the water sources.

20. DS/W said that with the relocation of the water intake point upstream at Dongjiang in September 1998 and the commencement of operation of the bio-nitrification plant at the Shenzhen Reservoir in December 1998, the quality of raw water was improving as shown by the test results since October 1998.

21. Mr Edward HO observed that the information about the trend of water quality collected by the Administration and Dr HO Kin-chung was conflicting. Dr HO said that there was no conflict as his data on raw water quality were relevant up to 1998 while the water quality was seen improving after October 1998. He added that tap water quality was affected by the source, the treatment provided and the transport process. Since tap water had undergone purification treatment in Hong Kong, most of the pollutants present in raw water should have been removed and its quality should be of an acceptable standard. Although the treated water quality was acceptable, contamination at source was a potential hazard which had to be dealt with.

22. Miss CHOY So-yuk noted from Dr HO's findings that the test results for 1998 had not shown any improvements in water quality. She questioned if the data were obtained before the relocation of the water intake point. She was concerned whether the existing water treatment facilities in Hong Kong were able to cope with the deterioration in raw water quality and what further measures could be taken to deal with the problem.

23. Dr HO said that the data shown in the Tables of his report were the mean for the dry and wet seasons in 1998. Since pollution reached its peak during the period from July to August 1998, the survey results might not reflect the improvements made in the later part of 1998. The improvement in water quality could be shown in the test results for 1999. He said that if the deterioration in raw water quality continued, the treatment costs would be correspondingly increased. The frequency of testing should be increased to keep track of the levels of pollutants and new methods should be introduced to detect and remove carcinogenic substances which might be present in trace amounts.

24. DWS said that the Administration was in close touch with developed countries on the treatment of water. WHO had not set up a standard for the carcinogenic substances that Dr HO had referred to. The quality of treated water in Hong Kong had all along been in compliance with WHO standards. Any new standards introduced would be applied. The frequency of water testing had actually doubled in the past six years. DS/W added that pro-active measures to improve the raw water quality had been taken. Apart from the relocation of the water intake point and the setting up of a bio-nitrification plant, the Guangdong side was beginning to build a closed aqueduct. The Guangdong side had also strengthened enforcement action against polluting activities.

Co-ordination with the Guangdong side

25. Referring to paragraph 52 of Annex E to the Administration's paper, the Chairman enquired about the degree of the Administration's participation in the Steering Group on Dongjiang Water Quality Protection set up by the Guangdong Provincial Government and whether sufficient information was made available to the Hong Kong side. DS/W said that Hong Kong was not represented on the Steering Group. However, regular meetings were held with the Environmental Protection Bureau of Guangdong Province, and the relevant information on water quality monitoring had been obtained through them.

26. Mr LAU Kong-wah considered it necessary to provide a closed aqueduct for the entire water supply system, especially along Wei Zhou to Kiu Tau where pollution was observed to be serious. DS/W said that it was not necessary to build a closed aqueduct for the water supply system through Wei Zhou. He assured members that the quality of water at the present intake point was in compliance with the Class II Standard as set out in the water agreement.

27. Mr LAU Kong-wah and Mr HUI Cheung-ching requested and the Administration agreed to relay to the Guangdong side the serious pollution along Wei Zhou and Kiu Tau. The Administration also agreed to advise the progress of the key initiatives to improve the quality of Dongjiang water as mentioned in Annex F to the Administration's paper.Admin.


Research studies

28. The Chairman informed that the Research and Library Services Division (RLS) of the LegCo Secretariat sought members' view on the need to conduct a research on some environmental issues during the summer recess. In view of public concern on the quality of Dongjiang water, members agreed that the research could be in this area. The Chairman suggested that the scope of the research could be about protection of water source, enforcement of relevant environmental legislation and comparative studies on overseas experience. Members agreed that the Chairman discussed with RLS and the Clerk on the detailed arrangement.RLS

V Action to improve Hong Kong air quality
(LC Paper No. CB(1)1603/98-99(03))

29. With the aid of a computer, the Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environmental and Lands (DS/PEL) briefed members on the actions contemplated by the Administration to improve Hong Kong air quality, highlighting the salient points of the information paper. He explained that to realise the objective of cleaning the air, the following actions were required -

  1. To combat street level pollution by abating smoke and emissions from diesel vehicles and reducing the overall emissions from the transport fleet;

  2. To address every aspect of Hong Kong's industries that contributed to ambient air pollution; and

  3. To work in partnership with Guangdong to introduce the regional air quality improvement programme.

30. Dr LEONG Che-hung sought information on the quantitative improvement when all the measures against smoky vehicles were adopted, the time frame for implementing the proposed short term and long term measures to resolve air pollution and the intended improvement target. He opined that if Government had a target in mind, it should mobilise the public to achieve it.

31. Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) (DS/PEL) said that over the past decade, the measures taken by the Administration to reduce emission from industries and power generation had been extremely successful. Power generation using gas instead of coal had significantly reduced emissions. The Administration had been focusing on diesel vehicles which had been identified as the main cause of air pollution. Statistics showed that the Air Quality Objectives (AQO) for respirable suspended particulates (RSP) had not been met. A package of proposals to reduce RSP, nitrogen dioxides and ozone were introduced. Arrangements were being made for the supply of ultra-low sulphur diesel at an acceptable price, initially for the franchised bus fleet. A trial would be conducted on the use of diesel catalyst in heavy vehicles to reduce particulate emissions. The Police and the Environmental Protection Department were stepping up on-street enforcement against smoky vehicles. A proposal to increase the fixed penalty fines for smoky vehicles would be introduced into LegCo later in the year. Consideration would be given to controlling idling vehicles, and as a start, instructions had been given to Government drivers to refrain from idling their vehicles.

32. On the intended target for cleaning the air, DS/PEL said that the Administration expected that the ongoing programme and the proposed initiatives would bring the level of RSP within AQO. However, much would depend on the choice of the public over different modes of transport. Therefore, the public would need to be made aware of the effect of different modes of transport on the environment and the kind of measures that could be taken. The adoption of Euro II emission standards had resulted in a 80% reduction in emissions. An advanced smoke test using a chassis dynamometer would be introduced in September 1999 to check the emissions of smoky vehicles.

33. The Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) said that there was no simple quick-fix solution to the air pollution problem. With the implementation of all technical measures, the Administration might be able to bring the RSP levels to within AQO in two years' time. However, with the population growth and the consequential growth in vehicle fleet, together with the additional pollution from across the border, the proposed technical measures could not be relied upon to ensure the air quality in Hong Kong. To maintain the air quality, greater reliance on rail transport, possibly restraints in the growth of vehicle fleet, and control of cross border pollution would be required. As these factors were variables which were subject to change, it would not be possible to foresee the effect of anti-pollution measures. The Administration could only provide information on the amount of RSP and other pollutants that could be removed. DEP said that the Administration was working towards expanding the rail system by 40% in the next few years.

34. The Chairman asked if variables such as the growth in population and vehicle fleet could be input into a modelling system so that the impact on the environment could be assessed. DEP said that a major part of the Third Comprehensive Transport Study (CTS-3) was to look at the effect of vehicle growth on air pollution. The results of CTS-3 would be available by September 1999.

35. Noting the various proposals in respect of the Government fleet as mentioned in the information paper, Dr LEONG Che-hung said that the size of the fleet could be reduced if Government officials could accept carpooling. DS/PEL said in response that the use of the fleet was to be reviewed to ensure optimal use of existing vehicles. Pending the outcome of the review, the passenger vehicle feet would be frozen for a year. Reduction and rationalisation of Government vehicles were part of the Enhanced Productivity Programme as well as an environmental measure. The Chairman suggested and members agreed that the Panel wrote to the Administrator of Government Land Transport Agency to seek information on the plan to rationalise the Government vehicle fleet.

(Post-meeting note: A letter signed by the Chairman was sent to the Administrator of Government Land Transport Agency on 7 July 1999.)

36. Noting the successful trial of retrofitting diesel catalyst to franchised buses to lower particulate emissions, Mr Edward HO enquired whether the same could be applied to heavy diesel vehicles. The Principal Environment Protection Officer (PEPO) said that as the effectiveness of diesel catalysts would depend on the degree of maintenance and the mode of operation of vehicles, a separate trial had to be conducted on heavy diesel vehicles to ascertain their effect.

37. Mrs Miriam LAU pointed out that as shown in Annex C to the publication entitled "Clear Air for Hong Kong" (circulated to members on 5 June 1999), the level of RSP was found to have dropped in 1998 and was close to AQO. Meanwhile, the level of nitrogen dioxide had far exceeded AQO. As nitrogen dioxide was emitted from both petrol and diesel vehicles, she was concerned whether the focus of the Administration's efforts in removing RSP from diesel vehicles was in the right direction. She considered that more efforts should be placed on the reduction of overall emissions rather than pinpointing on diesel emissions alone. Mrs LAU further pointed out that despite the tightening of emission standards in 1992, there were still quite a number of vehicles on the roads which were imported before 1992 and which did not conform to the latest emission standards. She enquired if the Administration had any intention of introducing incentives to encourage owners of these vehicles to replace their cars.

38. PEPO said that diesel vehicles complying with the stringent emission standards introduced since 1995 emitted a lot less particulates than preceding models. The gradual replacement of the in-use vehicles by these less polluting models would help reduce the RSP pollution. As to nitrogen dioxide, the major emission source was still diesel vehicles. The introduction of liquefied petroleum gas taxis would help reduce the nitrogen oxides emissions from the vehicle fleet. The introduction of Euro III vehicles and ultra-low sulphur diesel could also help. He then explained that the nitrogen oxides emissions from petrol private cars would be considerably reduced if the pre-1992 models were replaced by petrol cars equipped with 3-way catalytic converters. The converters could reduce about 80% of the nitrogen oxides emissions.

39. As regards the provision of incentives for vehicle owners to replace old vehicles, DS/PEL said that there was a need to decide whether providing incentives to replace old vehicles or encouraging the public to use public transport would be of more benefit to the community.

40. Mr Edward HO enquired whether the ultra-low sulphur diesel which was to be used by the franchised bus fleet could be used by other diesel vehicles as well. DS/PEL said that the Administration intended to introduce ultra-low sulphur diesel to all diesel vehicles. The fuel was suitable for all diesel vehicles but due to a lack of supply in the local market sufficient quantities would be imported for use by buses first.

41. Noting that the joint study on regional air quality with Guangdong was expected to be completed in 18 months' time, Mrs Miriam LAU was of the view that a more immediate improvement in air quality could be made if the Guangdong authorities upgraded the sulphur content of diesel from 0.5% to 0.05% in, in line with that used in Hong Kong. DEP said that the issue of upgrading of diesel fuel had been raised with the Guangdong authorities. This would be one of the issues to be looked at in the study on regional air quality. DS/PEL added that there was increasing cooperation with the Guangdong side both at Government and academic levels. The Guangdong side was equally concerned about the air quality. Co-ordinated action was being taken on both sides to deal with the regional air quality.

42. Ir Dr Raymond HO pointed out that enforcement against franchised buses for excessive emissions was rarely seen. He opined that like commercial vehicles, private vehicles should be subject to smoke checks during the roadworthiness inspections. He enquired whether the portable smokemeters could be used to test emissions other than smoke and queried why the introduction of the Euro III emission standards had to be delayed until 2001.

43. DS/PEL and PAS/PEL said that the Police had been steadily stepping up enforcement against smoky vehicles. The portable smokemeters could be used on any vehicle including franchised buses. These portable smokemeters were designed to measure smoky emissions only. The smoky vehicles so detected would have to undergo further testing by the Environmental Protection Department. Commercial vehicles were required to have smoke checks during their annual roadworthiness inspections. Testing on the exhaust emissions would also be conducted during these checks. As for other vehicles, they were subject to annual roadworthiness inspections after six years. The Administration was now reviewing the matter. With the introduction of catalytic converters and the use of unleaded petrol, the level of exhaust emissions from petrol vehicles had decreased significantly. DS/PEL clarified that Euro III emission standards had yet to be introduced in any country. The Administration was keeping track of the latest development on the Euro III emission standards in Europe. As soon as the standards were introduced in Europe, they would be applied to Hong Kong.

44. On the aspect of maintenance and repair, Mrs Miriam LAU enquired whether tailor-made training courses on the use of dynamometers and the control of exhaust emissions would be provided to the vehicle maintenance trade with a view to upgrading the quality of maintenance. PEPO said in response that the Administration would conduct a series of seminars to promote proper vehicle maintenance to prevent excessive emissions and to introduce the dynamometer smoke test. Pamphlets on this aspect would also be made available to vehicle owners and the vehicle industry for reference.

45. Mrs Miriam LAU considered that the issuance of pamphlets and the holding of seminars did not constitute sufficient training for vehicle mechanics. She queried why a compulsory training programme on the reduction of emissions was not provided to vehicle mechanics to ensure their possession of the necessary expertise.

46. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (PAS/PEL) said that several options had been proposed in improving the technical expertise of vehicle mechanics. The Administration was studying the feasibility of these options. It would liaise with the vehicle industry and the Vocational Training Council to strengthen training for vehicle mechanics concerning smoky vehicles.Admin.

47. Mr LAW Chi-kwong was concerned about the increase in the number of empty buses on roads and stressed the need to rationalise bus routes. Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport said in response that the Transport Department had been rationalising bus routes and the number of bus stops to reduce congestion, improve traffic flow, and reduce pollution. He recapitulated Secretary for Transport's response to an oral Legislative Council question in June 1999 that the number of buses on the roads had remained roughly the same before the introduction of a new franchised bus operator in September 1998. He added that franchised buses only accounted for 1% of the total diesel vehicle fleet in Hong Kong and about 3% of the total mileage travelled by all diesel vehicles.

48. On Ir Dr Raymond HO and Mr LAU Kong-wah's concern about the introduction of electric vehicles, such as trolley buses, DS/PEL said that the Administration would encourage the development of trials to bring in trolley buses and other electric vehicles to Hong Kong. The Government fleet had been a pioneer in testing electric vehicles. There was also considerable potential for developing trolley buses in Hong Kong. Any mode of transport that was emission-free was much to be preferred.

49. Miss CHOY So-yuk enquired about the price the community would have to pay in return for the improvements made to the air quality, DS/PEL said that the costs incurred in treating acute medical cases linked to air pollution in Hong Kong amounted to $4 billion a year. The costs to Hong Kong in terms of direct medical bills and inability to work were extremely high. It was the drivers themselves who were most at risk. Efforts were made to introduce measures which would not incur a huge cost to the community. These included the introduction of unleaded petrol and liquefied petroleum gas taxis. There were also hopes to introduce electric vehicles and trolley buses subject to feasibility studies and possibly trial run. The important point was to make public transport convenient and easily accessible. The huge environmental benefits brought about by measures to control air pollution clearly outweighed the costs.

50. On Mr HUI Cheung-ching's concern about indoor air quality, PAS/PEL said that the Administration was working out details on the proposals to improve indoor air quality. It would consult professional institutions in August 1999, followed by public consultation later in the year.

51. Mr LAU Kong-wah suggested that the Research and Library Services (RLS) Division conduct a research on air quality to examine the effectiveness of the measures proposed by the Administration to achieve the air quality objectives, the overseas experience on the use of trolley buses and electric vehicles, and the co-ordination with the Guangdong authorities in dealing with regional air quality. The Chairman said that given the resource constraints, the RLS Division might not be able to conduct two research projects concurrently. The Chairman suggested and members agreed that she discuss Mr LAU's proposal with the Head of RLS.

(Post-meeting note: After discussion with the Head of RLS, the Chairman informed the Clerk that RLS Division could conduct one research for the Panel during the summer recess. Since the Panel had agreed that the priority area should be about Dongjiang water, the research on air quality would not be done for the time being. The information was relayed to Mr LAU Kong-wah.)

VI Any other business

52. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 1:05 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
7 September 1999