LegCo Paper No. CB(1)100/96-97
Ref : CB1/PL/EA/1
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of Meeting held on Wednesday, 3 July 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
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon MOK Ying-fan
Member attending:
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
Members absent:
    Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, OBE, JP
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Public officers attending:
Items I & II
    Mr Canice MAK
    Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands/Lands & Planning
    Dr E G Pryor
    Principal Government Town Planner
    Planning Department
    Mr A G Cooper, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment)
    Miss Brenda AU
    Senior Town Planner
    Planning Department
    Mr M J Stokoe
    Acting Director of Environmental Protection
    Mr Elvis AU
    Principal Environmental Protection Officer
Item II
    Mr Joseph LEE
    Acting Commissioner for Census and Statistics
    Miss Elley MAO
    Acting Government Economist
    Financial Services Branch
Staff in attendance :
    Miss Odelia LEUNG
    Ms Sarah YUEN

I. Sustainable Development for the 21st Century

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1704/95-96)

1. As a brief introduction, Mr Canice MAK said that the Administration planned to commission the Study on Sustainable Development for the 21st Century (SUSDEV21) in early 1997 and would seek approval of the Finance Committee on 12 July 1996 for funds of about $42 million for Phase I of the two-phased Study. With the aid of transparency, Dr E G Pryor then gave a presentation on the draft outline brief for SUSDEV21. In gist, SUSDEV21 would examine whether and how the concept of sustainability could be applied to Hong Kong, what principles and sustainability indicators were appropriate, and what systems and mechanisms were required to implement the sustainability concept. SUSDEV21 would take 30 months to complete. Public consultation was a main component of it and the Administration would seek members' views during the consultation process. Dr Pryor highlighted the following points -

  1. The Territorial Development Strategy Review (TDSR) had proposed a medium-term (2006) and long-term (2011) development framework for Hong Kong that took account of the needs arising from population growth in the Territory, the need to sustain and enhance the hub functions of Hong Kong, and the continued rapid economic development in South China, in particular the Pearl River Delta (PRD). In order to maintain the current momentum of development to meet Hong Kong's growing societal needs, it would be important to move ahead with the provision of additional land and infrastructure in the context of current policies and standards in the medium term.
  2. With regard to the long term, strategic planning proposals had been formulated for a possible population of 7.5 million to 8.1 million for two assumed development scenarios related to the extent of a regional hinterland. The general conclusion was that, given sufficient resource allocation for land production and infrastructure provision in a timely way, there was likely to be spatial capacity to meet Hong Kong's own housing, employment and transport needs, taking account also of the need to expand port facilities and to provide additional cross-border transport links. However, it would be difficult to meet all the assumed objectives, particularly with respect to environmental protection within the context of current policies and proven technology.
  3. Given that a goal should be to achieve a comprehensively sustainable pattern of development and that such a goal would need to be reached by degrees over the long term, it would be highly desirable to start taking steps to ensure that Hong Kong's overall urban-based system would be brought to an acceptable state of balance within the limits of resource availability, decision-making systems and other practical constraints, hence the need for SUSDEV21 to examine how sustainability considerations could be incorporated into the policy and planning framework.

At members' request, Dr Pryor agreed to provide members with the presentation materials after the meeting.

(Post-meeting note: The presentation materials were circulated to Panel members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1785/95-96)

2. The Chairman was concerned that SUSDEV21, scheduled for completion in 1999, could not provide timely information for formulating future development framework to achieve sustainable development as TDSR was near completion. In response, Dr Pryor and Mr Elvis AU said that Hong Kong could not afford the postponement of TDSR. As far as practicable, projects in progress would take account of the findings of SUSDEV21. In fact, many infrastructure projects under construction had already considered environmental factors. While strategic environmental studies conducted at the planning stage would examine the impact of different land uses from a macro and strategic point of view, the Environmental Impact Assessment Bill, if enacted, would ensure that individual projects would be carried out in an environmentally sound manner.

3. On whether SUSDEV21 would explore the role played by large consortiums of developers in achieving sustainable development in Hong Kong, Dr Pryor said that different sectors could contribute as SUSDEV21 would provide for community participation. The views of developers and other sectors would be solicited on the concept of sustainable development.

4. Concerning whether SUSDEV21 would examine the creation of employment opportunities, Dr Pryor assured members that this would be a major consideration. As the decision on Hong Kong's hub functions would have bearing on the types of jobs created, there was thus a need to have a lot of dialogue in determining the future directions. TDSR had examined the various options.

5. Members opined that in trying to develop a system conducive to sustainable development, SUSDEV21 should take into consideration Hong Kong's special conditions and the fact that Hong Kong was part and parcel of a larger economic and environmental system in South China. As such, the scope of SUSDEV21 should cover developments in South China and their possible impact on Hong Kong. In this regard, Hong Kong should therefore closely liaise with the Chinese side.

6. In response, Dr Pryor said that one of the key tasks of SUSDEV21 was to review the development trends in PRD. The Study would consider a range of scenarios and their impact in terms of sustainable development on Hong Kong and the wider region. The Administration reckoned that for SUSDEV21 to be meaningful, it would have to be conducted in a regional context involving cross-border dialogue. As the first stage of SUSDEV21 was to identify the guiding values, liaison with China would be geared up afterwards. Mr MAK supplemented that the Administration, not the consultants, would take care of the exchange of information with the Chinese side.

7. Regarding population projections in the light of the change of sovereignty, Dr Pryor said that it was difficult to assess population growth. Provided that Hong Kong maintained economic growth, it would continue to attract people. Responding to a member's query about levelling off hilltops as a means of producing land, Dr Pryor said that this would have limitations due to the need to find a proper way to dispose of the rocks so cut away.

8. In reply to a member's questions on developments along the Western Corridor Railway and the Airport Railway, Mr MAK and Dr Pryor made the following points -

  1. The topography of North Lantau made it very difficult to develop the two stations of the Airport Railway at Yam O and Tai Ho Wan.
  2. There was no question of under-utilisation of the Airport Railway. The Airport Railway would serve two basic functions. First, it served the new airport and the new town in Tung Chung. Second, it would mitigate severe traffic congestion in the urban area. In developing the Railway, the flow of traffic to be diverted from the urban area would have to be taken into account.
  3. The Administration would optimize the use of resources. There was a need to build the Western Corridor Railway and develop the stations along it as Hong Kong did not have too many suitable locations for developing new towns.

9. Members noted the Administration's proposal to seek funds from the Finance Committee.

II. Demographic projections

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1711/95-96)

10. Mr Joseph LEE briefed members on the Administration's paper on population estimates and population projections. Mr LEE highlighted how the population projections were made and the reasons for a discrepancy of 5.1% between the 1991-based population projections for mid-1995 and the population estimates as at mid-1995. He emphasized that although the 1991-based population projections had fallen short of the actual outturn, they were still useful for planning purposes. With the aid of transparency, Mr LEE presented the following information -

  1. The Administration used the component method in making population projections. The components included the fertility assumption, the mortality assumption and the net migration assumption.
  2. The 1991-based population projections assumed that the fertility rate would rebound as it was at an extremely low level then. The mortality rate would continue to decline although at a very slow rate. The projected life expectancy was 77 for male and 83 for female by 2011. The 1991-based population projections assumed that the trend of migration would be in line with the past and that the then prevailing immigration policy would continue.
  3. The projected age composition in the 1991-based population projections was largely in line with the population estimates. The medium age of the population, as projected in 1991, was 32. This would become 37 in 2001 and 40 in 2011. The percentage of population under the age of 15 was projected to be 21% in 1991, 17% in 2001 and 16% in 2011. As for persons aged 65 or above, it was projected to be 9% in 1991, 12% in 2001 and 13% in 2011. Over the projected period from 1991 to 2011, the dependency ratio would gradually decline and then level off.

At members' request, the Administration agreed to provide members with the presentation materials after the meeting.

(Post-meeting note: The presentation materials were circulated to Panel members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1785/95-96)

11. Members were concerned about the discrepancy between population projections and population estimates. The accuracy of population projections was important for formulating policy, assessing needs and making forward planning. Members questioned if the Administration had taken account of the number of legal Chinese immigrants in population projections. The Basic Law provided that children of Hong Kong permanent residents of Chinese nationality born outside Hong Kong should be regarded as permanent residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. As the number of persons in this category was estimated in the range of 30,000 to 300,000, the timetable for their coming into Hong Kong would have significant implications for planning and development.

12. In response, representatives of the Administration provided the following comments -

  1. The 1991-based population projections already expected a rebound in the then declining fertility rate which stood at 1.3%. This meant that only 40% of women at child-bearing age would give birth. The rate was low as compared with that in developed countries where only 10% to 20% of women at reproductive age would not give birth. The rebound, however, had come earlier than expected.
  2. The Administration already anticipated a lower level of outflow of Hong Kong residents in the 1991-based population projections. The discrepancy was partly due to the fact that there were many more returnees than previously expected.
  3. When the population projections were made in 1991, the daily quota of legal Chinese immigrants coming to Hong Kong was 75 persons per day. This was revised to 105 in 1991 and 150 in 1994. The timetable for their coming into Hong Kong was subject to liaison between the Security Branch and the Chinese side. As far as population projections were concerned, they had to be based on assumptions derived in accordance with the then prevailing policies. The discrepancy would be rectified in the revision of the 1991-based population projections in the light of the results of the 1996 Population By-census.
  4. The Administration recognized the importance of accurate population projections in formulating policy. TDSR had and SUSDEV21 would consider different population scenarios. Both would provide an useful framework for dialogue on future developments. The Administration accorded much weight to public consultation on TDSR.

13.On the capacity of Hong Kong for population growth, Dr Pryor and Mr Canice MAK said that it was dependent on the desired standard of living and the community values among which the extent to which Hong Kong was prepared to conserve its ecological assets. This was a question of policy. While Hong Kong could cope with 8.1 million people with the best use of its resources, there remained the question as to when this would happen. To prepare for a possible scenario of 8.1 million people, there was a need to identify the potential problems, decide priorities and then put in place a system that would enable Hong Kong to respond to rapid changes and to achieve sustainable development.

14. Members were of the view that demographic projections were relevant to each and every policy branch in planning their respective spheres of work. The Panel agreed that the matter be brought to the attention of the House Committee with a view to asking all Panels to consider discussing the subject within their terms of reference.

15.The meeting ended at 10:40 a.m.
LegCo Secretariat
10 October 1996

Last Updated on 18 Aug, 1998