LegCo Paper No. CB(1)102/96-97
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/PL/EA/1

LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of Meeting held on Thursday, 13 June 1996 at 2:30 p.m. in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :
    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai (Chairman)
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon MOK Ying-fan
Members Absent :
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Public Officers Attending : All Items
    Mr Robert J S LAW
    Director of Environmental Protection
Item III
    Miss Mary CHOW
    Acting Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment
    and Lands (Environment)
    Mr Edward LAM
    Senior Environmental Protection Officer
    Miss BAU Wai-ngun
    Principal Inspector (Humanities)
Education Department
    Mr LAM Ding-chung
    Principal Inspector (Geography, History and Social Studies)
    Education Department
Item IV
    Mr Eric Johnson
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services
    Mr Richard YIP Shui-ming
    Assistant Director of Agriculture and Fisheries
    Mr Joseph SHAM Chun-hung
    Senior Fisheries Officer
Staff in Attendance :
    Miss Odelia LEUNG
    Ms Sarah YUEN

I. Confirmation of Minutes of Meetings

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)1317/95-96, CB(1)1410/95-96 and CB(1)1538/95-96)

The minutes of the meetings held on 3, 15 April and 1 May 1996 were confirmed.

II. Discussion Items for Next Meeting

(Paper tabled)

1. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next regular meeting scheduled for 3 July 1996:

  1. Demographic projections (all members would be invited to take part in the discussion); and
  2. Sustainability and Development for the 21st Century (SUSDEV 21).

III. Environmental Education

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1423/95-96, Appendix I to LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1539/95-96, LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1549/95-96 and LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1595/95-96)

2. Mr LAM Ding-chung briefed members on the paper provided by the Education Department (ED). Members noted that ED had adopted a cross-curricular approach in environmental education because of the following reasons:

  1. This approach, regarded as most effective worldwide, would have the advantage of emphasising on whole-school participation and concern for environmental education.
  2. As environmental education was a school-based learning programme instead of a subject-based programme, school management could have greater flexibility in allocating manpower and resources to the promotion of environmental education. In this way environmental education could also be promoted along with civic education and moral education.
  3. The cross-curricular approach encompassing different subject groups could help students acquire an understanding of the environment from different perspectives. Learning these subjects helped students achieve an all-round understanding of the environment and develop a caring concern for environmental issues.
  4. The already very tight teaching schedule rendered the introduction of environmental education as a single subject on its own almost impossible. Moreover, not many schools were interested in including environmental education in the curriculum. Of the 46 schools that offered the Liberal Studies subject in their sixth-form programme, only 22 selected the module on environmental education.

3. In reply to members' questions, Miss BAU Wai-ngun provided details on the actual implementation of the cross-curricular approach in local schools. Members noted that specific teaching units on environmental education were included in some subjects, such as in the new primary level subject of General Studies to be implemented in September 1996, where roughly 20 to 30 periods would be devoted to environmental issues at primary 6 level. At secondary and sixth form level, examples of these subjects were Geography, Chemistry, Biology, Social Studies, Economic and Public Affairs and Liberal Studies. For example, the new Geography syllabus, one of whose three major objectives was the enhancement of environmental awareness, would have four out of its six teaching units in secondary 1 covering environmental education, three to four out of seven units in secondary 2 covering environmental education, and four out of six units in secondary 3 touching on environmental issues. In addition to the formal curriculum, students also learnt about the environment and environmental protection through extra-curricular activities. A great variety of activities were organised either on a school-basis or inter-school basis.

4. As requested, Miss BAU agreed to provide after the meeting further information on the topics related to environmental education in the school curriculum and the time allocated to the teaching of these topics at different levels.

(Post-meeting Note: The information was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1) 1809/95-96)

5. Responding to members' queries on the effectiveness of the existing environmental education programmes in schools, Mr LAM reported that although it was only in 1992 that the Curriculum Development Council (CDC) issued the Guidelines on Environmental Education in Schools, evaluation conducted by inspectors through school visits already showed that schools had been according greater importance to environmental education in recent years. In response to the interest and need, inspectors were visiting primary and secondary schools to give them advice on environmental education programmes more frequently. It was emphasised that notwithstanding the mode of implementation, schools were mostly aware that a balanced environmental education programme should help students acquire knowledge about the environment, provide them with the opportunities to learn in the environment and develop in them an informed concern for the environment. In this regard, the existing environmental education programmes in schools could be said to have served their purposes.

6. Commenting on the viability of members' proposals on alternative approaches in environmental education, representatives of the Administration made the following points:

  1. In view of the influence of the continued influx of new immigrants on the effectiveness of environmental education programmes in schools, the proposal to promote environmental education on a district basis as civic education might be worth further consideration. However, while the terms of reference of the Civic Education Committee went beyond school education, the Environmental Education Committee was targetted at schools only though from time to time it would work with district boards in organising district activities.
  2. The Third Review Report of Progress on the 1989 White Paper already pointed out the need for improvement in environmental education. As a matter of fact, to help Hong Kong move forward, the Sustainability and Development for the 21st Century (SUSDEV 21) Study would outline a strategy for developing greater community understanding of environmental issues and an improved community environmental ethic. Members were welcome to provide input to the Study when it was tabled for discussion by members.
  3. ED was exploring the feasibility of introducing a subject integrating environmental education, sex education, civic education and other cross-curricular areas. According to the Working Group on the Review of the Guidelines on Civic Education, one of the three modes of implementation recommended to schools was the integrated-subject approach. At its June meeting, the CDC would discuss and advise on whether such a subject should be introduced. ED would refer to the results of the deliberations when deciding on the way forward.

7. Regarding ED's support to schools in the promotion of environmental education, representatives of ED provided the following information:

  1. In terms of financial support, ED had already spent $750,000 the year before on sponsoring school visits to the Mai Po Marshes. Teachers of individual schools might also initiate curriculum projects on environmental education and receive funding by participating in the School-based Curriculum Project Scheme, whose funding in this area now totalled $440,000. Schools might also turn to the class grant, which ranged from $3,350 to $9,360 per class per year at primary level, and $16,780 to $27,790 per class per year at secondary level, for organising environmental education activities, or receive $800 to $1,000 from ECC to organise and implement environmental protection projects in schools under the Student Environmental Protection Ambassador Scheme. Application for funding up to $120,000 for individual projects could also be filed with the Education Sub-committee of the ECC.
  2. On curriculum support, related teaching/learning packages were produced for both primary and secondary levels (resource booklets tabled for members' information). To keep teachers updated in ideas of promoting environmental education, over 120 events of seminars, workshops, exchange sessions and visits were organised in the past two years with over 4,200 teachers participating in these programmes. Areas covered by these programmes included implementation strategies of environmental education through various subjects and extra-curricular activities, understanding of the air pollution index and waste treatment, and ways to develop useful teaching resources.
  3. In addition to the provision of financial and curriculum support to schools, ED also organised a wide range of activities in collaboration with other government departments and non-government organisations. Examples were the Schools Environmental Award Scheme, the Student Environmental Protection Ambassador Scheme and the Waste Paper Recycling Scheme in Schools in which 252 schools participated in the 1995-96 school year (materials on the programmes were tabled for members' information).

(Post-meeting Note: The resource booklets and materials were kept at the Secretariat and members not present at the meeting were informed of their availability vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1627/95-96)

8. As for the co-operation between ED and Environmental Protection Department (EPD) in environmental education, Mr Edward LAM emphasised that EPD had been working closely with ED on both the CDC and the Environmental Campaign Committee. In addition, EPD staff also gave talks on the promotion of environmental protection in in-service teacher training programmes. ED staff, on the other hand, participated in the drafting of the scope of the SUSDEV 21 Study. They had also agreed to render assistance to the consultants when the Study was launched.

9. At the Chairman's invitation to respond to the papers provided by Green Power and Mrs Susan McPhail PANG, representatives of the Administration made the following points:

  1. The authors of the two papers had limited understanding of the school environment. They also embraced ideals different from those of ED.
  2. Hong Kong students should have no problem in answering the questions put forward in Susan McPhail PANG's paper with the knowledge they acquired through different subject groups at school and through the mass media.
  3. It might not be appropriate to implement an Environmental Education Act in Hong Kong as proposed in Green Power's paper because Hong Kong is a free society. Nor could the Administration agree with Green Power's comment that Hong Kong was lagging behind in environmental education.
  4. The Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) was a statutory fund set up with its roles clearly defined by law and a seed money of 50 million dollars. Up to June 1996, it had allocated funds up to 20 million dollars to 120 projects. Of which only 7.5 million went to fund environmental research and other projects. The rest of the funding mostly went to educational and community actions. Green Power's claim that ECF was giving priority to research was thus unfounded.
  5. The EPD was only providing secretariat service to the Environmental Campaign Committee. There was no conflict of role as Green Power claimed.

IV. Cyanide Fishing

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1615/95-96 and paper tabled and circulated to members not present vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1627/95-96)

10. Mr Richard YIP briefed members on the Administration's paper reporting on developments in cyanide fishing in Asia and the Western Pacific since the issue was last discussed by the Panel on 7 February 1996. Members noted that the Administration had already, as requested at the February meeting, raised the problem of cyanide fishing in meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Marine Resources Conservation Working Group and the APEC Fisheries Working Group. They were briefed on the outcome of these meetings and what additional actions were being taken to counteract the problem locally.

11. Members were glad to see Hong Kong taking a leading role in promoting regional co-operation in tackling the problem of cyanide fishing. They were particularly glad to learn that Hong Kong would be taking the lead to develop a project proposal on the issue with the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Chinese Taipei because the three were the largest consuming economies in the region and their co-operation would contribute a lot to the monitoring of the problem. In response to members' request for details on the project proposal, representatives of the Administration provided the following information:

  1. The scope of the project had yet to be fully defined, but it would probably take the form of a technical workshop to be held in 1997 to address the environmental impacts of cyanide fishing in coral reef areas. The proposal to be drawn up by the three economies would have to be submitted to APEC for consideration in September 1996. Hopefully producing economies like the Philippines and Indonesia would be involved in future deliberations on the proposal.
  2. The workshop would basically be conducted in two parts. The first part on impacts of cyanide fishing on coral reef ecology would be addressed by the Marine Resources Conservation Working Group. The Fisheries Working Group would be responsible for the part on fisheries resource and fisheries trade issues related to cyanide fishing.

12. In reply to members' questions on local actions, representatives of the Administration explained the limitations and problems encountered. Members noted that as Hong Kong laws could only apply to Hong Kong and most of the live reef fishes imported into Hong Kong were caught by fishermen of exporting countries and not by Hong Kong fishermen, control of the problem would be dependent on exporting countries taking firm actions against cyanide fishing in their waters. Trade in fish species that might become, or were already, endangered might also be regulated and monitored by listing these species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (possibly through an initial listing under Appendix III of the Convention by the relevant member economies). In this way, import countries such as Hong Kong could step up their import control by requiring exports of listed species to be covered by a 'cyanide free' certificate. The limitation of this measure was that such additional documentation requirement could only apply to specific species. Nonetheless, Hong Kong would explore ways of co-operating with authorities implementing such measures and make the following local efforts to help combat the problem in the region:

  1. In response to members' request at the February meeting for stricter enforcement and higher penalties, the Economic Services Branch had agreed to amend the Fisheries Protection Ordinance with a view to increasing the maximum fine for possession and use of toxic substances to capture fish from $10,000 to $200,000. It was hoped that after consultation the amendment could be introduced to the Legislative Council in the first half of the 1996-97 legislative session.
  2. In parallel with food surveillance programmes conducted by the Department of Health, the Agriculture and Fisheries Department was collecting at points of entry samples of fish susceptible to cyanide fishing for cyanide testing as a way to monitor the problem.
  3. To monitor live food fish trade, the Administration was already compiling from government and trade sources data on live fish imports and working on improving the classification system for fish imports. Relevant data would be reported at international conferences to pressurise producing economies into taking actions against cyanide fishing.
  4. The Administration was also compiling a list of local vessels engaged in capturing live fish in the Philippines and Indonesia and foreign vessels transporting live fish to Hong Kong to assist the Marine Police to step up enforcement of the laws against carriage of cyanide on vessels.

13. Noting the various efforts the Administration had made to address the problem of cyanide fishing since the February meeting, the Chairman expressed her appreciation of the Administration's positive attitude and good performance. She also expressed her wish for Hong Kong to keep up its leading role in monitoring the problem in APEC and in other international arenas.

The meeting ended at 4:15 p.m.
Legislative Council Secretariat
10 October 1996

Last Updated on 18 Aug, 1998