Ref: CB1/PL/EA /1 LegCo Paper No. CB(1)663/96-97
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of meeting held on Tuesday, 3 December 1996 at 8:30 a.m. in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai (Chairman)
    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon MOK Ying-fan
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP

Member attending :

    Hon LEE Kai-ming

Member absent :

    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing

Public officers attending :

    All items

    Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)
    Mr Rob LAW
    Director of Environmental Protection

    Items V and VI

    Dr Malcolm BROOM
    Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Water Policy)

    Item V

    Regional Commander of Marine Police
    Mr D W F O'BRIEN
    District Commander (Marine Outer Waters District)
    Mr Stanley WONG
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
    Mr Eric JOHNSON
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services
    Mr S P LAU
    Assistant Director of Agriculture and Fisheries (Conservation)
    Assistant Director of Agriculture and Fisheries (Fisheries)
    Mr Joseph SHAM
    Senior Capture Fisheries Officer
    Mr Keith WILSON
    Senior Fisheries Officer (Artificial Reef)
    Mr Edward WONG
    Senior Marine Parks Officer

    Item VI

    Mr K K KWOK
    Deputy Secretary for Works (Programme and Resources)

    Mr David HALL
    Officer in Charge of Sewage Infrastructure Group

    Item VII

    Miss Angela LUK
    Acting Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)
    Mr Benny WONG
    Assistant Director of Environmental Protection
    (Waste Facilities)

Attendance by invitation :

    Item V

    Marine Biological Association of Hong Kong

    Professor Brian MORTON
    Council Member
    Dr QIAN Pei-yuan
    Council Member

    Ocean Park Conservation Foundation

    Dr Thomas JEFFERSON
    Research Associate
    Ms Hiedi CHAN
    Project Development Co-ordinator

    World Wide Fund For Nature Hong Kong

    Ms Joanna RUXTON
    Senior Conservation Officer

Clerk in attendance :

    Miss Odelia LEUNG
    Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

    Ms Sarah YUEN
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)1

I. Election of Deputy Chairman

1. Dr TSE Wing-ling was elected Deputy Chairman of the Panel.

II Confirmation of minutes of meeting

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)372/96-97)
2. The minutes of the meeting held on 17 October 1996 were confirmed.

III Date of next meeting and items for discussion

(List of outstanding items for discussion (1996-97) tabled)

3. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next meeting of the Panel scheduled for 7 January 1997 -

  1. Landfill charging scheme and Waste Disposal (Amendment) Bill 1996 (all members to be invited to take part in the discussion of this item);

  2. Merchant Shipping (Prevention and Control of Pollution) (Charges for Discharge of Polluting Waste) Regulation 1996 and import of wastes (members of the LegCo Panel on Economic Services to be invited to take part in the discussion of this item); and

  3. Vehicle emission control strategy (members of the LegCo Panel on Transport to be invited to take part in the discussion of this item).

(Post-meeting note : at the request of the Administration, (c) was subsequently deleted from the agenda.)

IV. Information papers issued since last meeting

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)353/96-97, CB(1)374/96-97 and CB(1)428/96- 97)

4. Members noted that the following papers had been issued since the last Panel meeting held on 7 November 1996 -

  1. Memo from the Complaints Division referring to the Panel a complaint case lodged by the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners Limited concerning the basis for determining Sewage Charges and Trade Effluent Surcharges;

  2. Letter from the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners Limited concerning the basis for determining Trade Effluent Surcharges; and

  3. Letter from the Federation of Hong Kong Industries commenting on the review of Trade Effluent Surcharge Scheme.

V. Marine Conservation

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)423/96-97(01), (02), (03) and CB(1)435/96-97) Presentation by the Marine Police

5. With the aid of video and computer output, the District Commander (Marine Outer Waters District) (DC(MOWDIST)) made a presentation entitled "fish bombing in Hong Kong - investigation and detection". He introduced to members the type of explosives used in fish bombing, how fish bombs were used, the background and recent history of local fish bombing, details of explosives seizures, the main areas where seizures of explosives had been made, the law as applied to fish bombing, and the reasons for the increase of this kind of destructive fishing practice. The presentation also contained details on the efforts the Marine Police had been making to tackle the problem, namely, public education, establishment of contacts with the Chinese authorities and a change in police tactics by mounting an intelligence gathering operation in 1996 to identify the people involved in fish bombing and to ascertain the method used to bring the explosives into Hong Kong. He emphasised that the change in tactics had proved to be more effective than the traditional methods of shore patrols, special operations and stop-and-search. DC(MOWDIST) concluded that in consideration of the difficulties in detecting fish bombing and the damage it caused, penalties for offences under the Fisheries Protection Ordinance (Cap. 171) should be increased to effect a more forceful form of deterrent. The details of the presentation are at Appendix I.

6. In reply to members’ questions, DC(MOWDIST) supplemented the following information -Marine Police

  1. The type of explosives used in fish bombing was amatol, which originated from China. At members’ request, the Administration would ascertain if this was the same type used during the 1967 riots.

  2. There had been eight arrests since 1993, of which three were made in 1996. At present 14 officers were dedicated solely to intelligence gathering work and setting up observation posts to catch people in the act of fish bombing. With additional resources and manpower, the Marine Police had the capability of making more arrests for fish bombing.

Presentation by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD)

7. By circulating some photos, the Senior Capture Fisheries Officer (SCFO) made a presentation on the work of the AFD. He pointed out that to tackle fish bombing as well as other destructive fishing practices like cyanide fishing, electro-fishing, clam dredging and clam suction, the Administration was taking a series of actions. These included consulting interested parties on proposed amendments to the Fisheries Protection Ordinance with a view to sharply increasing the maximum fine from $10,000 to $200,000 for adopting destructive fishing practices, working on improvements to the classification system for fish imports so as to monitor live food fish trade, stepping up education and publicity against destructive fishing practices, and increasing participation in international forums to strengthen regional co-operation in this area. The AFD would keep the Panel posted in the progress of the above efforts and would endeavour to introduce the proposed amendments to the Fisheries Protection Ordinance into the Legislative Council in about three to four months’ time.

8. In response to members’ questions, SCFO also explained that as only a minute quantity of cyanide was used in cyanide fishing, the catch carried no risks to humans when consumed. In fact, any trace of cyanide in the fish body would disappear in seven to ten days’ time. The catch from fish bombing was also safe to consume because the fish died of concussion, not intoxication.

Presentation by the Marine Biological Association of Hong Kong (the Association)

9. Professor Brian MORTON briefed members on the submission from the Association. In the Association’s view, due to the lack of foresight and careful planning in the Government’s overall management policy, the fisheries industry in Hong Kong had developed too quickly over the last decade and led to overfishing and great damage to the marine environment. As conflicts mounted with the growing demand for fish and the emergence of competing demands for the sea for other purposes such as reclamation and dredging operations for the new airport, it was time for Hong Kong to decide what it was going to do with its marine resources and exercise more control over the above activities with better coastal planning and sustainable management.

Presentation by Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (the Foundation)

10. Dr Thomas JEFFERSON briefed members on the submission from the Foundation. The submission described the Foundation’s multi-disciplinary research programme on the Indo-Pacific Hump-Backed Dolphin population, down to such details as the history of the project, the preliminary findings as regards the Hump-Backed Dolphin’s distribution, abundance, social organisation, strandings and mortality, and the directions of future research. Referring to the findings, the Foundation called for continued and expanded funding of cetacean research in Hong Kong, development of an integrated coastal zone management plan for Hong Kong, establishment of further marine protected areas for cetaceans, and increased consideration of the importance of a healthy marine environment in planning for Hong Kong’s future.

Presentation by World Wide Fund For Nature Hong Kong (WWFHK)

11. Ms Joanna RUXTON briefed members on the submission from WWFHK and urged the Administration to pay attention to the following issues which were of vital importance for the preservation of Hong Kong’s marine biodiversity -

  1. As unrestricted inshore trawling was the main cause of depletion of Hong Kong’s fish stocks, Hong Kong should consider imposing restrictions on this activity. In addition, the Administration should subsidise retraining courses for fishermen to help them pursue a different career rather than continue subsidising fishing operations.

  2. With the rapid increase in population predicted in the Territorial Development Strategy Review, there was an urgent need to deal with the territory’s sewage disposal problem. Apart from implementing Phase I of the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS Phase I) as soon as practicable, the Administration should continue to deliberate on further stages of the SSDS, and endeavour to upgrade water quality.

  3. The Administration should use environmental impact assessment (EIA) as a planning tool to address cumulative impacts rather than merely as a means to assess the mitigation required to reduce environmental damage.

  4. Many marine species had yet to be protected by legislation, in particular their habitats.


12. Members were all concerned about the degradation of Hong Kong’s marine environment by pollution, coastal development works, overfishing and destructive fishing practices. They supported the concern groups’ call for immediate actions to tackle the above problems, in particular the disturbance caused by major reclamation and dredging works to Hong Kong’s inshore marine resources. They considered that a general administrative infrastructure should be in place for better co-ordination of efforts to look after marine environmental issues and that long-term planning should be implemented as regards how Hong Kong was going to use its marine resources in a sustainable way. A member opined that conservation of marine resources might necessitate a change of eating habits by educating the public not to consume endangered fish species.

13. In response, the Assistant Director of Agriculture and Fisheries (Fisheries) referred members to the Administration’s paper on marine conservation for the various actions taken by different government departments to sustain Hong Kong’s marine ecosystem. Members noted that the Administration was conducting studies on fisheries resources and fishing operations in Hong Kong waters, the biodiversity of corals and fish, and the Chinese White Dolphin. The Administration was also investing some $100 million in an artificial reefs programme, actively participating in international forums to facilitate regional co-operation to address the impacts of destructive fishing practices, strengthening legislation and law enforcement against destructive fishing practices, implementing a marine parks programme to protect and conserve Hong Kong’s marine environment and ecological heritage, and stepping up education and publicity and cross-border liaison in this regard.

14. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (PAS / PEL) further supplemented the following information -

  1. The Administration had already sought funding approval from the Finance Committee to commission the Study on Sustainable Development for the 21st Century (SUSDEV 21) in early 1997 to examine how sustainability considerations could be incorporated into Hong Kong’s policy and planning framework. Public consultation would be a main component of this Study, which would enable Hong Kong to carry out coastal developments and use its marine resources in a sustainable way.

  2. Many infrastructure projects under construction had already considered environmental factors, and strategic environmental studies conducted at the planning stage would examine the impact of different land uses from a macro and strategic point of view. SUSDEV 21 would further help to ensure that such developments would not lead to harmful effects on the environment with strengthened monitoring.

15. The Chairman queried how SUSDEV 21 could tie in with the above-mentioned studies of AFD. In response, PAS / PEL explained that SUSDEV 21 would concentrate on examining 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, whereas the results of AFD’s studies would provide reference materials for the consultants and serve as baselines for SUSDEV 21.

16. On water pollution, members were concerned about the effects of the recent suspension of tunnelling works of SSDS Stage I on the whole Scheme, and enquired if there were any short-term remedial measures to ensure that water pollution would not deteriorate as a result of the suspension. In response, the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) emphasised that the tunnelling works represented only 20% of the total cost of SSDS Stage I, and would cause delay only in one part of the sewage system around the Victoria Harbour area, not the whole sewage system. There were other programmes that dealt with water quality in other parts of Hong Kong. For example, the Administration was closely monitoring the Pearl River’s impacts on Hong Kong’s western waters, and would adjust the treatment level of waste water accordingly. As for Hong Kong’s eastern waters, various programmes were in place to improve the water quality there, and the Administration had been quite successful in reducing pollution from livestock farming in Tolo Harbour.Chairman

17. Concluding the discussion, the Chairman proposed and members agreed that a letter be sent to the Chief Secretary to relay the Panel’s concern about marine conservation and to call for both short-term and long-term measures to protect the marine resources. The Chairman also urged the Administration to introduce the amendments to the Fisheries Protection Ordinance into the Legislative Council as soon as practicable.

[Post-meeting note : the Chairman issued a letter to the Chief Secretary on 18 December 1996 and the letter was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)563/96-97]

VI. Suspension of tunnelling works of Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (Stage I)

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)409/96-97)

18. The Deputy Secretary for Works (DS/W) reported on the latest developments regarding the problems encountered in the tunnelling works of SSDS Stage I since the last Panel meeting held on 7 November 1996. He informed members that on 26 October 1996, the Engineer gave a formal warning to the Contractor in accordance with the conditions of the two contracts in question that he was failing to proceed the works with due diligence. On 23 November 1996, the Engineer wrote to the Director of Drainage Services certifying that the Contractor had failed to proceed with due diligence to construct the tunnels in accordance with the terms of the contracts. Pursuant to the Engineer’s certificate, the Contractor had on 26 November 1996 been given seven days’ notice of the Administration’s intention to re-enter the sites and thus formally take the works out of the Contractor’s hands. After taking over the sites upon expiry of the notice, the Administration would survey the conditions of the tunnels and assess the amount of remaining works to be done. The next step was to package the works in such a way that the Administration could proceed with the outstanding works as soon as practicable to bring about an early completion of the entire SSDS Stage I.


19. Responding to members’ request for estimates on possible extra costs resulting from the incident, DS/W explained that as the Government would need to bring in a new contractor to complete the outstanding tunnelling works, estimates on extra costs would not be available before the completion of the tendering exercise. The Administration paid the contractor according to the progress of works. As of date, about $0.5 billion had been paid and about 40% of the works had been completed. The actual situation would only be known after site investigation had been done. The approved project estimate for the two contracts added together was $1.3 billion. Should extra costs be incurred, the Administration would consider claiming compensation from the original contractor.

20. A member opined that given the present problem, only 25% of the total sewage flow would be delivered to Stonecutters for treatment when the SSDS Stage I was commissioned, the Administration should consider reducing the Sewage Charges (SC).

21. In response, DS/W emphasised that SC was collected to cover only the operating and maintenance costs of sewage services on the basis of costs recovery. SC did not cover any capital costs. Moreover, since the SSDS Stage I had yet to be commissioned, the existing SC did not cover its operating costs but only those of the sewage services already in operation. Indeed the existing levels of charges were unlikely to be adequate to prevent the Sewage Services Trading Fund from running into deficit by the end of the 1996-97 financial year.

Causes for the incident

22.In response to members’ questions on the causes for the incident, DS/W provided the following clarifications -

  1. The two contracts were let according to the usual procedures, and the Contractor was required under the Contract to complete the works except where it was physically or legally impossible to do so. Not only were they let out according to the usual procedures for works contracts but also the terms thereof provided that the Contractor had the responsibility for completing the works unless there were substantial or legal problems. Subsequent to the Contractor’s unilateral suspension of works between June and July 1996, the Administration had held a number of meetings with the senior management of the Contractor to try to solve the problems. The Administration had also, through the Attorney General’s Chambers, appointed external legal advisers together with independent tunnelling and geotechnical experts to give expert opinions and advice in these fields. Upon receiving reports from these experts, the Administration had made certain proposals to the Contractor. Regrettably these proposals were all unacceptable to him and the Administration had to take the actions mentioned in paragraph 18 above.

  2. The works stoppage had nothing to do with any problem of the design or the geology of the sites. In fact, the Administration had conducted comprehensive feasibility studies between 1989 and 1991 before deciding on the construction methods. The Administration intended to complete the remaining works according to the original design.

(As the Chairman had other commitments, the Deputy Chairman took over the chair at 10:30 a.m.)

23. Some members queried if the stoppage was a result of the Administration’s failure to monitor the works properly. They opined that the Administration should review their monitoring role to avoid similar recurrence. In response, DS/W emphasised that there had been no problems in monitoring. The main cause for the stoppage was the disagreement over the magnitude of the problem and the solution. The Contractor claimed that the water inflows to the two tunnels were unexpected and beyond those contemplated by the contracts. They proposed to change various engineering design and construction methods which were not acceptable to the Administration on technical and financial grounds. Likewise, the Administration’s proposals based on expert advice were not accepted by the Contractor either. Such dissenting views would be the crux of contention in future arbitration or litigation concerning the works stoppage. At members’ request, the Administration agreed to consider releasing the expert advice should legal advice confirm that such disclosure would not prejudice the ensuing legal proceedings.Works

VII. Waste to energy facilities

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)423/96-97(04))

24. The Assistant Director of Environmental Protection (Waste Facilities) (ADEP(WF)) briefed members on the Administration’s information paper on the subject and informed members that the Administration intended to seek funding support of $34.5 million from the Public Works Subcommittee on 18 December 1996 to engage consultants to undertake studies on using waste-to-energy incinerators (the proposed facilities) to reduce the quantity of wastes that had to be disposed of at landfills. He further informed members that the public consultation exercise conducted during April to July 1996 had shown unanimous support to the introduction of the proposed facilities into Hong Kong.

Technical factors

25. In response to some members’ questions on how the proposed facilities would compare with the planned Centralised Incineration Facility (CIF) and the existing Chemical Waste Treatment Centre on Tsing Yi Island in waste disposal, ADEP(WF) made the following points -

  1. While the CIF would mainly handle animal carcasses and clinical wastes, the proposed facilities would treat domestic wastes. As such, their capacities and environmental standards were different. More stringent standards would be imposed for handling clinical wastes. The Administration intended to commission the CIF in two or three years but more time would be needed for the operation of the proposed facilities. In fact, the Administration was at present actively re-examining the scale and cost of the CIF in the light of comments made by members and some medical professionals.

  2. The Chemical Waste Treatment Centre was specially designed for treating chemical wastes and would not handle animal carcasses or domestic wastes.

26. On the question of technicalities, ADEP(WF) made the following points -

  1. The heat generated by incineration would be used to produce electricity and hot water. The study would examine the potential for connecting the electricity to the existing electricity grid. Depending on the location of the proposed facilities, the Administration would also examine whether there were any opportunities to implement District Heating or District Cooling systems.

  2. The capacity and number of the proposed facilities would depend on the number of potential sites as well as the latest technological developments.

The timing factor

27. Members were concerned whether the proposed facilities would operate in time to tie in with the closure of the Kwai Chung Incineration Plant in 1997 and the exhaustion of the existing landfill sites in 2012. In response, ADEP(WF) made the following points -

  1. Whilst the Administration would endeavour to expedite the process, the proposed facilities might take eight years to commission as there might be a need for land resumption or amendment to the zoning plans.

  2. After the closure of the Kwai Chung Incineration Plant, all domestic wastes would be disposed of at landfills. However, as the Plant presently only handled 700 tonnes of wastes daily, its closure would have minimal effect on the present situation.

  3. The closure of the Kwai Chung Incineration Plant would not affect the disposal of animal carcasses, which were currently disposed of at landfills. Landfill disposal was environmentally sound if the landfill site was properly selected and managed. Pending the commissioning of CIF, cremators might be a possible option for the handling of animal carcasses.

Need for the consultancy study

28. While supporting the introduction of the proposed facilities, some members queried the need for the consultancy study. They opined that instead of paying such a high consultancy fee, the Administration should refer to overseas experience as regards the feasibility of the technology. There might not be a need to engage the service of consultants in site search as landfill sites were logically the potential sites. A member further pointed out that to avoid public discontent, the Administration should consult the affected residents as early as practicable.

29. In response, ADEP (WF) emphasised that the Administration already had a very good understanding of the technology and the consultants were commissioned mainly to conduct environmental impact assessment (EIA), planning, transport and financial assessment for each of the potential sites and then make recommendations on preferred sites. As shown by past experience, EIA was conducive to convincing affected residents to accept such facilities in their vicinity. Moreover, in terms of air pollution, incineration was quite different from landfilling. There was thus a need to conduct a detailed consultancy study to ensure that the air quality would not have any adverse health impact on the residents. The study would also seek to assess the need to incorporate pollution control technology into the incinerators. After potential sites were identified, the Administration would ensure comprehensive consultation be made with the residents as well as the relevant district boards.

30. The meeting ended at 11:00 a.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
9 January 1997

Last Updated on 18 August 1998