Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1)1333
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref: CB1/PL/EA

Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of meeting held on
Thursday, 26 March 1998, at 9:45 am in Conference
Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present.:

Dr Hon Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin (Chairman)
Hon LAU Kong-wah (Deputy Chairman)
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Henry WU
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon IP Kwok-him
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon MOK Ying-fan
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP

Public officers attending :

Items III and IV

Acting Director of Environmental Protection

Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment
and Lands (Environment)

Item III

Assistant Director (Waste & Water)
Environmental Protection Department

Item IV

Dr Mike CHIU
Assistant Director (Local Control)
Environmental Protection Department

Mr Lawrence LAU
Senior Environmental Protection Officer
Environmental Protection Department

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Odelia LEUNG, Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

Ms Connie SZE-TO,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)1

I Confirmation of minutes of meeting and endorsement of Panel report
(PLC Paper Nos. CB(1)1076 and 1170)

The minutes of meeting held on 23 January 1998 (CB(1)1076) were confirmed.

2 Members endorsed the draft Panel report (CB(1)1170) subject to amendments suggested by the Chairman to add an example to illustrate enhanced cross-border cooperation in paragraph 8. They noted that the report would be tabled at the Council meeting to be held on 8 April 1998.

II Information papers issued since last meeting
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)1104 - Quarterly Progress Report No. 10 of the Sewage Services Trading Fund)

3 Members noted the captioned information paper issued since last meeting.

III Progress report on Phase I of the Environmental Impact Assessment for Stage II of the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)1179(01))

4 The Assistant Director (Waste & Water) (AD/W&W) briefed members on the background to and the progress of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Study for Stage II of the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS) the purpose of which was to determine the preferred arrangement for the long term treatment level and outfall location for the collected sewage.

5 Members noted that the consultants had started to develop the risk assessment computer model (RAM) and the full 3-dimensional water quality computer model (3-D WQM) by using data collected from surveys and testing programmes. The computer models would form the basis of the impact assessment which in turn would facilitate the selection of the preferred option. It was envisaged that Phase 1 of the EIA Study would be completed by mid-June 1998 to be followed by a six-week public consultation exercise. A decision would be made in August 1998 and Phase 2 of the Study, which included conducting a detailed EIA on the selected option, would then be proceeded immediately for completion by the end of 1998.

6 Noting that the original target date for completing the EIA Study was January 1998, members were disappointed at the serious delay and sought explanations for this. While supporting the SSDS in principle, a member criticized the Administration for commencing Stage I of the Scheme without first conducting an EIA Study and opined that the recent problems encountered in the tunnelling works under Stage I of the Scheme was resulted from the lack of an EIA Study. The member further urged the Administration to suspend the construction works, to conduct a comprehensive review of the SSDS and a detailed EIA to decide on the way forward. Her views were shared by some members.

7 In response, the Administration explained that the present EIA Study was recommended by the independent International Review Panel which oversaw the work of the consultants undertaking a review of the options for Stage II of the SSDS in 1994. The EIA Study was commissioned in May 1996. Owing to its large scale and complexity, it had taken longer time than originally estimated to complete Phase 1 of the Study. Besides requiring more time to discuss with the Chinese Authority on conducting marine surveys in the Mainland waters, the consultants had spent considerable time on development of the RAM and the full 3-DWQM which were unique to Hong Kong. Notwithstanding the delay, development of these models had been benefited by inclusion of recently available data, such as updated population forecasts.

8 The Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) (DS/PEL) stressed the important role of the SSDS as the long-term solution to water pollution in Hong Kong's harbour. On the query about possible relationship between recent problems encountered in the tunnelling works under Stage I of the SSDS and the absence of an EIA Study on the project, DS/PEL clarified that the two matters were unrelated. He said that given the size of the tunnelling works project and the complex geological conditions in urban areas, it was not uncommon to find technical problems. Members noted that a joint meeting of the Panel and the Panel on Planning, Lands and Works would be held on 1 April 1998 to discuss the progress of tunnelling works project.

9 In reply to members' enquiries about the details of the RAM and 3-DWQM, their operation as well as reliability, AD/W&W explained that the two models would assess the effects of sewage on marine animals and project the marine environments under different treatment processes and outfall locations options. The Acting Director of Environmental Protection advised that the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) would cross-check data gathered from field surveys against outputs from the models to ensure that the models were reliable. He added that to achieve the desired water quality objectives, two broad combination of options, namely, enhanced level of treatment and a short tunnelled outfall, or low level of treatment and long tunnelled outfall, would be considered. In terms of outfall locations, four potential sites had been identified including Stonecutters Island, Lamma Island west, Lamma Island east and Lema Channel. DS/PEL stressed that the Administration would carefully examine the cost and environmental implications of various treatment and outfall options in selecting the preferred option.

10 Regarding a member's suggestion of conducting a presentation on the operation of the two models, the Chairman advised interested members to approach the PLC Secretariat for arrangement with the Administration.

11 Concerning public consultation on the preferred long term treatment and disposal option for the SSDS, a member urged the Administration to extend the consultation period to at least two and a half month to allow sufficient time for the public and interested parties, including the first Legislative Council, to study the EIA report and express their views.

12 Concluding the discussion, the Chairman urged the Administration to seriously consider the views expressed by members. The Administration noted members' view on the need to consult the first Legislative Council in selecting the preferred option.

IV Water pollution at Shing Mun River
(PLC Paper Nos. CB(1)1179(02), 1204(01) and (02))

13 Members noted that the item was referred to the Panel for discussion by PLC Members meeting with Sha Tin Provisional District Board (STPDB) members in January 1998. They shared with STPDB members that water pollution problem at Shing Mun River was serious and was disappointed at the slow progress in implementing water quality improvement measures by the Administration. Some members also urged the Administration to consider STPDB members' proposal of converting the river into an artificial lake as a long-term solution to the pollution problem and a means to enhance the recreational value of the river.

14 In response, the Assistant Director (Local Control) (AD/LC) stressed that the Administration was committed to improving the water quality at Shing Mun River through implementation of control measures over the past ten years, such as the declaration of the Tolo Harbour and Channel Water Control Zone under the Water Pollution Control Ordinance and the implementation of the Livestock Waste Control Scheme. There had been progressive improvement in the environmental conditions of the river despite increasing population and rapid development in the river catchment area. The pollution load discharging into the river dropped by nearly 90% by the end of 1997. The number of complaints had reduced drastically and only four complaints about odour problem near Tai Wai section of the river were received in 1997. EPD would continue its efforts to reduce the remaining pollution load of the river by implementing the sewerage connection programme for unsewered villages in Sha Tin and stepping up enforcement to curb illegal discharges into the river catchment. As regards the improvement of contaminated sediments at the bottom of the river, AD/LC said that the consultancy study completed in December 1997 recommended a cost-effective and environmentally acceptable improvement strategy combining bioremediation and dredging methods. Improvement works were envisaged to commence in 2000/2001 for completion in 2002/2003. EPD anticipated that with the implementation of the aforementioned improvement measures, the designated water quality of Shing Mun River would ultimately be achieved and the beneficial use of the river as a secondary contact recreation zone mainly for rowing activities could be satisfied by 2005.

15 On the proposal of converting Shing Mun River into an artificial lake, AD/LC advised that the relevant government departments and the consultant had studied the proposal but considered it not feasible as it required the construction of dams which would likely impede the natural flow of water and undermine the river's ability as a drainage channel for controlling floods in the whole of Sha Tin New Town. The stagnant water contained by dams would also aggravate sedimentation and lead to deterioration of the river water quality. AD/LC added that STPDB had been informed of the impracticability of the proposal.

V Any other business

16 As this was the last regular meeting of the Panel on Environmental Affairs of the Provisional Legislative Council, the Chairman thanked members for their support and the Administration for its co-operation during the session.

17 There being no other business, the meeting ended at 10:40 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
1 June 1998