Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1)1343
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)


Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Planning, Lands and Works and
Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of joint meeting held on Wednesday, 1 April 1998, at 10:45 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Panel on Planning, Lands and Works

* Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP (Chairman)
Hon KAN Fook-yee (Deputy Chairman)
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
* Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen

Panel on Environmental Affairs

Dr Hon Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin (Chairman)
Hon LAU Kong-wah (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Henry WU
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members attending :

Hon LEE Kai-ming
Hon CHAN Yuen-han

Members absent :

Panel on Planning, Lands and Works

* Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
* Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon LEUNG Chun-ying, JP
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon LAU Wong-fat, JP
Hon CHOY Kan-pui, JP
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting

Panel on Environmental Affairs

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon MOK Ying-fan
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP

(* also members of the Environmental Affairs Panel)

Public officers attending :

Item II

Mr Wilson FUNG Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands/Planning

Mr Bosco C K FUNG
Deputy Director of Planning/Territorial

Mr Elvis AU
Principal Environmental Protection Officer
(Territory Assessment)
Environmental Protection Department

Item III

Mr CHAN Wing-sang
Deputy Secretary for Works/Works Policy

Mr HU Man-shiu
Director of Water Supplies

Mr CHAN Pui-wah
Deputy Director of Water Supplies

Mr CHEUNG Tze-leung
Chief Waterworks Chemist
Water Supplies Department

Item IV

Director of Drainage Services

Assistant Director (Waste and Water)
Environmental Protection Department

Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Environment)

Senior Engineer (Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme)
Drainage Services Department

Government Engineer (INCO)
Works Bureau

Attendance by invitation :

Item II

Environment Resources Management Hong Kong Limited

Mr Chandran NAIR
Chief Executive Director

Executive Director

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Odelia LEUNG,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

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

I Election of Chairman

Mr Edward HO was elected Chairman for the joint meeting.

II Study on Sustainable Development for the 21st Century (SUSDEV 21)
(PLC Paper Nos. CB(1)1178(01), CB(1)1249 (issued after the meeting))

2. The Deputy Director of Planning/Territorial (DD/PT) clarified that the Chinese translation for the term "Study on Sustainable Development for the 21st Century" (SUSDEV 21 Study) in the information paper should be. He advised that the SUSDEV 21 Study commenced in September 1997 and was targeted for completion by end of 1999.

3. Mr Chandran NAIR of Environment Resources Management Hong Kong Limited conducted a visual presentation on the objectives and progress of the SUSDEV 21 Study. He explained that a commonly adopted definition of "sustainable development" was "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". The Study aimed at developing a sustainable development system (SDS) for Hong Kong which would be an integrated decision-making framework to facilitate a balance between social, environmental and economic needs of the community. He stressed the importance of public participation during the process of the Study and said that public consultation would be conducted in two phases with the first phase to be launched on 2 April 1998.

4. Members generally shared that there was a need to incorporate the concept of "sustainable development" into the process of policy formulation, strategic planning and implementation. A member, however, queried the need to launch the large scale SUSDEV 21 Study given that the government had been adopting a comprehensive approach taking into account all needs of the community in its policy planning process. A member stressed the importance of conducting the Study in an open and transparent manner as well as involving public participation in the course of developing and improving the SDS for Hong Kong.

5. In response, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Planning) (PAS/PEL) emphasized that recognizing the importance of sustaining Hong Kong's success without compromising the quality of life or economic well-being of the future, the Administration was fully committed to implementing sustainable development in its various practices. Besides developing a SDS within the government to facilitate formulation of mutually supportive policies, SUSDEV 21 Study also tasked with conducting baseline economic, social and environmental studies. As regards public involvement in the Study, PAS/PEL stressed that success of the implementation of sustainable development in Hong Kong required involvement of all sectors including the government, general public, various stakeholder groups, elected bodies, academics, professionals, non-government organizations, business and industrial sectors. Consultation would be conducted to gauge views of the entire community to help define sustainable development in Hong Kong's context, and develop guiding values, sustainability indicators and criteria covering different objectives of society and the SDS.

6. Some members opined that the Feedback Form designed to collect public views had much room for improvement. They pointed out that some questions were vague and it was misleading to ask respondents to state their aspirations without drawing their attention to the costs associated. They were of the view that the consultant should step up publicity to promote understanding and awareness of the concept of sustainable development among the general public.

7. In response, Mr NAIR clarified that the Feedback Form was not a questionnaire to survey public opinion. The target groups were informed respondents and stakeholder groups who had basic understanding of the sustainable development concept. The Form had been tested for its validity among some government departments and proven to be effective. The issue about trade-offs associated with desired values would be addressed in detail at consultation meetings. DD/TP supplemented that the Feedback Form was one of the various means to consult the public. Public consultation would focuse on promoting public understanding and awareness of sustainable development at the beginning of the Study, whereas more in-depth consultation would be conducted with stakeholder groups.

8. As regards the concern about possible duplication of SUSDEV 21 Study with the work of the Commission on Strategic Development, PAS/PEL clarified that the Commission was tasked to devise long-term development scenarios covering both social, economic and infrastructual development for Hong Kong while the Study aimed at developing a SDS to facilitate policy formulation. The Government would liaise closely with the Commission such that the results of the Study could be taken into account in the work of the Commission.

9. Sharing a member's view that sustainable development in Hong Kong was closely linked to that in the Pearl River Delta Region, DD/TP advised that the consultant was concerned about the impact of developments in the Region on Hong Kong and had produced a report on the Review of Development Trends in the Pearl River Delta and Related Trans-boundary Issues. He added that the Mainland Central Government formally approved the "National Agenda 21" in 1994 which highlighted sustainable development being an important guiding principle for the nation's development. The Guangdong authorities had also drawn up its own "Agenda 21". The Guangdong side was briefed on Hong Kong's SUSDEV 21 Study at the eighth meeting of the Hong Kong - Guangdong Environmental Protection Liaison Group held in January 1998. The Administration would maintain close liaison with the Guangdong authorities on issues related to sustainable development of mutual concerns through both formal and informal contacts.

III Quality of Dongjiang Water
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)1178(02), PLC Brief Ref. WB(CR)200/04)

10. Members noted the actions taken by the Hong Kong Government and the Guangdong Provincial People's Government (GPPG) in monitoring the quality of Dongjiang water and the Administration's proposal to provide an interest-free loan of $2,364 million to the GPPG to help finance the construction of a new closed aqueduct for conveying water from Dongjiang to Hong Kong.

11. In reply to enquiries about the water treatment cost, the Director of Water Supplies (D/WS) advised that the variable treatment cost, including mainly the cost for purchase of treatment chemicals, was $0.085 and $0.089 per cubic metre of water in 1996 and 1997 respectively.

12. Some members queried the effectiveness of the water quality improvement project for Dongjiang and the rationale for providing an interest-free loan to the GPPG to implement the project. They were of the view that the GPPG should have a contractual obligation to improve the quality of water supplied to Hong Kong in compliance with standards stipulated in the 1989 Agreement on water supply.

13. In response, D/WS explained that at present Dongjiang water was conveyed to Shenzhen through open channels. Rapid development in the areas on route had caused pollution which affected the water quality. The GPPG had assured that the construction of a new closed aqueduct would be a fundamental engineering solution to solve the water quality problem. It had carried out comprehensive researches and was fully confident in the effectiveness of the project. As regards the rationale for providing financial assistance to the GPPG, D/WS advised that in accordance with the 1989 Agreement, Hong Kong was contracted to take 690 million cubic metres (mcm) in 1995 with an annual increment of 30 million mcm up to the year 2000. There was increasing concern about water overflowing from local reservoirs in wet years due to the slowing down of growth of water demand in Hong Kong in recent years. In return for the loan, the GPPG had agreed to reduce the annual committed increase in supply quantity from 1998 to 2004 and, thereafter, take into account Hong Kong's future demand growth and reservoir storage situation in considering the supply quantities. The total savings in recurrent expenditure arising from the reduced water supply would amount to $2,240 million while the total interest forgone from the proposed loan would be $2,000 million. Recognizing the significant improvements to quality of Dongjiang water supplied to Hong Kong, the need to reduce potential overflow from local reservoirs and the financial benefits from reduced annual supplies, the Administration supported the proposed loan to the GPPG.

14. Responding to further enquiries, D/WS said that the proposed terms and conditions of the loan included, inter alia, that the Hong Kong side might request a reduction in the agreed quantity of water supply if the quality failed to reach the required standards and might recoup the undrawn quantity at a later date. However, there was no provision in the 1989 Agreement for Hong Kong to reduce unilaterally the quantity of water intake due to non-compliance with water quality standards. He added that the 1989 Agreement already provided that the Hong Kong side had a priority for supply of Dongjiang water up to the agreed annual supply quantities should there be inadequate supply of water in both Guangdong and Hong Kong.

15. On the concern about monitoring of the water quality improvement project. D/WS advised that a joint design and construction technical liaison group would be set up. The group would meet at least twice a year and the Guangdong side would report progress and details of the construction to the Hong Kong side regularly. The Hong Kong side would pay site visits to ascertain the progress and quality of works. To enable effective monitoring of the project, D/WS added that instead of providing the loan in a lump sum, it would be drawn down in eight equal instalments in June and December each year with the first payment to be made in December 1998. The GPPG had assured to repay the loan in 20 equal yearly instalments starting from the commissioning of the project or year 2003, whichever was earlier.

16. Some members considered it too hasty to require the Finance Committee (FC) to approve the funding proposal at the meeting on 3 April 1998. The Deputy Secretary for Works/Works Policy stressed that the project was only formally put forward in August 1997. Both sides deliberated on the details in the following months. The Executive Council endorsed the proposed loan on 24 March 1998. The Administration had to seek FC's approval at its last scheduled meeting for the session on 3 April 1998.

17. A member requested the Administration to arrange a visit to Dongjiang to enable members to have a better understanding on the project before discussing the funding proposal at the coming FC meeting. The Chairman said that interested members should approach the Administration for assistance.

18. As regards the suggestion of exploring a better quality source of raw water in Gangdong for supply to Hong Kong, D/WS advised that the Hong Kong Government had been pursuing this with the GPPG over the past few years. Besides making a costly investment for constructing new water transfer systems for the benefit of Hong Kong, the GPPG needed to take into consideration implications on navigation, and irrigation as well as economic development downstream of the new water source should water be diverted for supply to Hong Kong and other places. Nevertheless, he assured members that the Administration would continue to pursue the suggestion with the Guangdong side. He further remarked that, according to rough estimation, the cost involved in developing a new water source in Guangdong would be much higher than the cost of the water improvement project for Dongjiang.

IV Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme Stage I tunnelling works
(PLC Paper No. CB(1)1224(01))

19. Members expressed grave concern about the recent problems encountered in the tunnelling works project under the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS) Stage I and consequential delay in completion of the project.

20. The Director of Drainage Services (D/DS) advised that two problems were encountered in the construction of the two western tunnels. The first was failure of the lifting system for removing rock excavated from the tunnels. He explained that the system, having a maximum load of about 20 tonnes, was installed by the previous contractor. The system failed when it was used up to its full capacity by the new contractor when excavation at the two tunnels started in full swing. After examination, the system was proved to be unsuitable and the contractor was making arrangements to replace the whole system as soon as possible. As regards the second problem, the Tsing Yi to Stonecutters Island tunnel entered a band of weak rock in the middle of February 1998 and some material from the roof entered into the tunnel leading to a temporary stoppage of works. Such problems were to be expected in deep-tunnelling projects and provisions to deal with them had been included in the completion contracts. Investigations of the weak zone were underway and the project consultant and contractor were working very closely to work out the most suitable technical solution.

21. On the concern about delay in completion of the project, D/DS stressed that the two problems would be resolved shortly and the Administration was actively looking for ways to recover some of the time lost. The project was originally estimated to be completed by mid-1999 and the Administration anticipated a slight delay of about six months. As such, the target completion of SSDS Stage I project would remain in the year 2000. The Administration noted members' views on the need to strengthen monitoring of the work of the contractor and progress of the project to avoid unnecessary delay and unjustified additional expenses.

22. A member considered that the new contractor and the consultant of the project should be held responsible for failure to identify the technical problem associated with the lifting system and geological problem underground before commencement of the tunnelling project. In response, D/DS explained that the lifting system was manufactured by a reputable supplier and had been fully inspected by professional consultant and confirmed to be suitable before re-entering of the contract. The Administration was seeking arbitration with the previous contractor over the contract suspension. Should the new contractor seek damages for the lifting system, the Administration would consider lodging a claim against the previous contractor to recover the cost involved. As for the responsibility of the consultant, D/DS said that a $220 million consultancy had been commissioned to undertake investigation and surveying works on the physical environment for the project. A total of 150 boreholes were drilled along the proposed routes of the two tunnels and a number of fault areas had been identified. Indeed, the weak rock zone was revealed in the consultant report but had appeared about 100 metres earlier than originally surveyed. Problems of this kind were not uncommon in such a large scale deep-tunnelling project.

23. As regards actions to prevent similar recurrence in the construction of the four eastern tunnels, D/DS said that the concerned completion contracts were awarded in January 1998 and tunnelling works had yet to commence. The Administration was confident that the contractors would complete the works safely, on schedule and within reasonable cost. The Administration would ensure that the contractors on each of the tunnel completion contracts would be made aware of technical difficulties on the other contracts to avoid recurrence of similar problems.

24. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 1:00 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
3 June 1998