Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Environmental Affairs

Cross-boundary cooperation and coordination on environmental issues


This paper informs members of the cooperation and coordination between Hong Kong and Guangdong on environmental matters, as requested by the Provisional Legislative Council Panel on Environmental Affairs.


2.The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is only a small segment of a much larger catchment area of southern China, known as the Pearl River Delta area. It has long been recognised that pollution is no respecter of administrative boundaries and that the overall increase in economic activities in the Region including the HKSAR would lead to an increase in pollution. Close liaison, both formal and informal, with the various environmental authorities in the region has therefore been actively pursued for more than 17 years.

3.In 1979, the prospect of rapid economic development in Hong Kong and Guangdong and the potential cross-border transfer of pollution led the then Environmental Protection Advisor to establish contacts with the Guangdong authorities. The objective was to establish channels of communication and to provide the basis for joint action in tackling cross-border environmental problems. This effort led to the first visit of a delegation from the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau to Hong Kong in January 1983. A study on environmental protection of the Deep Bay and its catchment area jointly organised by Hong Kong and Shenzhen in 1990 marked the first joint effort in environmental studies. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Shenzhen River Regulation Project, which started in December 1993, was the first co-operation between Mainland and Hong Kong in conducting an EIA. The EIA was successfully completed in September 1995. This joint venture approach has become a model for subsequent co-operation in the management of EIAs.


4.To further enhance the co-operation and co-ordination on environmental management and pollution control efforts in areas of mutual concern, a Hong Kong-Guangdong Environmental Protection Liaison Group (EPLG) was set up in July 1990, comprising senior government officials of both governments. The Hong Kong delegation is headed by the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands and its members include :

  • Director of Environmental Protection;

  • Director of Agriculture and Fisheries;

  • Director of Planning; and

  • Director of Drainage Services.

5.The Guangdong delegation is headed by the Director of Environmental Protection Bureau of Guangdong Province and its members include:

  • Vice Chairman of Construction Committee of Guangdong Province;

  • Deputy Director of Guangdong Provincial Oceanic and Aquatic Bureau;

  • Deputy Secretary-General of People's Government of Shenzhen;

  • Director of Environmental Protection Bureau of Shenzhen;

  • Director of South China Sea Branch of State Oceanic Administration; and

  • Deputy Division Chief, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Division, Office of Foreign Affairs, the People's Government of Guangdong Province.

6.Since its formation in 1990, the EPLG has met seven times. We have been trying to make the work of the Liaison Group more transparent. A press release is issued after each meeting to inform the public of the outcome. A progress report was also submitted to the previous LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs in January this year.

7.A Technical Sub-group (TSG) was also formed in 1990 under the EPLG. It was originally set up to consider common standards and objectives for the environmental protection of Deep Bay's ecosystem, in particular the general development of the area and the beneficial uses which could be sustained. In recent years, the TSG has taken up a much broader responsibility. Apart from supporting the Deep Bay Regional Control Strategy Study, it also helps to implement the EPLG's annual Work Programme. So far, ten meetings of the TSG have been held. Experts of both sides also meet once every two months.

Major Achievements

8.The Liaison Group and its Technical Sub-group have discussed and carried out studies on a wide range of environmental issues, and organized quite a number of visits, workshops and seminars. These have enabled the Liaison Group to gather the necessary information and experience before embarking on any major venture and provided good opportunities for both sides to learn more of each other's systems and to exchange views on specific topics. Some of the major achievements include :

  1. Designating Deep Bay as the highest priority area requiring protective conservation actions from both sides. An environmental management and action plan for managing the environmental quality in Deep Bay was formulated in 1992. Under the action plan, the Liaison Group has completed a joint monitoring study on the air and water quality in 1995 and has supported the commissioning of the Deep Bay Regional Control Strategy Study to confirm Deep Bay's dispersive and self-assimilative capacity and to develop a water quality model for the long term strategic environmental management of the Deep Bay Catchment Area. The study is scheduled for completion in January 1998. A system to exchange monitoring data and environmental information for major development projects around Deep Bay has also been established. 12 EIA reports (7 from the Hong Kong side and 5 from the Guangdong side) have so far been exchanged and further exchange of information on priority projects is on-going. A review of the Deep Bay Action Plan was completed in early December this year, and has recommended further actions to control air quality in Deep Bay and strengthen cooperation on environmental assessment and audit;

  2. Commencing a joint study on environmental protection of Mirs Bay in January 1996. Both sides have agreed to protect and preserve the Mirs Bay environment. The study was completed in early December this year, and has identified various major environmental issues which would affect the ecological importance of Mirs Bay, namely the Yantian port development, the future increase in population/recreational/industrial developments around Mirs Bay and the economic activities associated with fish culture zones. The study has set out a joint environmental management strategy and action plan for Mirs Bay, covering actions on environmental assessment and audit, pollution control, sewage treatment, and development control;

  3. Setting up study group on the conservation and protection of Chinese White Dolphins. The aim is to develop a joint conservation plan covering Hong Kong and Pearl River Estuary areas;

  4. Forming a study group to exchange information and findings of previous studies on air quality in the Pearl River Delta Region and discuss the planning for future joint studies. Meetings were held in July and December this year to exchange such information and to discuss the boundary of the study areas and the pollution issues to be investigated.

  5. Enhancing the exchange of information and discussion on transboundary movement of waste.

9.The discussions and exchanges of experiences in the Liaison Group also helped minimise the impact of developments on Futian and Mai Po Nature Reserve in Deep Bay, and contributed to the adoption of more stringent pollution control measures for future units at the Western Power Station in Shenzhen and in other future power stations in Guangdong province.


Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS)

10.The EPLG has been kept informed of the progress of SSDS since its establishment in 1990. The Mainland authorities have also provided assistance in the preparatory surveys related to the oceanic outfall proposal (i.e. Stage II of SSDS). This formed the basis of our consideration of a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study of the outfall proposal. The SSDS Stage II EIA study, which commenced in May 1996, will be completed in the second half of 1998. The study is being conducted by a joint venture of consultants from the mainland and Hong Kong. A Technical Group under the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG) was formed in March 1995 to oversee the study. This Group comprised mainland experts and Hong Kong officials. With the submission of the Technical Group's Working Report to the JLG in June 1997, the work of the Group was completed and with it the involvement of the JLG in this matter. However, our cooperation with the mainland experts on this matter will continue, perhaps under a different umbrella.

Cross-boundary Infrastructure Projects

11.We have closely liaised with the mainland authorities on cross-boundary infrastructure projects with environmental implications through the HK/Mainland Cross Boundary Major Infrastructure Coordinating Committee (ICC) which is a body set up to resolve the problem of coordinating the construction of major cross-boundary infrastructural projects between Hong Kong and the Mainland. The possible development of Tonggu channel and other proposed cross-boundary road links, like the Western Corridor and Lindingyang Bridge are good examples.


12.Through our past efforts, we have developed close relationship with our mainland counterparts, particularly in south China. We have started collaboration on a number of projects such as the joint monitoring of the water qualities in Deep Bay and Mirs Bay and the SSDS EIA study. These ties will grow and deepen as Hong Kong is now part of China. We expect even closer cooperation with the mainland authorities on environmental issues in the post-1997 era.

13.In the year ahead, we will continue to liaise closely with the Mainland experts on the SSDS EIA study and other cross-boundary infrastructure projects. As regards the EPLG, apart from implementing new proposals, we will press ahead with a number of the existing projects which still require a few more years to complete, including those mentioned in para. 8. The following will highlight some key areas of our future work :

  1. Upon completion of the Deep Bay Regional Control Strategy Study in January 1998, we will be liaising with our Shenzhen counterparts with a view to agreeing how to implement the measures at the earliest opportunity;

  2. We will take follow up actions and joint regular audit of the Action Plans for Mirs Bay and Deep Bay;

  3. We are liaising with the relevant Guangdong authorities to initiate a programme of work to collect, through field surveys, original information on water quality and pollution loads throughout the Pearl River Estuary and in mainland territorial waters west, south and east of Hong Kong. This original data will be used to recalibrate our new suite of water quality models which may then be used, inter alia, for the purposes of devising management plans for the surrounding water bodies. We have also recently discussed with our Guangdong counterparts the possibility of exchanging information on polluting loads and water quality in the Pearl River Estuary. We will be holding further discussions on this in the year ahead.

  4. We will press ahead with the formation of the Study Group on Air Quality in the Pearl River Delta Region to look into the nature and magnitude of air pollution and if necessary, to make plans to prevent future deterioration of air quality in the Region.

  5. A Study Group on the Chinese White Dolphin has been set up and will meet regularly to exchange information and develop a joint conservation plan. A common database will also be set up.

  6. We will strengthen our liaison with the Mainland authorities to prevent and tackle illegal import or export of waste between the HKSAR and the Mainland.

Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
12 December 1997