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LCQ20: Judgement of the environmental impact assessment reports of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project

     Following is a question by the Hon Abraham Shek Lai Him and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (May 18):


The High Court earlier ruled that the two environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HKZMB) project did not comply with statutory requirements, requesting that the environmental permit for the project be withdrawn by the Director of Environmental Protection and that a baseline study be conducted on the relevant EIA reports. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the Government's latest projections on the progress, construction costs and completion date of the HKZMB project;

(b) of the criteria adopted by the authorities at present for deciding whether or not a baseline survey on a project will be conducted;

(c) given that according to the requirements stipulated in section 7 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (Cap. 499), the public and the Advisory Council on the Environment may comment on an EIA report before it is approved, whether the authorities had, prior to approving the two EIA reports on the HKZMB project, received any proposal from the public and the Advisory Council on the Environment that a baseline survey on the EIA process of the project should be conducted; if they had, of the details;

(d) since the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance came into operation on April 1, 1998, of the number of projects on which baseline surveys had not been conducted when the EIA process was carried out; of the number of projects whose EIA reports had been withdrawn because they did not comply with statutory requirements, together with details of the relevant projects (list in table form); and

(e) whether the Government will review the existing statutory EIA process in order to ensure that future projects will not be delayed due to faulty EIA work; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Environmental Protection Department (EPD) do not agree with the Judgement of the High Court (Judgement) as it will pose significant implications on future environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and the execution of EIA Ordinance. After seeking legal advice and considering relevant factors thoroughly, the EPD has lodged an appeal against the Judgement.

(a) Transport and Housing Bureau advised that works of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) Main Bridge have already commenced and have been progressing well. Although the earlier Judgement in respect of the EIA reports of the HZMB local projects will have some impact on the programme of the local projects, Highways Department (HyD), which is responsible for the projects concerned, is now actively examining how the works are to be taken forward, such as phased construction and phased completion etc., so as to compress the construction programme as far as possible. It will also continue to press ahead with the preparatory work of the various local projects to endeavour to tie in with the target of completing and commissioning the Bridge in 2016. To enable the works concerned to start as early as possible, in parallel with Environment Protection Department's (EPD) application for leave to appeal against the above-mentioned Judgement, HyD indicated that it would review the EIA reports of the HZMB local projects, and resubmit relevant EIA reports in line with the Judgement and the statutory procedure. It will only be upon the completion of the said review by HyD and the finalisation of the construction method, as well as confirmation of the timing that the works could be taken forward, before we could have a more accurate grasp of the practical implications of the Judgement on the progress, construction cost as well as the completion date of the HZMB local projects.

(b) The EPD has been following the requirements as stipulated in s.3.4, Annex 12 of the Technical Memorandum on the EIA Process (TM) in conducting the "baseline study" in air quality assessment. The detailed requirements are as follows :

"3.4 Baseline Study
It involves the description of the existing air quality based on, but not limited to, existing air quality monitoring on-site or quality assured measured data which can be obtained from government agencies, companies or instructions. The baseline study involves a discussion of background air quality value due to uninventoried sources and contributions from outside the study area and description of the method used for determining this value."

     It should be noted that the "Baseline Study/Survey" described above refers to the description of the existing air quality. Whereas, the Judgement held that apart from ensuring the cumulative environmental impacts caused by the designated projects will comply with the relevant standards and criteria, the EIA report should also compare the environmental impacts of the scenarios with and without the project in place. That is, to assess the air quality in the future assessment year without the project in place in order to assess the direct impact of the project and relevant mitigation measures, so as to minimise the environmental impact to the satisfaction of the authority. In view of the Judgement, project proponents have to conduct the related analysis in their EIA reports.

(c) During the public inspection period and consultation with the Advisory Council on the Environment of the two HZMB EIA reports, EPD did not receive any comments on the baseline study or baseline survey. There was also no request for the analysis of air quality in the future assessment year without the project in place.

(d) Since the implementation of the EIA Ordinance in 1998, EPD has been following the requirements as stipulated in s.3.4, Annex 12 of the TM in conducting the existing "baseline study" for air quality. There was no EIA report withdrawn/rejected because of not meeting such requirements.

(e) In the meantime, EPD shall follow the requirements of EIA Ordinance and the Judgement when considering applications submitted under the EIA Ordinance. As EPD has lodged an appeal against the Judgement, we have nothing more to supplement for the time being.

Ends/Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:44


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