Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
LCQ4: Hong Kong International Airport's plan to build third runway

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Elizabeth Quat and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (July 9):


     The Airport Authority (AA) has recently released an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report on Expansion of the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) into a Three-Runway System (3RS). The EIA Report contains the results of a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impacts of the expansion project and the future operation of the 3RS in 12 different aspects, such as air quality, aircraft noise, marine ecology, the fisheries industry and human health, etc. and it recommends the adoption of more than 250 mitigation measures. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that while the EIA Report has pointed out that the expansion project will cause no more than a moderate degree of impact on the habitat of the Chinese white dolphins (CWDs), the Sha Chau egretry and the surrounding fisheries areas and recommended a number of mitigation measures (including the establishment of a new marine park and the avoidance of bored piling during the peak CWD calving season, etc.), the project will cause permanent damage to the surrounding waters, whether the authorities have conducted any assessment on the changes in the number of CWDs which inhabit in the surrounding waters before and after the construction of the airport; if they have, of the details; and the measures in place to ensure as far as possible that the CWDs living in the surrounding waters will not get hurt and will continue to survive while the construction works for the third runway are underway;

(2) given that the EIA Report has pointed out that the expansion project will cause a permanent loss of 768 hectares of fishing ground and recommended the use of non-dredge deep cement mixing methods for land formation in order to minimise the impacts on the fisheries industry, whether the authorities have conducted any assessment on the impacts of the land formation works on the marine ecology of the affected waters and the extent of such impacts, as well as the specific impacts of the expansion project on members of the fisheries industry in the western waters of Hong Kong; of the measures in place to strike a balance between the protection of the marine ecology and the development of fisheries industry in Hong Kong, and the arrangements for compensating members of the affected industries and ensuring sustainable development of the fisheries industry; and

(3) given that both AA and the Government have pointed out that failure to proceed with the expansion project would impair the status of Hong Kong as an international aviation hub and Hong Kong's overall competitiveness, whether the authorities have conducted assessments on when the airport is expected to reach its capacity in terms of flight movements, as well as such details, and the losses to be suffered by the aviation industry, the overall economy and the employment market of Hong Kong for each year of delay in the completion of the expansion project; and of the authorities' measures in place to ensure that there will be no project delay and overspending?



     The Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) plays a pivotal role in enhancing Hong Kong's overall economic competitiveness and maintaining Hong Kong's positioning as an international aviation hub.  With HKIA¡¦s existing two-runway system (2RS) reaching its full capacity in a few years' time and in the face of the challenges and competition posed by other international airports in the region (especially Singapore Changi, Seoul Incheon and Dubai airports), there is a genuine need to press ahead the three-runway system (3RS) project to enhance the capacity of the airport.

     Over the past two years, the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK), with the support of its team of multi-national experts, has completed the statutory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Project, covering 12 assessment aspects (see Annex A) as specified by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), and has minimised the potential impacts on the environment of the 3RS Project as far as practicable. The EIA report has been made available for public inspection since June 20, 2014.  If the EIA report is approved, it is hoped that the relevant planning procedures can be completed within this year, so that the 3RS Project can be carried out as soon as possible with a view to commissioning the 3RS in 2023.

     While the SAR Government supports AAHK in taking forward the 3RS Project, we also attach great importance to the environmental impacts associated with the Project.  We believe that development and environmental protection are not a zero-sum game.  The focus of AAHK's EIA report is to put forward various green and mitigation measures to minimise the potential impact on the environment and marine ecology brought by the Project.  The Director of Environmental Protection will, in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance, critically scrutinise the EIA report submitted by AAHK and impose conditions for approval of the EIA report if deemed necessary.
     Since EPD meanwhile is in the process of reviewing the EIA report submitted by AAHK, it would not be appropriate for me, as a principal official of the SAR Government, to comment on the content of the EIA Report and the associated details. Nevertheless, I will provide our reply to the various parts of the Hon Elizabeth Quat's question as far as possible.

(1) The 3RS will admittedly affect the Chinese White Dolphins (CWDs) currently found in the waters around the HKIA.  AAHK has proposed various measures in its EIA report with a view to effectively minimising, mitigating and compensating the impacts on CWDs by the Project.

     First, non-dredge land formation method known as "deep cement mixing" will be adopted for ground improvement, diversion of aviation fuel pipelines by horizontal directional drilling in the deep sub-sea bedrock stratum, and diversion of submarine electricity cables by water jetting.  

     In addition, AAHK will adopt a series of measures (see Annex B), including restricting the speed of high speed ferries and construction vessels, suspending the relevant works upon sighting of any CWDs, etc. to tie-in with the commencement of the land formation works expected in 2016 with a view to providing suitable protection for the CWDs so as to minimise the nuisance caused.  AAHK has also committed to conducting comprehensive environmental monitoring and audit during the construction period to achieve "development alongside environmental conservation".  

     We understand that there are worries in the society that the 3RS Project will severely ruin the habitats of CWDs. The Government has already urged AAHK to take on board the advice of international and local experts, with a view to providing sufficient mitigation measures and taking the opportunity to expand the marine park so as to benefit the future well-being of the CWDs.  Following the full commissioning of the 3RS, AAHK will also complete designating a new marine park of size of some 2 400 hectares.  The new marine park will be linked with the planned Brothers Marine Park, the existing Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau Marine Park, and the marine exclusion zone of the 3RS, forming a marine protected area of as many as 5 200 hectares (see Annex C). International dolphin experts opined that the above measures should contribute significantly to the long-term conservation of CWDs.  

(2) AAHK also committed in the EIA Report the use of the more environmentally friendly non-dredge deep cement mixing method for land formation. This method is new to Hong Kong (Note 1) but has been used extensively in countries like Japan, South Korea and Germany with its effectiveness well proven.  As assessed by AAHK, the impacts of marine works on the affected fisheries operations are low to moderate.  To mitigate and compensate the impacts, AAHK will introduce corresponding conservation measures in the proposed marine park, including deployment of artificial reefs to promote juvenile fish recruitment, so as to recover fisheries resources; the implementation of Fisheries Enhancement Strategy including the establishment of a fisheries enhancement fund. Details of the conservation measures will be discussed with the fisheries industry.

(3) Based on the standards imposed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, AAHK's international aviation consultant concluded in 2008 that the practical maximum capacity of the 2RS is 68 movements per hour, or some 420 000 movements per year.  The relevant figures have been confirmed by the experts.  There was a robust growth in air traffic movements (ATMs) at the HKIA in the past few years. With an average growth rate of some 6% per year, the ATMs have exceeded 370 000 in 2013.  In the light of the current projection and growth of traffic, the 2RS is expected to reach its full capacity in a few years' time. There is hence the urgency in taking forward the 3RS Project.  According to the estimate in the HKIA's "Master Plan 2030", the 3RS is expected to create more than 140 000 direct job opportunities and an annual economic contribution of $167 billion (Note 2) in 2030.  

     The Airport Expansion Project Coordination Office under the Transport and Housing Bureau will closely monitor AAHK in pressing ahead the 3RS Project and will formulate effective monitoring mechanism for the Project.  As of now, the 3RS Project has yet to have a project status and an approved estimate. The Government will prudently consider the financial arrangement proposal to be submitted by AAHK and consult the Legislative Council in due course. Accordingly, there is no issue of project overspending at this juncture.

Note 1: The field trial by AAHK in waters near the HKIA in early 2012 indicated that this method was both practicable and environmentally-friendly.
Note 2: Based on the expected volume of air traffic (i.e. 607 000 ATMs) at the HKIA in 2030.

Ends/Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Issued at HKT 17:25


Print this page