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June, 2011:

Airport upgrade warrants more options

Airport upgrade warrants more options

On June 2 the Airport Authority (AA) released its “Hong Kong International Airport Master Plan 2030”. One option outlined is a plan to upgrade the two existing runways at a cost of HK$23.4 billion with HK$432 billion of economic benefits. The other option is to build a third runway with an investment of HK$86.2 billion, accruing HK$912 billion of economic benefits over 50 years.

Which one do you choose? As the first upgrading option will still see saturation of airport capacity by 2017, then the obvious answer is the second option judging by its face value. I will certainly vote for option two if there is no third option on the table. But are there in fact any more viable alternatives?

I believe other related factors should be considered before making any decision. The first is about the site area and location of the airport. With two existing runways, the total site area of the airport is about 1,255 hectares. With an additional third runway, the total site area would then be 1,905 hectares. That is to say about 650 hectares of land will have to be reclaimed from the sea for the second option to work. As the reclamation will be carried out at a rather deeper seabed compared with the existing runway, the land reclamation alone will cost HK$38.9 billion plus an additional HK$9 billion to prevent the release of toxic mud.

This cost will be sufficient to build a new airport in the New Territories with one runway (option three). Then the new second airport could cater for another runway and meet needs beyond the 2030s or 2040s. But in the current option two, when all three runways are at full capacity by the 2030s, it will be impossible to build the fourth runway. So what will our options be if other potential locations have already been occupied?

The second factor concerns economic benefit. At first glimpse, one may believe the economic benefits from option two (HK$912 billion) is much better than option one (HK$432 billion), but if the investment between option two (HK$86.2 billion) and option one (HK$23.4 billion) are compared, it appears that option one will produce better benefits in terms of returns in the future, provided that there is another airport development before option one is saturated in 2017. If this is the case, then the combination of option one and option three appears to be better than option two alone.

Both option one and option two have the same capacity of 34 flights per runway per hour, thus the total capacity of option one ( with two runways) will be 68, and option two (with three runways) 102 per hour respectively. My third related issue is with how we can increase this capacity. Technically speaking, the capacity of any runway depends on aircraft types, its taxiway system, air traffic control techniques, and apron capacity, landing aids etc. If all conditions are satisfactory, the world maximum figure could rise to 50 flights per hour under the Visual Flight Rule. I wonder whether the Hong Kong record could be improved from 34 to 40 or 45 flights per hour without sacrificing safety as the first priority. If the capacity for the existing runways to handle flight movement could be substantially expanded, then the time before saturation would be extended.

The fourth factor regards the air traffic forecast. Flight movements at Chek Lap Kok International Airport have risen on average by 6.5 percent per year, and the two existing runways will become saturated by 2017. Although the growth figures may be accurate in retrospect, it may not necessarily have the same accuracy in forecasting the future. The reasons are twofold: one is the competition from adjacent airports, particularly Shenzhen Baoan Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun Airport. As they can build their airports with similar flight capacity at a cost of about 10 percent of that of Hong Kong, they collect much less airport charges than Hong Kong. Notwithstanding that the Hong Kong AA is operating under prudent commercial principles, Hong Kong AA may not compete with its adjacent counterparts respecting airport charges as Hong Kong has a much more expansive airport.

The other reason is the development of the super railway and highway networks on the mainland. In light of China developing the fastest super railway system in the world, a short-haul flight of up to 800 kilometers cannot compete in terms of cost and time, unless Hong Kong can have much shorter check-in time, cheaper tickets and more frequent flights. Medium-haul flights of about 2,000 km may also find it difficult to compete with the super railway network. With a more convenient highway network, Hong Kong residents who live in Kowloon and New Territories (East and North) may also prefer to use Shenzhen Baoan Airport rather than Hong Kong Chek Lap kok Airport in the future.

Based on this twofold analysis, I believe the forecast of 6.5 percent growth is too optimistic as short distance flights will be reduced, and medium-haul flights may have not grown as expected. If I remember correctly, the government had briefed the Legislative Council on its plan to proceed with the privatization exercise of the airport in February 2004, and the Economic Development and Labour Bureau published a consultation document on Partial Privatization of the AA in November 2004 that showed an unsatisfactory equity return of less than 2 percent in a worst-case scenario. It would be really interesting to note what made the AA take a U-turn on the subject of airport development.

I do not mean to discourage Hong Kong airport development. On the contrary, I strongly believe Hong Kong should have a wise strategy for airport development in order to maintain its status as a center of international and regional aviation as required by Article 128 of the Basic Law. More options and deeper study are needed.

The author is a current affairs commentator.

HK needs to coordinate with PRD region airports

10 June 2011 04-Jul-11

The nine cities in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region are undergoing a process of integration or
metropolitanization under the active intervention of all levels of government. Originally it was
planned that economic integration of the PRD cities would essentially be achieved in 2020.
Guangdong province’s 12th Five-year Plan approved in March this year moved forward the
target date for regional economic integration to 2015.
This may have been encouraged by the smooth progress of the merger of Guangzhou and
Foshan, which has been regarded as the first example of economic integration in the region with
a demonstrative effect on other inter-city integration processes. If the target is accomplished, by
2015 we should see the rudimentary form of a regional metropolis centering on Guangzhou.
As planned, the PRD regional network of railways – inter-provincial high speed, inter-city fast
speed, and local subways (400 kilometers of railway lines in total in Guangzhou, Shenzhen,
Foshan and Dongguan) will also be completed and in operation by 2015. Thus there will not
just be institutional changes, but also socio-physical changes in time-space compression. The
Guangzhou-centric region will be a one-hour socio-economic zone for a resident population of
40-50 million.
But so far PRD economic integration has not been incorporated in Hong Kong. Through the
cooperation framework agreement signed between the two governments of Hong Kong and
Guangdong, however, there is a platform for integrative cooperation. This will be more
important for Hong Kong than Guangdong as the PRD will be much larger than Hong Kong
with a per capita GDP by 2015 of more than $20,000 (in Guangzhou and Shenzhen at least) and
has an economic dynamism that is envied by most countries in the world.
Given the scale and economic dynamism of the PRD, the importance of Hong Kong to the
region has declined substantially and the whole region could do without Hong Kong. But Hong
Kong cannot survive without the PRD. It needs it for water, food, daily necessities, corporations
for IPOs, and money for shares in the stock market, properties in the real estate market and
goods in the consumer market.
And the Guangzhou-centric PRD could do without the Hong Kong international airport. The
Guangzhou airport is rapidly expanding its international destinations and it has many flights to
emerging markets that Hong Kong does not have. Everyone now knows very well that emerging
markets represent the future. The advanced economies appear to be going into a general decline
because of deindustrialization and ageing population. The Hong Kong International Airport’s
overconcentration in flights to the advanced economies would prove to be a mistaken or too
short-sighted strategy.
If we take the PRD as being akin to Greater London, then the Guangzhou airport could be
compared with Heathrow Airport and Shenzhen could well be Gatwick Airport if its trend of
adding international flights continues. If Greater London can support five airports, the PRD
should be able to do so as well in the coming years as they continue to develop. In such a
scenario, Hong Kong airport may be incorporated into the regional system to take over the role
of Shenzhen and take on a supportive role to Guangzhou’s airport, which is planned to have five
We all know that air space over the PRD is rather limited. By adding new runways without a
correspondent increase in the use of air space would not result in any significant increase in
flights. The existing five airports in the region (or seven if the two smaller ones in Foshan and
Huizhou are added into the mix) with a total number of operating runways at eight (with the
ninth now under construction in Guangzhou) have already caused congestion and delays.
Without coordination the three major cities in the region – Guangzhou, Hong Kong and
Shenzhen – are each going their own way to build in the coming years an additional two
runways for Guangzhou, and one each for Hong Kong and Shenzhen. The problem of
congestion would multiply and all airports would suffer.
If Hong Kong is not included in the regional system, the third runway in Hong Kong may not be
given priority over the other runways in Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Hong Kong also does not
have a priority in the allocation of air space time. The only viable option for Hong Kong is
therefore its incorporation into the regional system and to ask for better coordination among the
five airports.
I believe that if Hong Kong is willing, the central and provincial governments will welcome
Hong Kong airport to serve as the Gatwick for Guangzhou. At the same time, the Shenzhen
airport could very well serve as the second airport of Hong Kong. There will still be a need for a
third runway at Hong Kong airport, but it should be the next runway to be constructed in the
region with the full blessing of the central and provincial governments to ensure that it is placed
ahead of Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Hong Kong needs to cooperate with Guangzhou and see
itself as part of the greater PRD metropolis, not as a competitor to the emerging PRD

The runway debate

South China Morning Post

With debate on the pros and cons of building a third runway at Chek Lap Kok under way, John Slosar is convinced the plan is critical to Hong Kong’s future growth while Albert Lai wants the airport authority to provide a comprehensive report of its potential impact and alternatives
John Slosar and Albert Lai 
Jun 09, 2011
The debate on a third runway for Hong Kong’s airport is now in full swing – and so it should be. I believe the community decision – build a third runway or tinker around the edges of the status quo – is crucial to the sustainability of the Hong Kong economy and, therefore, to the long-term prosperity (SEHK: 0803,announcementsnews) and well-being of Hong Kong people.

There are important cost-benefit, environmental and social issues to be addressed, and I am confident a constructive community debate will identify and resolve them. All of Hong Kong will need to pull together on this one.

Cathay Pacific’s position is clear – we believe a third runway is essential to the long-term growth and development of the Hong Kong economy. We also believe the need for it is urgent, and becoming increasingly so.

Why do we believe we need a third runway at the Hong Kong International Airport? It’s important to frame the debate through the prism of Hong Kong’s place in world. That means a focus on three key contexts:

  • The airport has been a fabulous success story and will reach capacity saturation 15 to 20 years before the original forecast date of 2040. We should invest on the back of that success.
  • Aviation is the foundation on which the four pillars of Hong Kong’s economy – finance, trade and logistics, tourism and professional services – are built. These are international, not domestic, industries that rely heavily on our connectivity to the rest of the world.
  • It has taken more than a decade to achieve the critical mass needed for Chek Lap Kok to become Asia’s premier aviation hub. We have many regional competitors ready to take that mantle if we let it slip.

That’s the big picture. And as a key driver of our economy, aviation is at the core of that big picture. The industry supports more than 260,000 jobs, or over 7 per cent of the total working population and accounts for 8.2 per cent of our gross domestic product, according to a Chinese University of Hong Kong study.

These facts speak for themselves.

The four pillars of our economy will be at risk if we don’t have the future runway capacity at Chek Lap Kok to leverage our superb location at the heart of Asia and our unrivalled access to the mainland market.

The Airport Authority’s master plan to 2030 spells out with great clarity the challenges facing the airport if long-term growth is constrained. It rightly says Hong Kong would begin to lose its status and competitiveness as an international business centre and aviation hub.

Are there alternatives to a third runway? One option is to nip and tuck around the edges with the existing two runways. Frankly, this option only buys us a couple more years of growth and then we run into constraints again. The great artery that is our aviation hub would then still clog up and no amount of bypass surgery will fix it. And that would mean a slow choking of the lifeblood of our economy, with the resulting loss of growth, opportunities and jobs.

It has been suggested that we collaborate with one or more of the other four airports in the Pearl River Delta to obviate the need for a third runway. One idea is to split “duties” between two airports – Hong Kong handling long haul, Shenzhen handling domestic flights with a rail link connecting the two airports. A great idea on paper that just won’t work.

As David Dodwell pointed out on this page last week, experience around the world shows that passengers simply do not like inter-airport transfer. And why should they when they can be served by a single, magnificent airport like the one we have in Hong Kong?

Attempts to link airports elsewhere in the world – even two airports within the same metropolitan area – have not been successful.

In London, Heathrow and Gatwick do not operate as one airport and transfer traffic between the two is almost non-existent. In the United States, New York, Chicago and San Francisco have been unable to generate transfer traffic between the major airports in each city. And closer to home in Japan, Haneda and Narita airports do not support each other. There is not a single example anywhere in the world where a two airport “link-up” has worked.

In any event, Shenzhen airport’s second runway is due to open later this year but, even with this additional runway, it will face capacity constraints around the same time that our own airport reaches a bottleneck. So it’s not a starter, either.

As a major international financial centre, trade and logistics hub and prime travel destination, Hong Kong needs to have its own airport with long-term capacity to keep us ahead of the game. And while our aviation hub might be winning the race now, our competitors will gallop past us if we don’t keep up the pace. We need to invest on the back of the spectacular success of our aviation hub by growing it, not stifling it. That way enables us to seize the opportunities so uniquely provided to us by our special relationship with China and our strategic location at the heart of Asia. If we don’t grasp this great opportunity, the only people celebrating will be our rivals in Singapore, Seoul, Taipei and Bangkok.

John Slosar is chief executive of Cathay Pacific Airways (SEHK: 0293)

The nervousness of the officials selling the plan for a third airport runway last week was matched only by the impressive line-up of the lobbying team. The voice of politicians and academics backing the plan swamped the airwaves for days after it was announced.

The authority knows it has a tough plan to sell: a price tag of HK$136 billion, the biggest reclamation of land since the handover, an irreversible damage to an important dolphin habitat, and a yet-to-be quantified impact to climate change and air quality. Despite the adverse impact, the best chance for the government to convince the community of its plan is to adopt an honest approach in public engagement.

Economists and commentators were quick to question the authority’s estimate of economic return – HK$912 billion over 50 years. But the biggest surprise of the plan was not what it contains, but what it omits despite years of preparation.

In 2007, when Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was pursuing his second term, he promised a grand plan to link up the Hong Kong and Shenzhen airports with a high-speed rail line. At that time, this was touted as an ingenious way to integrate the two airports and to enhance Hong Kong’s competitive position as an air traffic hub. Nothing much has been heard since.

Government officials were silent on this project in the launch last week. Has this been considered as an alternative or supplement to the third runway? If and when the third runway is built, are we going to spend another HK$100 billion or more on this rail link? If plans for the rail link have been dumped, don’t Hongkongers have the right to know even though that means the chief executive may lose face over yet another broken promise?

The people cannot be expected to decide on the basis of incomplete options, which should include not just the rail link, but other possibilities such as a shorter third runway to cater primarily for mainland-bound flights.

Another major omission is the lack of proposed measures to mitigate the negative environmental impact. Officials vow to “balance” economic development with environmental protection. One would therefore expect estimates of economic gains on one hand, and plans for marine conservation, pollution reduction and carbon offset on the other. Instead, the public was told that none of the latter would surface until an environmental impact assessment is conducted after the project gets the nod.

Given the deficiency of the current system for environmental impact study, this is a recipe for confrontation. What we need now is a platform for negotiation among stakeholders. The pros and cons of various options should be put on the table. The costs and benefits of mitigation plans should be examined and openly debated. Only then can a sensible balance be struck. Any attempt to delay such discussion or hide away relevant plans will only increase the mistrust of those most affected by the project.

The Airport Authority may rightly feel that it cannot jump-start the statutory environmental impact assessment process now. But it should still conduct strategic impact studies to provide sufficiently concrete plans for public scrutiny. The time and effort it spends in this exercise will be earned back during the formal process of an environmental assessment, if and when that is required. Meanwhile, the authority should release the full range of consultancy reports it commissioned over the years, and invite the Legislative Council to appoint an independent checker to verify its economic claims.

Some officials privately claim their worst fear is a judicial review that will delay the project, given the recent verdict on the bridge to Macau and Zhuhai. However misguided this claim may be, officials should nevertheless learn to engage the public early, lay out honest alternatives, and explore the best available technologies to protect the environment, in accordance with international best practice. Hong Kong has the resources to do it right.

The project comes at a difficult time for Hong Kong. Despite economic growth, Hong Kong is going through a “social recession”, as defined by Tim Jackson of the British government’s Sustainable Development Commission: rising income inequality, soaring property prices, declining social mobility and an acute sentiment of injustice in both the middle class and the grass roots. Pumping HK$136 billion into a single infrastructure project in a social recession is not likely to boost Hong Kong’s happiness index.

Yet the city has excelled in providing airport and airline services. Maintaining this competitive edge is not just about economic growth, but also about a vital means to strengthen our cultural nexus to the world. The question is how.

Albert Lai Kwong-tak is chairman of the Professional Commons and vice-chairman of the Civic Party

Harbourfront areas along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Following is a question by the Hon Kam Nai-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (June 8):


As the harbourfront areas on both sides of the Victoria Harbour are important public assets, members of the community are very concerned about the planning, development, design and management of such areas. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) regarding the development of a complete and connected promenade running along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island from Sai Wan in Central and Western District directly to the vicinity of Siu Sai Wan in Eastern District, whether the Government has set the timetables for the development of such project as well as the various phases under this project;

(b) of the respective detailed numbers of private properties or land sites and government properties or land sites which may affect the completeness and connectivity of the promenade on the northern shore of Hong Kong Island; the respective solutions the Government has in this regard; and whether it has set the timetable for relocating such government properties to other districts; and

(c) whether the Government will adopt the public-private-partnership approach to design, build and operate the New Central Harbourfront and even the harbourfront development project on the northern shore of Hong Kong Island as a whole; if it will, of the details concerned?



My reply to the three-part question is as follows:

(a) Victoria Harbour is the most precious public asset of Hong Kong and a symbol of the city.In recent years, the Government has strived to promote the enhancement of the harbourfront and to improve its accessibility. Subject to the actual circumstances of the harbourfront sites and through effective allocation of resources, the Government gradually constructs various harbourfront promenades for public enjoyment.

In mapping out and taking forward various harbourfront enhancement measures, the Government has made reference to the former Harbour-front Enhancement Committee (HEC)’s recommendations for the 22 Action Areas along Victoria Harbour and implemented them in a gradual manner having regard to the actual circumstances of each individual project. The Harbourfront Commission (HC) established in 2010 will continue to monitor the progress and propose new enhancement measures. On the northern shore of Hong Kong Island, apart from taking forward the development of the new Central harbourfront, the Government has also actively carried out various enhancement works in the other Action Areas.

Projects completed in the past two years include the Central and Western District Promenade – Sheung Wan Section at the former Sheung Wan Gala Point, the park area of Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park, the pedestrian link between these two sites, the open space fronting Central Piers No. 9 and 10, the temporary waterfront promenade along the eastern part of the ex-North Point Estate site, and Aldrich Bay Park etc. Meanwhile, the development of the temporary waterfront promenade at Hoi Yu Street, Quarry Bay and the Hong Kong Island East Harbour-front Study (HKIEHS), which aims to formulate a comprehensive plan for the enhancement of the Hong Kong Island East harbourfront areas, are underway.

The existing uses or the major development plans of the harbourfront sites in the Action Areas along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island are set out at Annex.

(b) At present, some of the harbourfront areas along the northern shore of Hong Kong Island are being used by public facilities or fall within privately-owned land (see Annex for details).Such issues have to be resolved on a case-by-case basis. In assessing whether it is necessary to set up government facilities in harbourfront areas, the Government will first consider whether the facilities have to be set up at the harbourfront due to operational needs, and make reference to the Harbour Planning Principles promulgated by the former HEC and adopted by the HC, as well as the guidelines on waterfront planning and urban design set out in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines prepared by the Planning Department. The Government will also consider the planning intention of the site as stipulated in the relevant statutory plan, and the views of the government departments, HC and District Councils etc.

If it is found that there is no need to set up the facilities at the harbourfront, we will explore the possibility of reprovisioning them to a non-harbourfront site (for example, the bus terminus at Shing Sai Road). For government structures which have to be located at the harbourfront because of a practical need, the Government will, where possible, consider setting them back, or reserving the part facing the harbourfront for use as a promenade (for example, the Central and Western District Promenade – Sheung Wan Section). If, for operational and practical reasons, the facilities could not be relocated or set back at the moment, we will explore the feasibility of improving the appearance of their exteriors and undertaking landscape works with a view to enhancing the harbourfront (for example, the proposed beautification works for the Marine Police Regional Headquarters and Marine Police Harbour Division Base at Sai Wan Ho).

As regards sites and buildings held by private owners, we are glad to see that some of the owners and developers have assisted us in undertaking harbourfront enhancement works.

For example, regarding the temporary promenade at Hoi Yu Street, Quarry Bay, with the collaboration of the New Hong Kong Tunnel Company Limited, a waterfront land strip measuring 90 metres long and six metres wide has been released to achieve connectivity of the promenade. This was the result of the joint efforts of various parties and lengthy negotiations. Regarding other privately-owned sites, we will seriously examine all feasible measures to see if favourable conditions could be created for the development of a continuous promenade.

(c) There are a total of eight key sites at the new Central harbourfront.

We plan to develop some of the key sites by way of public-private collaboration (PPC). Through this approach, we aim to capture the creativity and expertise of the private sector for more innovative design options with management that is flexible and allows more sustainable development. As such, a vibrant, green and accessible new Central harbourfront can be created for public enjoyment.

As reported at earlier meetings of the Panel on Development, the Government has planned to develop Sites 1 and 2 of the new Central harbourfront by PPC under a land lease.

The sites and the facilities thereon will be returned to the Government upon the expiry of the proposed lease. As works associated with the construction of the Central-Wan Chai Bypass will be carried out at part of Sites 1 and 2 up till July 2015, the development of these two sites will take some time to materialise.

Currently, we are also exploring the possibility of developing Sites 4 and 7 (in whole or in part) by PPC. With the support of HC, we have commissioned an independent consultant to conduct a study on the feasibility of developing these two sites by PPC.

We are now conducting a market sounding exercise to invite the private sector to express their views by June 30, 2011 on the potential of developing Sites 4 and 7 by PPC.

We are also actively exploring whether there are other harbourfront sites on the northern shore of Hong Kong Island which can be developed by PPC. Taking into account of the result of the Stage 2 Public Engagement Programme for the HKIEHS, we are planning to develop the proposed temporary waterfront promenade site at Hoi Yu Street, Quarry Bay, the two adjoining sites that have been zoned “Other Specified Uses” annotated “Cultural and/or Commercial, Leisure and Tourism Related Uses”, and the nearby site above the Eastern Harbour Crossing exit by way of PPC. The Planning Department has collected more views in the recently completed Stage 3 Public Engagement Programme for the Study.

We will consider the options recommended in the Study when this project is taken forward in future. The entire Study is anticipated to be completed in 2011.

Source: HKSAR Government

The air quality and air quality objectives of Hong Kong

8 June 2011

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Following is a question by the Hon Lee Wing-tat and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for the Environment, Dr Kitty Poon, at the Legislative Council meeting today (June 8):


Regarding the air quality and air quality objectives (AQOs) of Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that according to the 2010 Environmental Performance Report of the Environment Bureau and the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), the 2010 targets included: to “finalise the proposed new Air Quality Objectives and the long-term air quality management strategy” and “submit the final set of recommendations for consideration to the Legislative Council”, of the reasons why EPD failed to achieve the aforesaid two targets within 2010;

(b) given that some environmental groups consider that the statistics of Air Pollution Index (API) of each month broken down by number of hours which are compiled by EPD cannot clearly indicate the situation of air pollution in Hong Kong, and they instead recommend compiling statistics on the number of days on which API exceeds the prescribed standards in each month for indicative purpose, or on whether the average daily API for that month has exceeded such standards, so as to enable the public to better understand the actual situation of air pollution, whether the Government will consider such recommendations; and based on the data recorded in the past three years and using such recommended methods of compilation, of the statistical outcome for each of the past three years;

(c) given that an environmental group analysed and compared the data collected from 11 general air monitoring stations in Hong Kong and found that the Sham Shui Po District has the worst air quality, whether the Government had conducted similar analyses and comparisons in the past five years; if it had, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether it had introduced any targeted measure to improve air quality in districts with poorer air quality, such as Sham Shui Po and Kwai Chung, etc.; if it had, of the details of the efforts made in various districts each year;

(d) as it has been reported that the diesel particulate filters and diesel oxidation catalysts which were installed in vehicles with government subsidies using public money will increase primary nitrogen dioxide emissions from vehicles, whether it knows, when taking forward the subsidy scheme, that such devices would increase nitrogen dioxide emissions; if so, of the increase in the quantity of nitrogen dioxide and other air pollutants thus caused and the impact on public health, and whether it has made public such information;

(e) given that in the 2010-2011 Policy Address, the Government indicated that it would collaborate with franchised bus companies to conduct a trial on retrofitting Euro II and Euro III buses with catalytic reduction devices, and subject to satisfactory trial results, the Government would fully fund the retrofit of the devices on Euro II and Euro III buses on a full scale, of the amount of fund required, the timetable and other details (e.g. the origin and service life, etc. of the catalytic reduction devices) for retrofitting the devices on a full scale; whether it knows if the catalytic reduction devices will increase the emissions of other air pollutants; if it knows, of the details, and the Government’s counter measures if the emissions of other air pollutants will be increased; and

(f) given that in reply to a question of a Member of this Council on March 16 this year, the Secretary for the Environment indicated that “the Government needs to analyse in detail the different views collected and assess their impacts on the relevant policy issues in order to fully consider and coordinate the implementation of the recommended measures”, and in reply to a question of a Member at the Question and Answer Session of this Council on May 19, 2011, the Chief Executive indicated that announcement on AQOs will be made within this year, of the current progress of the efforts with respect to opinion analysis, impact assessment and consultation with different stakeholders, etc.?



(a) Taking effective air quality improvement measures to reduce the emission of air pollutants is necessary to improve air quality.In updating the AQOs, we need to formulate additional air quality improvement measures for achieving the proposed new AQOs.

The two are closely connected and equally important as part of the air quality management strategy.

The proposed air quality improvement measures encompass a wide range of issues and cut across a number of policy areas. Many of them are controversial and complicated. These include, for instance, updating the fuel mix for the power sector, rationalising bus routes, setting up low emission zones, etc.

The public are also concerned that some air quality improvement measures would increase their financial burden such as causing electricity tariffs, bus fares and operating costs of the business sector to increase. The Government needs to analyse in detail the different views collected and assess their implications for the relevant policies in order to fully consider and coordinate the implementation of the recommended measures. When the work is completed, we will submit the finalised recommendations to the Legislative Council for deliberation.

(b) To provide the public with updated air quality information as soon as possible, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) releases hourly the latest APIs of every air monitoring station.

This is also a common international practice. Therefore, the EPD provides in its “Air Pollution Index Monthly Summary (the Summary)” the hourly statistics at different pollution levels in the month. This approach gives more details than the suggestions – “compiling statistics on the number of days on which API exceeds the prescribed standards in the month, or on whether the average daily API for that month has exceeded such standards”.

In the Summary, the public can also understand the distribution of different levels of pollution recorded for each monitoring station in the month. If we adopt “the number of days on which API exceeds the prescribed standards in the month”, the public will not know the actual exceedance because each “exceedance day” can be caused by one or more hours exceeding the limit. If we use “the number of days in a month that the average daily API has exceeded the standards”, the Summary cannot provide comprehensive data accurately reflecting low and high air pollution.

As such, we consider there is insufficient scientific justification for adopting the two suggestions for compiling the “Air Pollution Index Monthly Summary” statistics.

(c)Over the past five years from 2006 to 2010, the concentrations of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and respirable suspended particulate (RSP) recorded at the Sham Shui Po general air quality monitoring station dropped by 10 £gg/m3 and 7 £gg/m3, representing a reduction of 42% and 13% respectively. The annual averages of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3) increased slightly by 2 £gg/m3 and 3 £gg/m3 respectively. The situation was similar to that in urban areas from Tsuen Wan to Kowloon Peninsula (including Tsuen Wan, Kwai Chung and Kwun Tong).

Please refer to the attached Table for details.

Air pollution in different districts in Hong Kong is caused by common air pollutant emission sources such as power plants, vehicles, etc. Therefore, the Government has been implementing territory-wide measures to cut down local emissions as well as joining hands with the Guangdong Provincial Government to reduce emissions from the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region so as to improve air quality in all districts, including Sham Shui Po and Kwai Chung.

We implemented the following key measures in the past five years to reduce local emissions:

(i) imposed emission caps on power plants since August 2005. We have recently further tightened the emission caps of the power plants by about 34% to 50%, as compared with the 2010 level. The new caps will start from 2015 and their compliance requires maximising the utilisation of existing natural gas-fired generation equipment, and prioritising the use of coal-fired generation units that have been retrofitted with additional emission control equipment;

(ii) introduced Euro IV vehicle emission standards to newly registered vehicles from January 2006 in tandem with the European Union;

(iii) implemented between April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2010 a grant to encourage the early replacement of pre-Euro and Euro I diesel commercial vehicles;

(iv) introduced on April 1, 2007 a first registration tax concession scheme for environment-friendly petrol private cars, and introduced in April 2008 a similar scheme for environment-friendly commercial vehicles;

(v) mandated the use of ultra-low sulphur diesel for industrial and commercial processes from October 2008;

(vi)amended the Air Pollution Control (Volatile Organic Compounds) Regulation in October 2009 to cover adhesives, sealants, vehicle refinishing paints, marine vessel paints, pleasure craft paints, etc ., so as to limit their VOC contents in phases from January 2010;

(vii) mandated motor vehicle fuels to comply with Euro V standard from July 1, 2010; and

(viii) introduced on July 1, 2010 a 36-month one-off grant to encourage the early replacement of Euro II diesel commercial vehicles with new commercial vehicles.

(d) Roadside air pollution problem is mainly caused by RSP and NO2, both of which have adverse impacts on health.

RSP mainly comes from diesel vehicles and much of the RSP are fine particulates (i.e. PM2.5). To minimise the adverse impacts of these particulates on public health, the Government, making reference to the successful experiences of technologically advanced places such as the European Union and the United States, funded the retrofit of pre-Euro diesel commercial vehicles with diesel oxidation catalysts (DOC).

Roadside NO2 is mainly formed by further photochemical oxidation of nitric oxide (NO) emitted by vehicles in the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and O3.

When implementing the subsidy programme for installing DOC for pre Euro diesel commercial vehicles, we appointed an expert team that comprised local and international experts to advise us on the programme. As for the potential increase in the emission of NO2 by DOC, they recommended to stipulate in the technical specifications that the DOC should not increase vehicle emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) (including NO and NO2) and other air pollutants (including carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC)), thereby reducing the impacts to other roadside pollutants (including NO2). This recommendation was consistent with the common practice adopted by the major vehicle manufacturing economies (including the European Union, the United States and Japan), i.e.

reducing NOx emissions from vehicles as a means to reduce roadside NO2 pollution.

Under the above retrofit programme, test reports submitted by the DOC manufacturer and audited by the aforementioned expert team, DOC could reduce particulate emissions by about 35% without affecting the NOx emissions. It could also reduce the CO and HC emissions by about 40% while reduction of HC emission could correspondingly reduce the oxidation of NO to NO2 and the emission of carcinogenic substances in the HC to the atmosphere. When briefing the Legislative Council about the effectiveness of retrofitting DOC to pre-Euro diesel commercial vehicles, we had provided the above emission data.

(e) Selective catalytic reduction devices (SCRs) are well proven to be effective in reducing the emission of NOx (including NO and NO2).

They have been applied to Euro IV and Euro V diesel commercial vehicles (including buses). Based on our understanding, SCRs will continue to be a key NOx emission reduction device for Euro VI diesel commercial vehicles. As long as their design is in good order, SCRs will not increase the emission of other air pollutants from the vehicles.

We are now making preparation with the franchised bus companies to launch a trial of retrofitting Euro II and III buses with SCRs.We anticipate that the trial could commence in the third quarter of this year.

We will review the initial results after the first six months of the trial to understand as soon as possible the feasibility of retrofitting Euro II and III buses with SCRs on a large-scale. Subject to satisfactory trial results, we will discuss with the franchised bus companies the details of the SCR retrofit programme, including the timetable, type and quantity of buses, and specifications of the SCRs, etc.

Regarding the cost of the retrofit, according to the preliminary information provided by suppliers, the cost of a large-scale retrofit of SCRs to Euro II and Euro III franchised buses is about HK$150,000 per bus.The actual cost of the retrofit will depend on the complexity of the retrofit, exchange rate and the trial results.

(f) The Chief Executive explained at the Question and Answer Session on May 19, 2011 that the new AQOs would be put forward in this year for deliberation by Members. After completing the proposal, we shall consult the Panel on Environmental Affairs of this Council.

Source: HKSAR Government

Regarding the judicial review of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Following is a question by the Hon Lam Tai-fai and a reply by the Acting Secretary for the Environment, Dr Kitty Poon, in the Legislative Council today (June 8):


Some members of the public have complained to me that they are dissatisfied with the acts and practices of certain political parties and politicians as they have not instituted legal proceedings on their own, but have made use of an illiterate elderly recipient of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance to apply for legal aid to initiate a judicial review, thus abusing judicial proceedings, attacking the construction project of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HKZMB), forcing the project to be halted and seriously undermining the interests of Hong Kong. This has not only procrastinated the progress of the works of the HKZMB Hong Kong section and pushed up the construction costs, but may also affect 78 other projects, thereby seriously hampering the economic development of Hong Kong, pushing up the unemployment rate and leading to immeasurable losses. There are also media reports that the Civic Party has admitted that it assisted a Tung Chung resident to apply for judicial review.

In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Government has received any complaint or view which alleged that the aforesaid case involved “champerty”, “maintenance” or other acts of abusing judicial proceedings; and whether the Government will initiate investigations to ascertain if anyone has manipulated the litigation behind the scene, perverted the course of justice and gained benefits in the process; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(b) given that at the Chief Executive’s Question and Answer Session on May 19 this year, the Hon Alan Leong Kah-kit of the Civic Party claimed that this Council had been cautioning the Government that it was highly likely that the Government’s approach of handling the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance would be regarded as breaching the law, while at the special meeting of the House Committee of this Council held on May 20 this year, the Chief Secretary for Administration said that after going through all the records, the Government had not found any record indicating that requests had been made for the Government to conduct the kind of baseline studies requested by the Court in its judgement, whether the Government will the take the initiative to find out from Mr Leong the specific contents of such views and when such views had been given; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



The “Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance” (the EIA Ordinance) commenced its operation since 1998 with the objective of protecting the environment by assessing impact of designated projects on the environment. Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has all along been acting pursuant to the statutory requirements, guidelines and procedures in considering the assessments, reviewing rigorously EIA reports (reviewing report process also includes consultation with the public and the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE)), assessing effectively the environmental impact of designated projects, and imposing mitigation measures to be incorporated by the project proponents. On January 22, 2010, a citizen of Hong Kong made an application for judicial review regarding the air quality impact of the EIA in respect of Hong Kong section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project.

On April 18, 2011, the Court of First Instance (CFI) handed down the Judgement which rejected six of the seven issues contended by the Applicant. But after considering the purpose of the EIA Ordinance, the CFI ruled that apart from assessing the cumulative environmental impact caused by the designated project, the EIA report should include a “stand alone” analysis of the project and put forward relevant mitigation measures, so as to allow the authority to consider whether the relevant impacts have been kept to the minimum. The Judgement gives rise to significant legal issues relating to the EIA Ordinance and to its implementation.

After seeking legal advice and considering relevant factors thoroughly, the EPD lodged an appeal against the Judgement on May 13, 2011.

In our written reply to the Legislative Council question of the Hon Abraham Shek on May 18, 2011, we pointed out that EPD had all along been following the contents of the “Technical Memorandum on Environmental Impact Assessment Process” (TM) issued under the EIAO requiring “baseline study” to be carried out in air quality assessment. It should be noted that the baseline study is carried out on existing air quality. Whereas the CFI Judgement held that apart from ensuring the cumulative environmental impacts caused by designated projects would 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, in order to let the EPD consider if the environmental impact has been minimised.

Before responding to Dr Hon Lam’s question, I must say that it is not appropriate for us to comment on issues relating to the case as EPD has lodged an appeal against the CFI Judgement. On Dr Hon Lam’s question, I have the following response:

(a) There is freedom of speech in Hong Kong and the general public are very concerned about public policy and public affairs, and they can express their views through different channels.

On the recent judicial review case on Hong Kong section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project, we note that there are different views in the community. They include also the views quoted in Dr Hon Lam’s question, but we have not received any complaints providing specific information that required the Administration to undertake follow-up investigation.

(b) 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 in respect of existing air quality. There was also no request for the analysis of air quality in the future assessment year without the project in place.

The Chief Secretary for Administration on May 20 this year at the special meeting of the House Committee of Legislative Council had responded clearly to the relevant questions. All the documents and discussions of the Legislative Council and its Committees are public information. I shall not repeat in quoting the records.

Source: HKSAR Government

Illegal parking in Central can be curbed with more traffic wardens (then there is the idling enforcement)

South China Morning Post — 6 June 2011

The report (“Bosses’ cars blamed for clogging roads”, May 28) reveals that many people are parking their vehicles in prohibited places “because there are not enough parking spaces in Central”.

However you reported on the application Hutchison Whampoa (SEHK: 0013) lodged to convert 78 parking spaces at the Cheung Kong (SEHK: 0001) Center into a supermarket as it claimed that the parking facilities there were not being fully utilised.

This is an ongoing process as Hutchison is now contesting the zoning of the parking facilities. In accordance with the lease conditions it was originally required to provide a public car park with 800 spaces in return for being allowed to build on the site of an existing public car park and Beaconsfield House. Now it wants to reduce the number of spaces. Meanwhile streets in Central are clogged with idling vehicles, many of them with drivers snoozing while they wait for their bosses to call them. There is not a traffic warden in sight and while there are often hundreds of police officers mobilised to stand with their arms folded around the Legco building, little effort is made to force illegally parked cars to use Cheung Kong Center’s parking facilities.

The most absurd situation is that at Bank Street at lunch hour. This short narrow street is a yellow boxed area directly opposite Cheung Kong Center but drivers often idle there for hours as they wait for their bosses to enjoy a leisurely lunch at the China Club.

This is despite the fact that a yellow box always has a large notice stating that vehicles waiting will be prosecuted without warning. Hands up anyone who has ever seen a line of illegally parked vehicles get anything more than a gentle verbal warning to move on.

In a few months we will see the introduction of the idling engine law. Pedestrians will then have a legitimate right to demand swift action against idlers on our streets. However, the number of traffic wardens is to be increased by a mere one per district. With high pollution levels in Central the degree of illegal parking on streets there can no longer be tolerated.

While we sit around waiting for our HK$6,000 lai see, there are many in the community who cannot understand why a small fraction of the budget surplus was not spent on diminishing roadside pollution by providing the manpower necessary to enforce zero tolerance implementation of parking and traffic regulations that would ensure that facilities like the Cheung Kong parking spaces are utilised for their intended purpose.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai

Runway may be a waste of money, expert says

South China Morning Post — 6 June 2011

Chek Lap Kok plan needs to address problem of crowded airspace over Pearl River Delta region

A new airport runway will not help relieve congestion because much of the problem stems from restrictive use of civilian flight routes over the Pearl River Delta region, an aviation expert warned.

Dr Law Cheung-kwok, associate director of Chinese University’s Aviation Policy and Research Centre, said a third runway could be a waste of money unless the problem of crowded airspace in the delta region is resolved.

He also said the Airport Authority could consider building a shorter runway to save money.

At yesterday’s RTHK City Forum, Law urged Hong Kong to discuss with Beijing more efficient use of airspace. “If not, there is no use having more runways,” he said.

China’s airspace is mainly controlled by the military, with civilian flights allowed to operate only on limited routes and at limited altitudes. Hong Kong’s airspace is not under the Chinese military control, but many flights still pass over the mainland.

The Airport Authority last week launched a three-month public consultation on plans to expand the Chek Lap Kok airport to cope with future needs.

One option calls for building of a third, parallel runway north of the existing two at a cost of about HK$136 billion. A cheaper option is to upgrade the existing two runways, costing HK$42.5 billion.

Law recently returned from a study trip to Frankfurt and revealed a fourth runway is being built there for under HK$10 billion. He said Hong Kong, like Frankfurt, could build a shorter, 2,800-metre runway instead of a standard 3,800-metre runway.

He added: “It should be long enough because about a third of flights using the Hong Kong airport are short-haul or domestic flights to and from China.

“There is no need for these small planes to use a long runway.”

An authority executive director Wilson Fung Wing-yip argued it was value for money because it could generate HK$900 billion in economic benefits over 50 years.

Legislator Raymond Ho Chung-tai, also an authority board member, argued short-haul visitors from the mainland would turn to taking high-speed trains to Hong Kong and that the city should focus on catering for international flights.


Tung Chung/Yuen Long Ozone levels

—–Original Message—–
From: []
Sent: 03 June, 2011 15:26
To: Hotmail
Cc: Edwin Town; Christian Masset;; James Middleton
Subject: Tung Chung/Yuen Long Ozone levels

Dear Mr. Furner,

Ozone is not a pollutant directly emitted into the air from particular
activities characteristic of urban or industrial areas, and are usually
referred to as secondary pollutant. It is formed by the photochemical
reaction of oxygen, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds
(VOCs) in the air under sunlight. It is the main component of photochemical
smog. Its production and concentration is dependent on the presence of the
pollutants mentioned as well as ultra-violet light intensity. In the
presence of volatile organic compounds, high concentrations of ozone are
formed. It usually takes a few hours for O3 to be formed and rise to its
peak level. Ozone and its precursors can be transported to rural areas
downwind of their sources during this period.

On the few days you mentioned, the weather in the region was generally fine
and dry with light to moderate east to northeast wind. The intense sunshine
(i.e high UV intensity) enhanced photochemical smog activities and formation
of ozone while the low wind speed could not effectively disperse the
photochemical smog, causing the API at some general air monitoring stations
raised over 100 in the afternoon. As the light intensity diminished later in
the afternoon, the photochemical reaction slowed down and the ozone level
dropped to lower concentrations.

You may wish to visit our website at for further


WM Pun

02/06/2011 07:34
Subject : Tung Chung/Yuen Long Ozone levels

Dear Mr Wong
Could you please help explain why we are continuing to see afternoon peaks
in Ozone in Tung Chung and Yuen Long? Ozone levels rapidly rose yesterday
from 25.1 at 11am to 106 at midday to 299.1 by 4pm with a dip back down
overnight. This has been happening for the last few days. Can you identify
the source? Why is this not happening in other parts of Hong Kong?