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July 22nd, 2011:

Green Groups Joint Statement Urging Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) to acknowledge the environmental impact of the third runway project,%207,%2028,%20152,%204590,%204754

Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) recently announced the Hong Kong International Airport Master Plan 2030 (Master Plan 2030), where two options were proposed. Option 1 is to maintain the existing two-runway system, and Option 2 is to expand into a three-runway system. Green Groups including the Conservancy Association, Green Peace, Green Sense, Friends of the Earth (HK), Clean Air Network, Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society (HKDCS) and Greeners Action have jointly declared:

We are disappointed with AAHK’s lack of neutrality during its public consultation. A large amount of resources were used to promote the need for the third runway. We find it unacceptable that the AAHK deliberately trivializes the impact of the third runway on Chinese White Dolphins by altering the distribution map of Chinese White Dolphins published by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department without authorization.

A large part of the Hong Kong ocean would be permanently gone if the proposal were carried out, since the three-runway system would require about 650 hectares of land reclamation. Dolphin expert, Dr. Samuel Hung, pointed out that the proposed third runway is located at the intersection of three core areas visited by dolphins which is very important to them. The proposed adoption of environmentally-friendly reclamation methods is not going to help much when such great damage is done to the marine ecology.

The aviation industry is a polluting industry which emits large amounts of carbon dioxide and air pollutants as part of its operation. The industry accounts for around 4% of Hong Kong’s total carbon emissions. For carbon dioxide that is emitted at high altitudes, the resultant greenhouse effect caused is much greater than that emitted at ground level. However, AAHK spared no paragraphs on explaining the projected increase in carbon emissions in the consultation documents.

Polluting facilities like power plants already exist in North Lantau and Tuen Mun. More projects are being planned in the area as well, such as the HK-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, waste incinerators, Tung Chung Extension Reclamation, Hong Kong-Shenzhen Airport Railway etc. We believe that these infrastructure projects are over-concentrated, and the total reclamation will take up an extremely large footprint and will seriously worsen air pollution.

We stress that building the third runway requires much more discussion and research as it not only involves environmental issues but also issues on airspace constraints, noise pollution, construction cost, demand forecast, cooperation with Pearl River Delta airports etc. To avoid wasting 136.3 billion of taxpayers’ money, the Government and AAHK should not make a hasty decision which may create a “Big white elephant”.

Green Groups call on the AAHK to:
(1) Stop trivializing the environmental impact of the third runway. Face and admit the enormous impact the third runway has on the environment
(2) Extend the public consultation period and present more relevant data on impacts on the environment, public health and ecology
(3) Maintain neutrality when promoting and consulting the public on the proposal. Avoid over-emphasizing the economic impact/benefits of the third runway
(4) Handle environmental issues properly even before the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment(EIA) process

To enhance public understanding on the environmental impact of the third runway, the following website has been set up to explain the stance and arguments of green groups.

Independent look at runway urged

Hong Kong Standard — 22 July 2011

About seven out of 10 those polled by the Civic Party want an independent consultant to evaluate the economic impact of the proposed third airport runway.

About seven out of 10 those polled by the Civic Party want an independent consultant to evaluate the economic impact of the proposed third airport runway.

The party conducted a telephone survey involving 1,365 respondents from June 20 to June 27.

It found that 67 percent agree the Legislative Council should employ an independent consultant to review the accuracy of financial data provided by the Airport Authority.

In its consultation document, the authority estimates that, with the additional runway, economic benefits will reach HK$912 billion in 2009 dollars over a 50-year period from 2012 to 2061, compared with HK$432 billion if the current two-runway system is simply modified.

It claims the model used to estimate the economic benefits of a third runway is widely adopted in the United States.

Party vice chairman Albert Lai Kwong- tak said the criteria used fails to take environmental costs into account and he presented the poll results yesterday to back up party claims.

The poll also found 68 percent agree the government should conduct an environmental assessment of the runway and recommend compensatory measures.

Lai said the strategic environmental assessment should also include the impact of other projects such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai- Macau Bridge and reclamation of surrounding neighborhoods, in particular Tung Chung, Ma Wan and Tuen Mun.

Party member and legislator Tanya Chan Suk-chong said conflicting roles should be avoided as the authority “can’t be the player and referee at the same time.”

Chan said: “The Transport and Housing Bureau should take over the public consultation to show credibility.” Other departments should also be involved, including the Environment Bureau.

Lai reiterated that the party is not opposed to a third runway but information is insufficient to assist a public consultation.

Consider all costs of a third runway

South China Morning Post — 22 July 2011

WWF is not opposed to the sustainable development of Hong Kong. Any questioning of the assumptions and contentions in the Airport Authority’s expensive propaganda campaign supporting the third runway should not be construed as being anti-development.

The information offered by the authority is seriously lacking in specifics about the environmental impacts and the resultant costs. Major infrastructure projects must include an element of the social costs.

The people of Hong Kong are being asked to support an investment of HK$136 billion for a project with too few specifics provided. Our business community would not give a go-ahead on an investment of a lesser magnitude with such limited information.

WWF has expressed our concern about the impact of this huge loss of habitat on the very survival of the Chinese white dolphin. In discussions with WWF, the authority has recognised it is encroaching on the species’ habitat but is at a loss about what to do. WWF has expressed considerable concern about the impact of the ongoing loss of fishery grounds for our fishing community. Nothing is forthcoming on this social and economic cost to our community.

In a meeting with the authority we were astounded that it was unable to provide information on the increase in greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the increased traffic using the runaway. We were informed no such calculation has been undertaken because of the complexity of types of aircraft and predicted fuel efficiencies.

This assertion raises the question: How is the authority able to quantify the economic benefits to Hong Kong using traffic data to support its arguments, yet is incapable of calculating the greenhouse gas emissions?

This is a runway long on promises but woefully short on specifics.

WWF calls for the consultation process to be halted until after this crucial information is provided to the public. Then and only then can a reasoned decision be made.

Eric Bohm, CEO, WWF-Hong Kong

Impact assessment in need of review

South China Morning Post – 22 July 2011

Striking a balance between the needs for development and environmental protection is not easy. In a city where development is synonymous with progress, conservation has always been a difficult course to champion, until a law was put in place to mandate all projects to undergo green impact studies 13 years ago. Over the years, the mechanism is thought to have been working well, until recently when there have been growing signs that a fundamental review is necessary.

Green activists often joked that the environmental impact assessment reports are “invincible” in that they are compiled, tabled, discussed but never rejected. If there is any truth in it, it is hardly a joke. A news report in this paper has rung the alarm bell that the director of environmental protection has only rejected seven – or less than 4 per cent – of the 196 cases handled since 1998. Critics may find this hardly surprising, as the majority of them are government projects which appear to be just rubber stamped as a matter of formality.

The head of the Advisory Council on the Environment, which helps scrutinise the assessment reports, argues that most studies have been endorsed because the concerns raised during the process had been addressed in the final report. It will be less worrying if this is the case. But the expert also agrees to the need for more international experts to help, saying fellow members find it difficult to comment on technical issues. The suggestion, coming from someone with first-hand experience, is worth considering further.

The activists have also rightly challenged if the director has the professional knowledge in approving the studies. Unlike the previous one who was an environmental scientist, a top bureaucrat also acts as the director, raising doubts if she has the expertise in discharging the power under the law.

Concerns over the independence and professionalism of the consultants commissioned by the developers should also be taken seriously. More than one-third of the 196 studies were done by one of the three key consultancy groups in the market. While there is no evidence to suggest they are paid to distort the studies to suit their clients’ need, the lack of an independent panel to monitor their qualifications would inevitably undermine confidence in their work.

Sadly, officials are still dodging a review pending a court appeal over the bridge project across the Pearl River Delta. The judge has ruled that the director of environmental protection had no power to approve the impact assessment reports in the absence of separate analysis of likely environmental conditions if the projects were not built. While the appeal is now a matter for the court to decide, there is no reason why the public should stop debating other perceived inadequacies in the mechanism.

Critics say the environmental protection department is not independent when vetting ecological impact assessments submitted by developers

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