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January, 2015:

Hong Kong’s proposed third runway would only reach a quarter of its potential due to airspace conflict: academics

Newly established watchdog claims HK$136b project would only reach quarter of its potential

The proposed HK$136 billion third runway at Chek Lap Kok would only raise the airport’s efficiency by a quarter of normal expectations due to unresolved airspace conflict with neighbouring cities, concern groups and academics said yesterday.

“It equals pouring in over HK$100 billion for a quarter of a runway,” said Lam Chiu-ying, adjunct professor of geography and resource management at Chinese University.

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Lam is one of four conveners of the newly established People’s Aviation Watch – a body set up to monitor the third runway project – which includes Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups, as well as academics from various disciplines.

The Airport Authority’s projection that handling capacity would increase from the current 68 flights per hour to 102 with the completion of the runway assumes Shenzhen airport would concede some of its existing airspace to Hong Kong, he said.

But the airspace conflict is the reason the current dual-runway system isn’t operating at its full capacity of 86 flights per hour, Lam said.

“The Airport Authority’s estimate is based on what they have yet to achieve,” he said.

Under the authority’s plan, aircraft using the third runway would overlap with existing flight paths of planes using Shenzhen Baoan International Airport at two points – over Jinxing Bay in Zhuhai, and over the Pearl River Delta.

“The central government may have to intervene if the Hong Kong and Shenzhen authorities fail to reach a consensus,” said Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung of Friends of the Earth.

In November last year, the government approved the environmental impact assessment for the runway despite strong opposition from conservationists.

The most expensive construction project since the handover – with a cost estimate of HK$136 billion in 2011 – still needs approval from the Executive Council on its design and funding.

The Airport Authority did not address the conflict issue directly, but said there were plans to “improve the management of airspace in the Pearl River Delta”.

Source URL (modified on Jan 23rd 2015, 2:30am):

Taking the plunge

On Christmas Eve, the government wrapped up the second phase of a proposed Harbourfront Authority initiative which would oversee the development of Hong Kong’s 73-km shoreline.

Mary Ann Benitez examines what’s next for the Fragrant Harbour

By Mary Ann Benitez*

Just next to Victoria Harbour smack in the northern fringes of the financial district a Great European Carnival and the Observation Wheel compete for dollars from thrill-seeking Hongkongers.

The space is called the New Harbourfront in Central, a reclaimed chunk of the iconic harbour for which Hong Kong has been named.

The AIA-sponsored carnival runs until February 22 with the organiser hoping to attract a million visitors, while the big Wheel to date has not created the buzz that London Eye has generated for the UK.

But concern groups are saying such entertainment facilities are not really what they want from the 73-kilometer harbourfront.

On December 24, the Harbourfront Commission and the Development Bureau concluded its phase 2 consultation for the proposed Harbourfront Authority (HFA). The three-month public engagement exercise was launched on

September 25 to gauge public opinion on the proposed detailed framework for the HFA.

The HFA will adopt an ‘incremental land allocation and development strategy’, with the plan calling for the government to inject a dedicated fund to cover the capital costs of developing designated sites.

Harbourfront Commission chairman Nicholas Brooke said that the priority of the HFA when it is established should be given to sites that are ripe for development so that it can capitalise on its “creativity and flexibility”.

The HFA will directly develop and manage 12 sites totalling 34 hectares on newly reclaimed land over the next decade. These are the New Central harbourfront, Wanchai-North Point harbourfront, reclaimed land in Causeway Bay, a waterfront park in Quarry Bay, a promenade in Kwun Tong and a new public space abutting the Hung Hom ferry pier.

“The HFA may seek the Legislative Council’s approval to draw resources from the dedicated fund when a project is ready for implementation”, he added.

The Authority could encourage activities on the waterfront, which are not welcomed however, such as alfresco dining, cycling and street performances. It is envisaged that the Authority would function as a ‘one-stop shop’ to reflect public demand for interaction with the harbour. It will eventually take responsibility for all the sites lining Hong Kong’s picture postcard waterway.

The Chairman of the Harbourfront Commission’s Core Group for Public Engagement, Vincent Ng, said, “We propose that the HFA should have three major functions, which are governance and management, advisory and advocacy, and executive functions”.

The 20-member board and a team of civil servants will be seconded to it to form a “dedicated” government team to support its operation while “suitable talent” from the private sector can also be recruited to assist the work of the team.

The Harbourfront Commission should be disbanded upon the establishment of the HFA “to avoid confusion or the perception of multi-layering”, advocates Ng.

The HFA will assume responsibility for the current advisory and advocacy role of the Commission in relation to Victoria Harbourfront.

“Even though we have put forth a proposal for public consultation, it doesn’t mean that we have already got the perfect answer for all the questions arising from the harbourfront management”, Ng said.

A 150-metre People’s Liberation Army berth on the new Central waterfront will be excluded from the HKFA’s ambit even though the government has pledged that the site will be open to the public when it is not used by the military.

A judicial review has been launched by pressure group Designing Hong Kong on the berth, which was rezoned for military use last February.

The Chairman of think tank Land Watch and former lawmaker, Lee Wing-tat, has told Hong Kong media, “The PLA pier will become a focus of tension for the new Authority. Should it allow students to stage class boycotts there?”

Brooke maintains that the HKFA can create its own by-laws or regulatory framework “for management, maintenance and operation of its waterfront sites. It could allow alfresco dining”.

Two months into the consultation exercise, Brooke told The Standard in November that the response to the idea of an Authority has so far been positive.

“We’ve spoken to district councils, chambers, professions and interest groups. The feedback has been that we could be more ambitious. It reflects the views of the community. And there’s a degree of impatience from people, which I completely understand”, he said.

A spokeswoman for the Development Bureau told Macau Business that the government has conducted 19 briefings or forums for the public, Legislative Council, District Councils, professional bodies and business chambers with over 450 attendees.

There were 21 written submissions and 142 completed questionnaires as of December 23, a day before the close of the engagement exercise.

“We have engaged the Social Sciences Research Centre of the University of Hong Kong to conduct an independent analysis of all the public views received during the Phase II Public Engagement Exercise”, the spokeswoman said.

All the written comments received will be uploaded to the dedicated website ( this month.

“The HKU is also expected to complete its report in the first quarter of 2015. HKU’s report will also be made publicly available upon its completion”, she said. “Taking into account the views received, the Harbourfront Commission and the government will consider the way forward after the completion of Phase II PE”.

Paul Zimmerman, District Councillor for Pokfulam and a member of the Harbourfront Commission, told Macau Business, “It’s time for government to start spending money on world class design and management of our waterfronts. And not just Victoria Harbour. Surely the residents of Aberdeen, Ap Lei Chau, Tseung Kwan O and Shatin have the same aspirations for their waterfronts”.

Zimmerman, who is also CEO of Designing HongKong, said the consultation digest and response form fail to address key concerns.

“These include a lack of oversight over the harbour as a whole, the lack of advisory powers over government departments, a lack of legitimacy in land allocation, bias towards commercial operations, and a loss of the public voice on the Board”, he said, maintaining that Designing Hong Kong has been calling since 2004 for an authority to create world class waterfronts.

“Now the shortcomings need to be resolved before the community and legislators support the proposal”, he said.

Zimmerman said the vesting of land should be the last not the first tool in enhancing the waterfront sites.

“To start, we need a strategic plan for Victoria Harbour and its 75km waterfront to justify the location of water-dependent land uses – especially the ones nobody wants: pumping stations, sewage plants, waste transfer stations, concrete batching plants, fish and wholesale markets, container and oil terminals, cargo working areas, passenger piers and landings, water sports centres, fuel and water supply stations, police, Customs, marine department and fire stations”, he said.

“Next, the Authority must develop waterfront plans for each district along Victoria Harbour, identifying land and water-based activities and facilities which the local communities want”.

He has also completed the 10-point questionnaire.

He told Macau Business that the Harbourfront Authority should have no commercial objectives, and that its remit is to implement and deliver harbourfronts agreed with the community.

“Secondly, HFA should be responsible for planning the entire harbourfront and associated marine uses”, he said.

Its functions should cover not only overseeing the development of the entire harbourfront and the management of allocated sites or facilities but also manage associated marine uses.

The first sites to be overseen by the Harbourfront Authority should be the “simple promenades to build up capacity” including the promenades of the Central Ferry Piers, Kwun Tong, Quarry Bay, Tsing Yi, Tsuen Wan and Yau Tong. Its planning function should not be limited to the allocated sites.

Zimmerman said the Authority should receive annual subvention for its operation and project funding for funding gaps associated with the development of the sites.

“HFA should be given the resources and mandate to prepare advisory harbourfront enhancement plans for each district in co-operation with the relevant district council, and in consultation with the community”, he said.

Environmental group Clear the Air believes the exercise is useless and that people are discouraged by a government that has no clue despite a public consultation in 2004.

“The government did not understand what it was told in 2004, that what people want are amenities to make (the harbourfront) a tourist attraction and a place for local people to enjoy the harbourfront”, the former chairman of Clear the Air, Christian Masset, told Macau Business.

“In 2004, we told the government what to do. And the government is still asking what should we do? It’s completely contradictory”, said Masset, a teacher and consultant.

“We then know what we want [but] it seems the government has a hidden objective of making more roads”, said Masset.

He said the consultation website using a picture of what a normal harbourfront should look like is “bizarre”.

“The government has no clue what to do or how to set up a beautiful harbourfront because the government has always treated the harbourfront as a road network and not as a place to socialise and to beautify”, he said.

He felt that the government wanted to “create a debate” instead of acting on what had been discussed a decade ago. He cites the new Central Harbourfront.

“If you look at the harbourfront today, it’s empty because it was cut from the centre of the city by the roads. Back in 2004, we told the government you are separating the harbourfront from the city. The harbourfront is not integrated but is severed by this network of roads.

“Therefore, you have a vast space which should have been occupied by bars and restaurants but there’s nothing and people say why do they have to go there? It’s a long walk, it’s difficult,” he said, adding the idea a decade ago was to put the road network underground.

Masset said the Big Wheel was not “a bad idea” as it is easily accessible being near the Star Ferry.

“The idea of the Big Wheel is good but it just occupies a tiny space compared to the vast empty space, which is difficult now to attract people. The original plan was flawed because the roads cut off the whole area from the city. You have to walk a long way. To make the distance acceptable, they really have to put out there some valuable features – a lot of restaurants, interesting places to make the walk worthwhile”, he said.

Even in Tsim Sha Tsui, the Avenue of the Stars is “a shame”, he maintains because “There’s nothing to be proud of, except the view. There’s no place to sit. There’s no bar, there’s a Starbucks. You have to go to an expensive hotel to eat and enjoy the view. You have to be rich to eat and enjoy the harbour or you have to spend on an expensive meal. If you cannot afford an expensive meal in a nice hotel, you’re not allowed to sit and enjoy the harbour. It’s very sad”.

He said his group had not submitted any written submissions for this latest engagement exercise.

“We’re tired of it. We did everything back in 2004. We don’t believe in this consultation exercise”, Masset said.

In 2004, the Court of Final Appeal ruled in favour of Winston Chu Ka-sun’s Society for the Protection of the Harbour, against government reclamation work for the Central-Wan Chai Bypass, saying that any reclamation must satisfy the test of overriding public need and be supported by cogent and convincing materials.

It is hoped that reclamation work will have stopped.

*Macau Business Hong Kong contributor.
Assistant news editor of The Standard newspaper

Dangers of Incinerators vs Zero Waste

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Plasma gasification to proceed in Zhuhai / Foster Wheeler (plasma plant builders in Teesside UK/Westinghouse Plasma) involved

Plasma plant in Zhuhai

Plea against Cheung Chau incinerator allowed

13 Jan 2015

Suresh Chandar

A Cheung Chau resident has been granted permission by the Appeal Court to take his case against the building of an incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau to the Court of Final Appeal.

Leung Hon-wai had argued that the incinerator was very close to Cheung Chau and harmful materials emitted by it would harm the health of people on the island.

Mr Leung’s challenge was earlier rejected by the Court of First Instance and the Appeal Court.

But the Appeal Court ruling was a majority decision by two of the three judges

Don’t sacrifice Hong Kong’s country parks for a housing quick fix

4 January 2015

Roger Nissim

The restarting of a regular land sale programme in 2013 after a 10-year hiatus is one of the real positive actions of the Leung Chun-ying administration as it struggles to plug the huge gap in housing supply. There is no quick fix for this situation. There is no such thing as “instant” flats and the public needs to understand it will probably take another four to five years before an equilibrium can be found between supply and demand.

I am, however, deeply concerned that, in their desire to find quick fixes for the shortage of land, both Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po and Secretary for Housing and Transport Anthony Cheung Bing-leung are starting to try to convince us that it is appropriate to consider rezoning green-belt sites and look at the possible use of land within country parks. These are both bad ideas and should not, as suggested by Cheung recently, be considered as one of the trade-offs necessary to achieve these short-term objectives.

Let us first consider green-belt sites. According to statutory outline zoning plans, the intention of this land-use zoning “is primarily for the conservation of the existing natural environment amid the built-up areas/at the urban fringe, to safeguard it from encroachment by urban-type development, and to provide additional outlets for passive recreational activities. There is a general presumption against development within this zone”.

Country parks are covered by the Country Parks Ordinance. The Country and Marine Parks Authority is mandated to “encourage their use and development for purposes of recreation and tourism”, “protect the vegetation and wildlife”, and “preserve and maintain building sites of historic and cultural significance”. There is a “presumption against any new development”.

Some 24 country parks have now been designated for the purpose of nature conservation, countryside recreation and outdoor education.

The wording here is unambiguous. It makes clear that these lands should be left alone to serve their existing statutory public purpose. The two policy secretaries are in fact encouraging both the Town Planning Board and the Country and Marine Parks Board, as well as the public, to overlook, and even subvert, their statutory responsibilities.

It is also worth reminding all concerned that, since 2011, the Hong Kong government has been committed to following the requirements of the international Convention on Biological Diversity and will be consulting the public this year on its Bio-diversity Strategy and Action Plan. This will require action not only to preserve country and marine parks but also to expand and enhance them.

Such tracts of land are attractive to the administration as, in the main, they are government-owned so there will be little or no cost of land resumption. But this would be a false economy.

By definition, the land is remote, likely to be hilly with trees, lacking suitable infrastructure such as roads and drains and at best could only be used for low-density, low-rise development. This would not be a good trade-off; the relatively small number of units provided could never justify the damage that would be done.

So what are the alternatives? Make better use of existing “brownfield” sites. There are some 600 redundant industrial buildings in urban areas which are now 40 to 50 years old and whose replacement with modern residential buildings would constitute positive urban renewal.

With the completion of MTR extensions west to Kennedy Town and south to Ap Lei Chau, all the old industrial buildings in Wong Chuk Hang, Aberdeen, Ap Lei Chau and Kennedy Town should be rezoned for residential use. All these areas have the infrastructure in place and are obvious targets for development. Lease modifications should be fast-tracked and, if multiple ownership is a problem, government resumption is an option.

The 2014 policy address identified 257 hectares of agricultural land in North and Yuen Long districts that are used mainly for industrial purposes or temporary storage, or which are deserted. This land should be pushed forward for early development.

Finally, the government should have the courage of its convictions and press ahead with the new town proposals in the
New Territories.
If 200 or so farmers are affected, as in the case of the proposed development in Fanling North, that is the price to pay if over 70,000 people can be adequately housed as a result. Surely, that’s a lesson in democracy, where the benefit of the majority should override the concerns of the adequately compensated minority.

So the message is clear: leave our green belt and country park land alone, and focus on other much more productive sites.

Roger Nissim is an adjunct professor in the Department of Real Estate and Construction at the University of Hong Kong.

Why won’t government listen to incineration alternatives?

18 December 2014

As the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee prepares to consider the government’s proposal to build an incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau, I hope – as a Hong Kong taxpayer – it will ask some good, hard-hitting financial questions.

The first of these should be whether the budget is realistic. The budget increases for this unproven project have been substantial. In Lai See, Howard Winn pointed out that the capital cost of the incinerator rose from HK$18.2 billion to HK$19.2 billion between April 16 and October 17 (“Shek Kwu Chau incinerator smells even before it starts”, October 31) and that in April 2012 when the Environmental Protection Department submitted the project to the environmental affairs panel, the cost was HK$14.96 billion. The final construction cost is likely to be significantly higher, but how will it be funded given the cost of other infrastructure projects?

Second, the committee should consider the negative impact on property and investment values in South Lantau and Cheung Chau. Lantau in particular is being touted as Hong Kong’s next major source of income: the bridgehead to the Pearl River Delta with potential for business, conferences and tourism. But who wants to invest in a hotel overlooking an incinerator?

Who will want to hike Lantau’s glorious trails or enjoy its beaches while breathing in whatever will be produced by this outdated moving grate technology, especially when similar leisure activities are a short plane ride away in Southeast Asia? One only has to walk from Mui Wo to Sunset Peak to understand this – but has anyone in the government actually bothered to do so?

Third, how about value for money? Even the department admits that about 30 per cent of what will be burnt – if the incinerator finally gets going on time in 2022 – will have to be transported to a landfill. And yet a landfill is exactly the problem it is supposed to solve.

Many times the advantages of alternatives have been laid before the government, but no one seems to listen. Plasma gasification, which is more efficient and could be arranged faster, was dismissed, unfairly, as untried. Low-cost and advanced recycling possibilities are routinely ignored.

After the political turmoil of the last few months, this is the Hong Kong government’s chance to show that it can listen and think about the future: Legco can help it take that opportunity.

Amanda Whitmore Snow, Lantau

RIP Prof Anthony Johnson Hedley, CTA Honourable Patron


Clear the Air sincerely regrets to announce the untimely departure of our Honourable Patron

Prof Anthony Johnson Hedley, BBS JP
1941 – 2014

Emeritus Professor (The University of Hong Kong)

FHKAM (Fellow Hong Kong Academy of Medicine) F

HKCCM (Foundation Fellow Hong Kong College of Community Medicine)

Dip Soc Med (University of Edinburgh)

MFPH (Faculty of Public Health RCP, UK)

FRCP (Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London)

MD (University of Aberdeen)
Born 1941
Departed for the Clear Air in the sky, December 19th 2014

The European health report 2015

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Open Government Around the World: Scores and Rankings

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