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Authority defends impact study decision on runway

Hong Kong Standard – 15 June 2011

The Airport Authority has defended its decision not to commission an environmental impact study on the third runway before seeking the views of the public.

Authority chief executive Stanley Hui Hon-chung said yesterday a detailed assessment will only be carried out once the public has agreed to give the controversial project the go-ahead.

The government-owned authority has put forward two options for the public to consider.

One is to build a third, parallel 3,800-meter runway north of the existing two at an estimated cost of HK$136.2 billion, with inflation factored in.

It will be Hong Kong’s costliest single infrastructure project and requires reclamation of 650 hectares, the second- largest in local history.

The other is an expansion of the two- runway airport, costing up to HK$42.5 billion, including inflation.

In an interview with The Standard, Hui said: “We don’t know which option will win the hearts of Hong Kong people in the end.

“It may need more than HK$100 million to conduct an environmental impact assessment.

“If we did it now, some might question the rationality of only carrying out an impact study on [the third-runway option but not the other].”

He said environmental protection and economic development are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

The aviation industry currently accounts for more than 2 percent of global carbon dioxide.

Hui said the authority has presented to the public both “very comprehensive” and “credible” information provided by its consultants.

“If you find our information incorrect, you may seek views from your own experts,” he said.

On the possibility of enhancing collaboration with mainland and Macau airports, Hui was more guarded.

He said this matter has to be handled carefully so as to abide by the principle of one country, two systems.

After all, mainland cities and Macau may wonder why they should cooperate with Hong Kong International Airport just to benefit the territory.

In response to concerns over the HK$136.2 billion price tag, Hui said on the grounds of reclamation alone, costs should not be directly compared with those of new runways overseas.

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