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Airport talks near final approach

Hong Kong Standard – 30 August 2011

Science is fully in play as planners look at ways to lessen the impact on the environment of a third runway at Chek Lap Kok, a senior executive of the Airport Authority argued as he tried to take the heat out of opposition to the project.

“Development and environment are not mutually exclusive,” said executive director of airport operations Howard Eng Kiu-chor as he pointed to more impact studies and mitigation measures once people are convinced of a need for a third runway.

But green groups and some political parties continue to push the authority to extend the consultation, which ends on Friday after three months.

They were at a third runway forum and workshop organized by WWF Hong Kong in Wan Chai yesterday, with Eng claiming the authority has taken the environment into consideration in its proposed master plan.

For instance, Eng said, there would be no marine piling in order not to upset Chinese white dolphins.

But green groups remain unconvinced.

The WWF Hong Kong’s climate program head, William Yu Yuen-ping, said his group supports airport improvements but the authority has failed to provide a full picture of the environmental cost if a third runway is to be constructed.

And seeking more consultation on two choices – extending present facilities or a third runaway – Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau Wai- hing told Eng: “I don’t think, based on what you’ve done in these few months, that you should come to a conclusion that option two should be adopted.”

More “engagement and consultation” is needed, she added, and “if you try to come out and announce that option two is accepted, I think there will be a big uproar in the community.”

Law Cheung-kwok of the Aviation Policy and Research Centre at the Chinese University of Hong Kong backs a third runway option.

“Time is running out,” he said. “It is urgent and vital to construct the third runway to sustain our position as an international aviation hub.”

Separately, the Staff and Workers Union of Hong Kong Civil Airlines is also backing a third runway after a poll of 511 aviation industry workers earlier this month. Eighty percent support it.

At least one more public event is due this week.

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