Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

August, 2011:

Hong Kong 31st on world’s most liveable cities list

We still rank higher than Singapore, Seoul and New York

By Tiffany Lam 31 August, 2011

hong kong property

Despite soaring property prices, Hong Kong is still a great place to live in.

Hong Kong came 31st on a list of the world’s best city’s to live in.

Melbourne is now the world’s most liveable city, ending Vancouver’s nine-year reign on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) bi-annual Global Liveability Survey.

Vienna was rated the second best place to live, and Vancouver the third. Toronto and Calgary rounded out the top five. In another coup for Australia, Sydney jumped ahead of Helsinki to sixth spot.

Longtime runner-up Melbourne — Sydney’s arch rival, and some would say attention-seeking little sister — edged in front for its low crime rates, political stability, and comprehensive health care and infrastructure.

Melbourne’s vibrant restaurant scene and European-style café culture didn’t hurt its ratings, either.

Vancouver fell from grace because of the recent intermittent closure of the key Malahat Highway, causing the city to lose points for infrastructure, said the EIU.

Japan tops Asian entries

Osaka and Tokyo were Asia’s top ranking cities in 12th and 18th place respectively. Hong Kong came in 31st, Singapore 51st, Seoul 58th, and Shanghai 79th. Mumbai moved up one place from last year at 116th.

Honolulu was placed highest in the United States at 26th, followed by Pittsburgh at 30th. New York came 56th.

“Those that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density,” the EIU report pointed out. “This can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure.”

Cities are rated out of 100 points. Stability, health care, education, infrastructure, culture andenvironment are factors that the survey takes into consideration.

Aussies and Canucks rule

As in previous years, Australian and Canadian cities dominated the rest of the top 10, while New Zealand’s Auckland, ranked tenth.

Cities in Africa and the Middle East languished at the bottom of the 140 cities in the survey, with Zimbabwe’s Harare once again trailing in last place due to flagging scores in stability, health care and infrastructure.

The “Arab Spring” saw a fall in regional stability, with war-torn Tripoli in Libya sliding into the bottom 10 from its previous placement at 107.

The ongoing eurozone crisis also made European cities less liveable generally, the report said.

The world’s top liveable cities:

1. Melbourne, Australia

2. Vienna, Austria

3. Vancouver, Canada

4. Toronto, Canada

5. Calgary, Canada

6. Sydney, Australia

7. Helsinki, Finland

8. Perth, Australia

9. Adelaide, Australia

10. Auckland, New Zealand

And the worst cities on the planet:

131: Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

132: Tehran, Iran

133: Douala, Cameroon

134: Karachi, Pakistan

135: Tripoli, Libya

136: Algiers, Algeria

137: Lagos, Nigeria

138: Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

139: Dhaka, Bangladesh

140: Harare, Zimbabwe
Read more: Hong Kong 31st on world’s most liveable cities list |

The liveability report surveys 140 locations around the world to assess the best or the worst living conditions. It originated as a means of testing whether HR departments needed to assign a hardship allowance as part of expatriate relocation packages. It has since evolved as a broad benchmarking tool used by city councils, organisations or corporate entities looking to test locations against one another.

Cities are scored on political and social stability, crime rates and access to quality health care. It also measures the diversity and standard of cultural events and the natural environment; education (school and university); and the standard of infrastructure, including public transport.

Country City Rank Overall Rating (100=ideal)
Australia Melbourne 1 97.5
Austria Vienna 2 97.4
Canada Vancouver 3 97.3
Canada Toronto 4 97.2
Canada Calgary 5 96.6
Australia Sydney 6 96.1
Finland Helsinki 7 96.0
Australia Perth 8 95.9
Australia Adelaide 8 95.9
New Zealand Auckland 10 95.7
Switzerland Zurich 11 95.6
Switzerland Geneva 12 95.2
Japan Osaka 12 95.2
Sweden Stockholm 14 95.0
Germany Hamburg 14 95.0

機場擴建諮詢 環保團體「唔收貨」

31 August 2011

(2011/8/31新聞稿) 本港10個環保團體發表聯合聲明,指香港機場管理局擴建機場的諮詢粗疏,諮詢文件低估了環境影響的嚴重性,甚至與機管局的顧問報告毫不相干,容易誤導公眾,因此環團對這個諮詢「唔收貨」。團體要求機管局先提供整全的環境、社會和經濟的影響及成本代價,讓公眾掌握客觀的資料,再展開真正的公眾諮詢。


環團要求機管局在一個月內作出進行以上研究的承諾,並警告局方不可「偷雞」匆匆忙忙開展「環境影響評估」程序工作。環團警告,「倘機管局迴避環團的要求,我們會聯署要求機管局內的三名政府代表 (運輸及房屋局局長鄭汝樺、財經事務及庫務局局長陳家強、民航處處長羅崇文)和五名立法會議員 (何俊仁、何鍾泰、林健鋒、劉健儀及陳鑑林),站在捍衛公眾健康、環境質素及社會代價的立場,要求暫緩為該規劃大綱作出決定。」

聯署環團:世界自然基金會 (香港分會)、長春社、香港海豚保育學會、香港地球之友、綠領行動、綠色和平、環保觸覺、綠色力量、健康空氣行動、爭氣行動。


  • Ø 開放空域可行性及對航班升降影響之研究
  • Ø 香港機場未來50年之長遠發展規劃及擴建方案研究
  • Ø 要求訂出「還(生態補償)舊債」時間表 (機管局興建新機場時,承諾多項包括興建濕地等補償計劃,但當年答允的許多措施,至今仍未兌現)


  • Ø 研究及提供擴建計劃的碳排放數據,當中務須包括飛機的排放資料,還有因擴建而引致陸上及海上客貨運運輸的溫室氣體排放數據;
  • Ø 研究低排放航班的安排
  • Ø 承諾三年內實行機場島內地勤運輸電氣化


  • Ø 限制高速船航線遠離白海豚棲息地可行性研究
  • Ø 白海豚來往重要棲息地移動路線之研究
  • Ø 研究香港西部水域基建發展對白海豚的累計影響


  • Ø 開展東涌列作低排放區之可行性研究
  • Ø 研究及公開因新增航班引致的海陸客貨運的空氣污染物排放數據
  • Ø 研究及公開北大嶼山基建對區內及南屯門的累計空氣質素影響 (基建項目,除港珠澳大橋,還應包攬東涌新市鎮的擴建計劃)
  • Ø 公佈為達更新後空氣質素指標而要削減的具體航班數字


Keep vows, group tells Airport Authority

South China Morning Post – 31 August 2011

Green measures over building of Chek Lap Kok not good enough, says association

The Airport Authority has been told to make good on the environmental pledges it made when building the airport at Chek Lap Kok before asking the public to accept another huge project for a third runway.

The authority should “honour its cheques first before asking for more”, the Conservancy Association said, accusing the airport operator of not delivering satisfactorily the compensation it had promised for ecological losses during the original construction.

It said this failure underlined the need for the authority to disclose at earlier stage what compensation measures it planned to introduce if the third runway plan, involving 600 hectares of reclamation in key dolphin habitats, went ahead.

“They have to clearly demonstrate to the public that to what extent their measures could really protect the environment,” senior campaign officer Roy Ng Hei-man said.

Ng said the authority might consider starting the mitigation work even before construction on the HK$136.2 billion runway began.

Three days before the consultation on the project is due to end, the association said that in digging through the environmental impact assessment reports for the airport, produced in the 1990s, it had identified at least three pledges designed to compensate for the loss of Chek Lap Kok island, flattened for the airport.

It said checks on the sites showed none had been completed satisfactorily. In one, a waterfront site at Tai O where the authority had pledged to replant 11 hectares of mangrove for the loss of seven hectares on the island and in north Lantau, it found an estimated five hectares with one key species, common on the levelled island, growing poorly.

East of the Tung Chung new town where the authority promised to replant trees to compensate for removal of a 20-hectare secondary forest that was home to more than 101 bird species, the group found there were two dominant tree species, neither of which bore the right fruit to attract birds.

Parts of the site were just shrubs and weeds.

The association also said that to compensate for loss of a freshwater wetland, 16 other sites of similar characteristics were to have been included in country parks or designated as sites of special scientific interest. But so far, only one, in Sha Lo Tung, has been listed.

The Airport Authority said it had fulfilled its commitments to mangroves, secondary woodland and freshwater wetlands.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said designation of the 16 reserve sites were not pledges in relation to the airport development.

Ten groups will hold a joint press conference today to state their demands to the Airport Authority.

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.

Extended debate on runway ruled out

South China Morning Post – 30 August 2011

Pan-democrats want more time to study details, and economist questions benefits

The Airport Authority will not extend the consultation period for its proposal to build a HK$136.2 billion third runway at Hong Kong International Airport, which is set to end on Friday, despite appeals by lawmakers and an allegation that the economic benefits of the project have been grossly overestimated.

The pan-democrat camp has called for more time to digest the 2,000 pages of technical studies, saying that these reports were released only on August 8.

“All I ask for is two more months to study it before the authority reaches the conclusion that everyone is behind the proposal,” Tanya Chan of the Civil Party said.

But authority executive director Howard Eng said the consultation was only the first step and more detailed studies would be needed once a consensus was reached on whether the runway was actually needed.

Officials say the runway will bring an economic benefit of HK$912 billion over 50 years – seven times the cost. But an economist with a London-based institute that helped overturn the case for a third runway at Heathrow airport in 2009 said the actual benefit could be much lower.

“In the economic case for the third runway expansion there is a serious lack of sensitivity testing to account for future shocks in core factors like oil prices and economic growth forecasts,” David Thesis, a researcher at the New Economic Foundation, said. “Such assumptions in the consultation reports appear to be overly optimistic.”

Speaking at a forum organised by the green group World Wide Fund for Nature yesterday, Thesis said that, for example, the authority had used oil prices for 2009 – when crude was just US$53.5 per barrel – for its calculations. This was not only almost 40 per cent lower than current price at US$85.75 per barrel, but was also 50 per cent lower than the one-year peak at US$114.18 per barrel.

The benefits would shrink further if a price tag was put on the social and environmental costs, including an increase in fine-particle pollution, mainly in Tung Chung, that could increase mortality rates by nearly 13 per cent, Thesis said.

The UK government predicted a third runway at Heathrow could bring in a net £5.5 billion (HK$63.8 billion) in economic benefits after deductions for a £13.6 billion cost in worsening air, noise level and aggravated carbon emissions. The foundation predicts a loss of £4 billion.

China avoided measuring air pollutants: Wikileaks

29 August 2011

US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveal that Chinese authorities didn’t measure the levels of dangerous air pollutants for fear of the political consequences. One of these pollutants, PM2.5, is found at levels 5-10 times higher than the WHO guidelines and poses the greatest risk to public health.

China has not measured data on the most dangerous types of air pollution because it is afraid of the political consequences, according to US diplomatic cables.

This assessment, which comes to light as the government prepares to upgrade its air quality monitoring system, was among the central findings of cables from the US consulate in Guangzhou that were released on Wednesday by WikiLeaks.

Diplomats based in the industrial heartland of Guangdong – known as the workshop of the world and also one of the worst areas for acid rain and other pollution – looked in detail at monitoring systems and health impacts in 2006.

Based on research by local scientists, the consulate noted in a cable dated 16 August that small-particulate matter known as PM2.5, was 5-10 times higher than suggested by World Health Organisation guidelines.

It said the findings were “alarming”, because PM2.5 is not on the government index of air pollutants yet it is deemed to be of highest concern for public health because the particles are so fine they can enter into the lungs, contribute to acute respiratory symptoms, heart disease, childhood illnesses and premature deaths.

The diplomats observed, however, that this form of pollution was not being systematically measured and made public because the findings were likely to be too sensitive for the authorities.

“Those lobbying for its inclusion in an index of pollutants conceded that including a pollutant whose current levels would measure so far above acceptable standards would be politically difficult,” the cable said.

Problems about transparency extended to academia, according to another cable dated 19 September 2006, which describes: “Academics and research scientists in Guangdong, who are increasingly concerned about the region’s serious air pollution, but feel pressured to tone down their comments lest they face cuts in research funding … Scientists acknowledge that lack of transparency for existing air pollution data is a major problem both for research and policy making.”

Diplomats who attempted to research the possible links between pollution and birth defects were denied meeting requests on the grounds that the subject was “too sensitive”.

PM2.5 was not the only problem. Until now, Ozone – another dangerous pollutant – has also been omitted from the index, When the US Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation William Wehrum visited the Guangdong Environmental Information Center in 2006, a member of his delegation noted: “The raw data on the LCD screen showed extremely high levels of O3 (Ozone)”.

Since the cable was written in November 2006, however, environmentalists have commended the progress that China has made in measuring, disclosing and reducing air pollution, but many of these concern remain today.

The state media reported on Thursday that a new index would soon be introduced. Expectations are high that it will include ozone for the first time. Less certain is whether PM2.5 will finally be added.

Source : Guardian

We’re choking up

Hong Kong Standard – 29 August 2011

If you’re gasping for air today, the Hong Kong Observatory has bad news – you can expect more of the same for the next few days.

The news came as air quality plunged yesterday, with the air pollution index reaching 163 in Causeway Bay, 147 in Central and 145 in Mong Kok.

A reading between 100 and 200 is considered “very high” and hazardous to health.

The temperature hit 35 degrees Celsius in some areas.

A 48-year-old woman collapsed while hiking in Sai Kung. She was taken to hospital by helicopter.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said people with heart or respiratory illnesses, the elderly and children should avoid staying in areas with heavy traffic. He said the air pollution index will remain higher than normal in the next few days because of the poor dispersion of pollutants amid light winds and high regional pollution caused by photochemical smog.

The smog is the result of the reaction of sunlight and chemicals, which leaves particles in the air – a problem of modern industrialization.

The spokesman said that a continental airstream is bringing very hot weather and light winds to Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta. The strong sunshine and stagnant air hinders the dispersion of pollutants, leading to high levels of smog in the city.

“We expect the photochemical smog to still be active and the dispersion in urban areas to remain poor,” said the spokesman.

“The general and roadside API readings are expected to stay higher than normal in the next few days.”

To add to the discomfort, the mercury soared to 35 degrees Celsius in areas such as Sha Tin and Sheung Shui.

Hong Kong Observatory scientific officer Cheung Sai-kit said the hot and choking weather will last for three to four more days. Hot weather makes it more difficult for suspended particles to be blown away.

He said Typhoon Nanmadol, which is approaching Taiwan, will have a limited effect on Hong Kong. The expected track takes it past Taiwan and into eastern China, far from Hong Kong.

Nanmadol has killed at least 10 people in the Philippines and caused flooding and landslides. It also knocked out power in the northern areas of the country.

The Education Bureau has called on schools to reduce outdoor activities for all students. The Labour Department has also urged employers to assess the risks of outdoor work. Workers who do not feel well should inform their supervisors, it said.

Credibility sorely lacking in consultation on third runway

The neutrality of Airport Authority as host of the exercise

South China Morning Post – 29 August 2011

The public consultation for the Airport Authority’s Master Plan 2030, which proposes ways to expand airport capacity, including building a third runway, ends this Friday. Are the opinions expressed so far rational? Has appropriate and sufficient information been accessible in a timely manner to the public, beyond just professionals and politicians? Is the process of consultation fair?

There has been an open English-language platform for exchanging diverse views and counterarguments. Topics have included the operational and management inefficiency of the authority; missing opportunities for collaboration between airports in the delta region; grand promises of economic benefits and employment; neglect of social and environmental costs; and, irreversible effects to the ecology and its diversity. Like most people in the discussion, I see some good parts within the plan. But I am sceptical of many areas of it while we try to determine what is best for Hong Kong people.

Unfortunately, Chinese-language newspapers have portrayed a polarisation between economic development and environmental protection. That leaves a false impression that environmental protection is a stumbling block for economic development, without realising that the objective of pursuing growth and prosperity is ultimately to have a better quality of life for human beings within ecological limits.

The fact that the Airport Authority has been assigned to host the consultation is fundamentally flawed. It is running a business and, like any other corporation, it will not be so foolish as to fully report to clients all negative consequences of a particular plan or proposal. This may be why, only after two-thirds of the consultation period has passed, and following tremendous pressure from activist groups, it succumbed and released eight initial assessment reports of around 2,000 pages, which were only available in English.

Many people said these reports and the authority’s grand proposal are incoherent. It is like a jigsaw puzzle of a “white elephant” without all the pieces. The public is expected to digest this huge volume of information in a month. Incredibly, the consultation period on phasing out incandescent light bulbs is the same as for this huge infrastructure project costing more than HK$130 billion, with much larger long-term consequences.

The role of the Hong Kong government is deeply conflicted. It has an inescapable role to balance the interests of individuals against the common good, and to inform the public not just of any positive values of a third runway, but also the potentially negative aspects, too. However, it is hiding behind the Airport Authority’s sole pursuit of economic interests.

If we look at cities such as London, Frankfurt and Munich, their airport expansion proposals were not created only by their airport management companies. The British government, for example, took control of consultation on the third runway at Heathrow, as did the state governments of Frankfurt and Munich for their expansion plans. Being accountable to the public, the British government hired independent consultants to estimate carbon emissions from building an extra runway.

Could we see similar processes to assess the impact on our environment and public health? Would this not show that we are committed to a “do our best” approach, which means taking all practical steps to reduce pollution, rather than the “waste bin” approach that falsely assumes our environment is not bad enough?

The consultation will soon end. Society has been left with more scepticism than trust in the Airport Authority. In the opinion of many respectable professionals, academics and politicians, a government-led consultation would be more credible. So, let’s have a second-stage consultation led by the Hong Kong government, which has a more comprehensive grasp of overall economic development and regional planning.

Mayling Chan is CEO of Friends of the Earth (HK)

The importance of environmental impact assessment reports: the Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau Bridge judicial review

In April this year, the Court of First Instance (“CFI”) handed down its decision in a judicial review case against the Director of Environmental Protection (the “Director”), quashing her decision to approve the Environmental Impact Assessment Reports (“EIA Reports”) and issue the environmental permits for the Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau Bridge (“HKZMB”) projects.

The Court ruled that the absence of ‘baseline’ environmental reports rendered the EIA Reports not compliant with the Technical Memorandum (“TM”) and Study Briefs (“SB”s), which set out the requirements for the EIA Reports. As the EIA Reports did not provide meet the necessary requirements, the Director did not have the power to approve the EIA Reports nor environmental permits, as approved in late 2009. The decision is a further example of the rigorous interpretation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (“Ordinance”).

The decision has caused substantial delays to the HKZMB projects and is said to have had a knock-on effect on other major projects. This is because the decision was based on an interpretation of the purpose and requirements of the Ordinance and the TM, which will apply to all designated projects.

Prior to this decision, the general approach was for EIA Reports to measure the cumulative impact on the environment, and ensure that such impacts fell below the maximum allowable levels. The argument before the Court was that the Director should measure the impact from the baseline position and then decide whether that level of impact is acceptable or not.

The Director lodged an appeal against the CFI decision, and appeal was heard this week. We are now waiting to see whether the Court of Appeal will uphold the CFI decision to require baseline reports to be included in all future EIA Reports.

What is an EIA Report?

The Ordinance requires all “designated projects” within the meaning of s.4 of the Ordinance to obtain environmental permits before construction commences. In order to obtain the permit, the applicant or project proponent must prepare an EIA Report containing an analysis of the likely environmental impact of the project.

To start the process, the project proponent must submit a project profile that complies with the TM to the Director and advertise the project to the public. The TM is standard to all designated projects and is issued by the Secretary for the Environment pursuant to the Ordinance.

The Director will inform the Advisory Council on the Environment (“ACE”) about the project profile and ACE or any other person may comment on the project profile. The Director may ask the project proponent for further information as required. The Director will then issue to the project proponent an environmental impact assessment study brief (the “SB” referred above), which is particular to that project.

In accordance with the requirements of the SB and the TM, the project proponent prepares the EIA Report, which is delivered to the Director for approval. The Director then makes a provisional decision whether or not to approve the EIA Report and, if approved, the EIA Report is published for public inspection. Again at this stage, members of the public or ACE may comment on the EIA Report. The Director may call for further information as a result of any comments.

Once the Director is satisfied with the content of the EIA Report, she must approve, approve with conditions or reject the EIA Report.

The final stage is the application for the environmental permit, which the Director may issue subject to any conditions she thinks fit, having considered a number of factors including the EIA Report.

A designated project may not be commenced without the necessary environmental permit.

Why did the CFI find the HKZMB EIA Report deficient?

In the HKZMB case, Chu Yee Wah (“Ms Chu”), a resident of a public housing estate in Tung Chung, brought judicial review proceedings seeking orders to quash the Director’s decisions to grant approval for the EIA Reports and environmental permits for the construction of the HKZMB. Broadly speaking, Ms Chu alleged that (i) the EIA Reports did not comply with the requirements of the TM and SBs, and (ii) the decisions of the Director in approving the EIA Reports and environmental permits were irrational or Wednesbury unreasonable.

At trial, Ms Chu sought to challenge the decisions on seven grounds (which we will discuss briefly below) but succeeded on the first ground only. Nevertheless, her success on the first ground of challenge was sufficient for the Director’s decisions to be quashed.

The Requirement for a Baseline Report

Ms Chu’s first and successful ground of challenge was that the TM and SBs require the EIA Reports to provide a quantitative ‘stand-alone’ analysis of the project environmental conditions without the HKZMB project in place, otherwise known as a ‘baseline report’.

It was accepted by both sides that the EIA Reports covered only the cumulative environmental impacts (i.e. the conditions with the projects in place) and no baseline report. The question at hand was whether the baseline report was in fact required, there being no explicit requirement for such a report but only broad principles and general wording in the TM.

While the CFI Judge accepted the Director’s arguments that there was no explicit requirement for a baseline report, he adopted a purposive approach to interpreting the Ordinance. He referred to the case of Shiu Wing Steel v Director of Environmental Protection 2006 9 HKCFAR 478, where the Court of Final Appeal held that “the purpose of the [Ordinance] as declared in its long title governs its interpretation and also that its purpose of protecting the environment must inform the meaning attributed to the TM and SB, being instruments created under its authority“. [Hogan Lovells acted for the intervener in these proceedings.] The CFI decided that, without the baseline report, it would not be possible to assess the environmental impact of the project and consequently not be possible to propose suitable mitigation measures to minimise the pollution, residual and cumulative effects: “it is only by knowing the starting point […] that one is able to measure that footprint“.

For the Director, the following caveats were cited from R (on the application of Blewitt) v Derbyshire CC [2003] Env. LR 29, “… it is an unrealistic counsel of perfection to expect that an applicant’s environmental statement will always contain the ‘full information’ about the environmental impact of a project […] it would be of no advantage to anyone concerned with the development process […] if environmental projects were drafted on a purely ‘defensive’ basis, mentioning every possible scrap of environmental information just in case someone might consider [it] significant at a later stage […]”. While the CFI Judge agreed that it was sensible to apply these caveats, he maintained that this was not a sufficient reason to disregard the need to provide an EIA Report which properly identifies the scale of the environmental changes resultant from a particular project.

Accordingly, the absence of a stand alone analysis in the EIA Reports meant that they did not comply with the TM and SBs and that the Director’s decisions to approve them and the environmental permits were quashed.

What were the Unsuccessful Grounds of Challenge?

As noted above, Ms Chu challenged the Director on seven grounds but was unsuccessful on grounds (ii) – (vii).

Grounds (ii) – (v) also related to the methodologies followed in the EIA Reports. These were challenges to (ii) the analytical model selected to assess air quality (the PATH model) and lack of explanatory data presented in the EIA Reports to verify the results; (iii) the assessment year chosen to represent the worst case scenario; and (iv-v) the lack of assessment of ozone and sulphur dioxide.

In relation to the choice of the PATH model, the CFI Judge held that the explanatory data were not required for the EIA Reports and if desired, the data could have been requested during the public consultation period. In relation to grounds (iii) – (v), the CFI Judge held that the SBs as drafted allowed the project proponent discretion to decide on these factors, so long as the decision could be reasonably explained. In this case, those decisions were found not to be unreasonable.

Grounds (vi) – (vii) were that the Director had failed in her duty to consider the impact on public health and the health risk posed by pollutants such as toxic air pollutants and fine suspended particulates (which are currently excluded from the present Air Quality Objectives (“AQO”s) before issuing the environmental permits. As there was no evidence that the projected air quality would breach the AQOs, the Director had acted reasonably in relying on the AQOs to assess the impact on public health – the AQOs being the Government’s current policy for acceptable level of air pollutants, taking into account public health.

What Does this Mean for Future EIA Reports?

The tangible result of the HKZMB case (subject to the outcome of the appeal) is that all EIA Reports must now contain a baseline report, as a starting point to assess the environmental impact of any project.

However, when considering whether an EIA Report needs to mention “every possible scrap of environmental information just in case someone might consider [it] significant at a later stage“, project proponents may seek some comfort in the Court’s rejection of the other six grounds of challenge, which were dependent on interpretation of and adherence to the requirements of the TM and specific SBs.

At the first stage, when preparing a project profile, project proponents must ensure that the project profile accurately reflects the parameters of the target project. Then, once the SB has been issued, project proponents should carefully review the requirements of the TM and SB when preparing their EIA Reports to ensure that they are fully compliant or risk rejection or a challenge to the granting of a permit.

AQO consultation facts PM2.5 killer deliberately omitted by EPD

Need for Review

3.5 In October 2006, the WHO released a new set of AQGs. A number of overseas countries / economies such as the US, the European

Union (EU) and Australia have also updated their AQOs or air quality standards in the light of new scientific evidence and data

on health effects of air pollution. Annex C gives a comparison between Hong Kong’s existing AQOs, the air quality standards

being adopted by other countries / economies and the latest AQGs issued by the WHO. The current AQOs are lagging behind

those being pursued by other developed countries / economies in at least two aspects –

(a) they allow for much higher concentration levels of key

pollutants; and

(b) they do not provide for the assessment of fine suspended

particulates (FSP or PM2.5), which has been scientifically

proven to have greater adverse impact on human

health than PM10.3

PM10 and PM2.5 refer to particulate matters (PM) with particle sizes of less than 10 microns and 2.5 microns respectively. Recent health studies show that PM2.5 has greater association with adverse health effects and would pose a greater health risk to the public.

4.7 The current concentration levels of air pollutants in Hong Kong

are much higher than the WHO AQGs, partly due to local emissions

and partly due to regional air pollution. The regional impact

on the air quality in Hong Kong could best be illustrated by Table

4.1 below showing the compliance status at Tap Mun air quality

monitoring station, which is far away from local air pollution


Table 4.1 : Compliance Status of Tap Mun Air Quality Monitoring Station with WHO

AQGs from 2006 to 2008

Pollutant Averaging



2006 2007 2008 2006 2007 2008

4.8 The monitoring data show that even for such remote area as Tap Mun, which does not have any local emission sources, the WHO

AQGs were breached to various extents for up to half of the time in a year. It underscores the transboundary nature of the air pollution

problem facing Hong Kong. It is therefore proposed to adopt a staged approach in updating the AQOs to take account

of the local situations and prevailing international practices. The WHO AQGs will be taken as a long-term goal, the pursuit of which will be considered with reference to international practices, the latest technological developments and local circumstances.

(2) Early Retirement of Aged / Heavy Polluting Vehicles (Pre-Euro, Euro I and Euro II Commercial Diesel

Vehicles and Franchised Buses)

6.8 Euro V vehicles emit only about 30% of NOx comparing to Euro II models. Early retirement of aged vehicles (including pre-Euro,

Euro I and Euro II commercial diesel vehicles and franchised buses) and replace them with models meeting the latest Euro standards

(i.e. Euro V standards which will be in force in the EU by phases starting this year) will help reduce significantly vehicular

emissions. It is estimated that about 3,102, 300 and 184 tonnes of NOx, RSP (or PM10) and VOC emissions could be reduced respectively

following implementation of this initiative. Due to the close proximity of vehicular emissions to receptors, the consultant’s assessment shows that this initiative would generate significant health benefits.

(3) Earlier Replacement of Euro III Commercial Diesel Vehicles with Models Meeting Latest Euro Standards

6.10 Compared to Euro III models, Euro V vehicles emit only about 36% (for light duty diesel vehicles) to 40% (for heavy duty diesel

vehicles) of NOx. Assuming that 50% of the Euro III commercial diesel vehicles are replaced with new models meeting Euro

V standards, it would cut the emissions of NOx, RSP (or PM10) and VOCs by about 743, 75 and 24 tonnes respectively. This

proposed measure would generate major health benefits due to the close proximity of vehicular emissions to receptors. However,

the Euro III vehicles currently in use are relatively new (eight years old at most).Depending on the types of vehicle, their vehicle owners are likely to be more reluctant to replace them early with new ones.

Transport Management

(10) Low Emission Zones

6.17 This proposed measure seeks to ban commercial vehicles of Euro III or below standards from entering busy areas such as Central,

Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. It could help reduce the exposure of air pollutants at street levels within the low emission zones

(LEZs), although net emission reduction in the whole territory is not expected as traffic might be diverted to other areas. The assessment

conducted by the consultant shows that LEZs could bring about considerable health benefits to the population within

the zones. The cost-effectiveness of the scheme would be highly dependent upon how the proposed LEZs are to be designed and

implemented, and whether the affected vehicle owners would agree to upgrade or replace their vehicles to meet the emission standards required for entering the LEZs, including those who operate businesses or live within the zones. The potential diversion of the more polluting vehicles to other areas will need to be considered carefully in designing LEZs.

Infrastructure Development and Planning

(13) Expand Rail Network

6.20 Railway-based transportation generates substantially less air pollution than vehicles, even after taking into account emissions from

power plants which produce the necessary electricity to power the trains. Following development of the committed rail projects

including the Express Rail Line, the Sha Tin to Central Link (the Tai Wai to Hung Hom section), the West Island Line, the South Island

Line (East), the Kowloon Southern Link and the Kwun Tong Line Extension, it is estimated that the transport sector’s emissions of

SO2, NOx, RSP (or PM10) and VOCs could be reduced by about 17, 501, 46 and 207 tonnes respectively, bringing about considerable

health benefits to the community. Whilst the costs for developing the rail network are principally incurred and justified on

transport grounds, the health benefits so generated would lend additional support to the case for expanding the rail network.

(CTA Comment : but only a road , not rail link to Zhuhai / Macau on the proposed bridge is considered ! The report fails to address the 2nd highest sulphur emitter Ocean Going vessels burning 3% sulphur bunker fuel)