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Airport Authority must acknowledge environmental impact of runway

South China Morning Post – 30 July 2011

I write on behalf of several green groups ( regarding the proposed expansion of Hong Kong airport.

The Airport Authority recently announced the Hong Kong International Airport Master Plan 2030, proposing two options. Option one is to maintain the existing two-runway system; the second is to expand with a third runway.

We are disappointed with the authority’s bias during its public consultation process, in which it has emphasised the need for a third runway. It has trivialised the impact this runway would have on Chinese white dolphins by altering the dolphin distribution map published by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. A total of 650 hectares of ocean would go permanently if the runway was built. Dolphin expert Samuel Hung has said the proposed third runway is at the intersection of three core areas vital to dolphins. The damage to marine ecology will be so great that environmentally friendly reclamation methods will be of little help.

The aviation industry emits large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and air pollutants. It contributes 4 per cent of Hong Kong’s total carbon emissions. CO2 released at high altitudes contributes more to the greenhouse effect than at ground level, but such data is not mentioned by the authority in the consultation documents.

Polluting facilities, including power plants, already exist in north Lantau and Tuen Mun. Major projects are also planned for the area, including waste incinerators and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. There is too great a concentration of these infrastructure projects. Total reclamation will create a huge carbon footprint and severely worsen air pollution.

More discussion and research are required, as environmental issues plus other factors like airspace constraints, noise pollution, construction costs, demand forecasts and co-operation with Pearl River Delta airports are involved. To avoid wasting HK$136.2billion in taxpayers’ money, the government and Airport Authority should not make a hasty decision that may result in the creation of a white elephant.

We call on the authority to:

  • Stop trivialising the environmental impact of the third runway and admit the enormous environmental impacts;
  • Extend the public consultation period to present more relevant data on impacts on the environment, public health and ecology;
  • Maintain neutrality when promoting and consulting the public on the proposal and avoid over-emphasising the economic impact/benefits of the third runway; and
  • Handle environmental issues properly even before the mandatory environmental impact assessment process.

Gabrielle Ho, project manager, Green Sense, on behalf of six other green groups

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