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Authority in the dark over runway social cost study

HK Standard

Phila Siu

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Airport Authority Hong Kong is looking into the feasibility of conducting a study to find out the social cost of building a third runway.

But it has no concrete way of knowing how to go about it as it lacks a frame of reference.

“It is difficult for us to commit to something when we aren’t quite clear what it is,” Kevin Poole, the authority’s deputy director of projects, said.

Poole’s remarks came after the authority officially began the statutory impact assessment when it submitted a project profile of the third runway to the Environmental Protection Department last Monday.

Besides the statutory assessment and social cost study, the authority is also looking to determine the volume of carbon emissions from flights that enter and leave Hong Kong.

Tommy Leung King-yin, general manager of the authority’s projects, said it is hard to gauge the cost of feeling sick because of pollution generated by the runway’s construction.

“It will also be tough to keep track of the carbon emission over the airport’s airspace because the pollutants can be blown into Hong Kong by the wind.”

Although a non-governmental organization has conducted a study to find out the social cost of building an extra runway at London’s Heathrow Airport, Leung said it is hard to just take that study’s framework and apply it to Hong Kong. This is because Hong Kong and London are two different cities, he added.

That study, conducted several years ago, found the social cost of building an extra runway in London would be 5.5 billion (HK$66 billion). Another study conducted by the British government said the extra runway would bring an economic benefit of 5 billion.

Poole said that if the social cost study is to be carried out, he hopes it can be done in 2014 – the same year when the statutory environmental assessment is done.

Green Sense chairman Roy Tam Hoi- pong cast doubts on the authority being sincere about conducting the social cost survey. “Their attitude is that they are just doing it for the sake of doing it,” he said.

Tam said if the authority is sincere, it should hire a consultant and pay an independent party to conduct the study.

He added that as far as he knows, no green group has agreed to work with the authority on its statutory environmental assessment

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