Snub over runway impact studies

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am


Green groups are refusing to work with the Airport Authority on the environmental impact process for the planned third runway unless it broadens the scope of studies.

The warnings came as the authority yesterday officially began the statutory impact assessment process by submitting a profile of the runway project to the Environmental Protection Department.

The authority's senior executives have reportedly lobbied green organisations to take part in technical briefing groups, along with industry representatives and government officials.

But the invitation has so far drawn a cool response. At least one group says it has turned down the invitation, while two others have set out conditions before joining.

Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, said he would not take part unless the authority agreed to carry out an additional study on the project's social return on investment - a measure of non-financial factors such as environmental and social values.

'The runway project is going to be the most complicated and controversial project ever, which will put the environmental impact assessment system to a real test,' he said. 'We should not miss this chance to strive for what we want.'

The authority showed a lack of sincerity, he said, when it snubbed a united call from green groups last September for such a cost-benefit study.

That view is shared by WWF Hong Kong, which last week accused the government of breaking its own rules in approving a land reclamation test for the project. 'The authority must agree to the study first,' said Alan Leung Sze-lun, the group's senior conservation officer.

A similar study has been cited as a major reason behind the stalling of Heathrow Airport's runway expansion plan in 2010.

Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung, senior environmental affairs manager with Friends of the Earth, said they had not decided whether to join the advisory groups. But they backed calls for wider studies not covered by the statutory assessment process. 'We urge the authority not to take advantage of the inadequacies of the process just for muddling through the runway project,' she said.

Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong will boycott the advisory groups because he does not believe the authority will heed its views.

Airport Authority chief executive Stanley Hui Hon-chung said it would conduct the impact assessment in a 'highly engaged, transparent and professional manner'.

The authority is expected to spend up to two years on the environmental study, which could cost HK$100 million.

An area covering 650 hectares north of the airport will be reclaimed to build the third runway at a total cost of HK$136 billion.