Officials demand facts on runway

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2012, 12:00am


The government is pressing the Airport Authority for more information and data on the ecological effects of its proposed multibillion-dollar third runway.

It is understood that the formal request for information by the Environmental Protection Department covers air pollution, marine life and aircraft noise.

The authority submitted a project profile setting out the scope of the scheme and its potential impact on May 29, but green groups said vital details on its potential impact were missing and some data quoted was outdated.

The groups said that without the additional details, the final impact assessment report would not show the runway's impact on the area of Lantau affected by the scheme, for which 650 hectares of reclamation from the sea would be required.

'After examining the contents of the project profile and the comments received, EPD has issued a letter to seek additional information from the Airport Authority in accordance with provisions under the environmental impact assessment ordinance,' a spokeswoman said.

She said there was no deadline for the extra data to be submitted but all information provided would be subject to two weeks of public comment.

An authority spokesman said the requested information would be provided as soon as possible.

If the department is satisfied with the profile, it can issue a study brief outlining the specific and technical requirements for the impact study.

The authority has pledged to finish the environmental impact assessment study in two years.

More than 200 submissions had been received by yesterday, the deadline for the two-week consultation on the original profile. Twelve green groups, in a joint submission, said the runway profile was flawed because it failed to take into account the potential noise impact on Tuen Mun and Ma Wan and the recent declining trends of the Chinese White Dolphin population. They said the profile was also ambiguous on the matter of differing air pollutants.

Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung, senior environmental affairs officer of Friends of the Earth, hoped the EPD would incorporate what they believed were missing elements in the profile.

'The EPD has to tell us clearly if it will adopt this and explain its decision in order to increase the transparency of the whole project,' she said.

Chau urged the department to handle the matter carefully, as it might have implications in the event of legal challenges by opponents of the runway.

Alan Leung Sze-lun, conservation manager of WWF Hong Kong, said the project failed to recognise the impact on dolphins and vessels of narrowing water channels.

The third runway is estimated to cost more than HK$130 billion to build, although the projected economic benefits to the city have been put at HK$900 billion.

But it requires reclaiming 650 hectares of sea north of the airport, which is the habitat of the threatened Chinese white dolphin. Former Observatory chief Lam Chiu-ying, an environmental adviser to chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying, has publicly opposed its construction.

In response to calls by green activists, the authority says it is exploring ways to gauge the social costs and benefits of the runway and the extra carbon emissions it will generate.