Environmental impact assessment system may be enhanced: Minister

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 January, 2013, 3:11am

The environmental impact assessment system - which the authorities rely heavily on to address conflicts between development and conservation - may soon be enhanced, top environment officials said yesterday.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said that while the operation of the system was largely "OK", it could still be improved.

"We have new appointments at the Advisory Council on the Environment and they could be open-minded towards this," Wong said.

Wong, who was briefing the media yesterday about the environment initiatives mentioned in Wednesday's policy address, admitted that the city faced development pressure to accommodate the growing population.

"But we also have an established policy to balance it with conservation," he said.

There has been public dissatisfaction with the system in the past, as seen in a series of legal challenges by green groups against the processes taken in major infrastructure projects, such as the building of an incinerator and a cross-border bridge.

But Wong insisted the system was transparent and included elements of public participation.

Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai said conflicts might remain "unavoidable" even after they formulated an action plan for the Convention on Biodiversity by 2015.

The plan would define conservation in terms of species and habitat protection, she said.

Yesterday, 37 groups issued a joint statement asking for the chief executive to set up a high-level steering committee to ensure the plan would be incorporated into government policies.