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Urban planning

Hong Kong environment professionals call for accreditation scheme to improve impact assessment quality

With more complex development projects, institute says improved accountability is also needed

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 8:43pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 January, 2017, 9:15am

A professionals institute has called for the creation of a government-recognised chartership scheme that would accredit qualified environmental impact assessors and raise industry standards.

It comes amid increasing demandfor environmental impact assessment studies as more and more complex development projects are proposed for the city.

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The Institute of Qualified Environmental Professionals (HKIQEP) said the scheme would be similar to those offered by professional institutes for local surveyors, architects or engineers.

“There are many ways to substantiate your technical expertise, but under the current system there is no recognition for the environmental discipline,” institute vice-chair Freeman Cheung Chun-ming, a senior environmental manager at engineering consultancy Aecom, said.

Under the current system there is no recognition for the environmental discipline
Freeman Cheung Chun-ming, Institute of Qualified Environmental Professionals

“The purpose will be to upgrade the professional recognition of environmental professionals... to make sure members are well qualified and have a good ethics and quality.”

Cheung said the HKIQEP would be empowered by ordinance to issue Qualified Environmental Professional credentials to members who meet the experience requirements and pass a trade test and interview. Project proponents could then request to hire only those who have the relevant qualification.

He said discussions had been held with lawmakers and the government on the proposal.

The HKIQEP is made up of a number of related institutions, including the staff union for the government’s environmental protection officers.

The quality of environmental impact assessments, has come under scrutiny in recent years with multiple judicial reviews lodged against different projects, including the most recent regarding the airport’s third runway.

Over 200 environmental impact assessment studies have been approved since the ordinance came into effect in 1998.

Clara U Kam-wa, who chairs the Institute of Environmental Impact Assessment welcomed the proposed scheme.

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“Accreditation doesn’t necessarily mean things will be better, but with a qualified professional, environmental consultants would be held accountable for their work,” she said.

Ecologist Dr Billy Hau Chi-hang, a member of the government Advisory Council on the Environment also commended the idea, but hoped it would improve quality control in studies.

“It’s better than nothing,” he said, questioninghow the qualification would cover such a varied field of expertise, including air and water quality, noise or ecology.