Tung Chung woman files legal challenge to bridge

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 January, 2010, 12:00am

A Tung Chung resident has called for a judicial review of the decision to grant environmental permits for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, saying impact assessments ignored pollution issues and used faulty methodology.

Fu Tung Estate resident Chu Yee-wah filed the review application in the Court of First Instance last week. She is calling for Director of Environmental Protection Anissa Wong Sean-yee to review her decision to approve the bridge's environmental impact assessments last autumn, and to grant environmental permits for its construction and operation.

The Environmental Protection Department said it would investigate the case in consultation with the Department of Justice.

Construction of the bridge is scheduled to begin next year and be completed by 2016.

The estimated cost of the entire project, including the bridge and connecting facilities, is 72.9 billion yuan (HK$83 billion).

The filing criticises reports drafted by consultants regarding the crossing facilities, North Lantau Highway connection, and the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok link road - a highway connecting Tuen Mun with Hong Kong International Airport and Tung Chung.

'No sensible person in the position of director, and who applies his mind to the director's duty ... could possibly have accepted the [environmental impact assessment] that concluded there would be no residual air quality impact whatsoever resulting from the operation of the projects,' the filing said.

The reports failed to consider the bridge's impact on public health, the filing said. 'Without the evidence of a quantitative risk assessment of the impact on public health, the director could not have lawfully granted an environmental permit under the [Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance],' it said.

Some of the criticisms in Chu's filing were based on opinions from experts in the University of Hong Kong's department of community medicine.

According to them, the reports ignored pollution factors such as fine suspended particles and sulphur dioxide, which the filing described as a major health hazard.

The experts cited in the filing said an assumption in one of the reports that the project would not generate ozone was invalid and unscientific.

'There is no question that ozone, as a pollutant, will be generated from the nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds emitted from road vehicles and construction equipment involved in this project, and from traffic during the operation of the bridge,' the filing said.

Assessors should have taken air quality readings from a roadside monitoring station, rather than a general station that was 21 metres above ground in Tung Chung, the filing said.

The reports were conducted with reference to the city's 1987 air quality objectives, which the experts claimed were obsolete and overdue for revision. To show that the bridge would meet the objectives, the studies used 2015 as a baseline year to assess the project's impact. By 2015, government measures to reduce air pollution would have taken hold, meaning the project would have enough 'headroom' to meet the objectives.

The experts said use of a baseline year was wrong, since it is based on speculation about future air quality.

Chu, 65, said in the filing that she lives in an area that the project will directly affect. She claimed the construction and operation of the project would affect her health, given her existing medical problems such as diabetes and a heart condition.

The project is already under fire from community and green groups for the danger it could pose to white dolphins in the area, and the disturbance it would generate for about 30,000 Tung Chung residents.