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Friends of the Earth (HK) comment on Optimising the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance Process

The Panel on Environmental Affairs reviewed the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (EIAO) today. Friends of the Earth (HK) supports the government’s intent to integrate smart platforms and big data analysis into the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process and develop an open centralised environmental database (CED), allowing for consultants, academics and the public to reference and study. Friends of the Earth (HK) stresses that every step of the EIA is important. The government should not skimp on details to optimise the process, else the EIA will become a rubber stamp.

Friends of the Earth (HK) urges the government to adopt the following recommendations in improving the EIAO process:

  1. EIAs are presently carried out by a consultancy hired by the proponent of the project, which lacks impartiality. We recommend the government to improve the role and function of the Advisory Council on the Environment. Funds should be reserved for the council to hire an independent consulting firm to evaluate the report’s accuracy and ensure credibility of the EIAO.
  2. The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) must set up a data vetting process and update the CED regularly to ensure data quality and accuracy.
  3. On the data usage of the CED, the government must strictly control and classify data by their sensitivity level. Sensitive data, such as ecological data of incense tree, should only be made available to project proponents or consultants for reference.
  4. Ecological and environmental data will change with time and external factors. The CED should only serve as a reference for baseline studies and not supplant professional assessments.
  5. Apart from EPD and AFCD, the government should facilitate information exchange across other departments, such as the Transport Department, the Water Supplies Department, the Drainage Services Department, and the Civil Engineering and Development Department. Environmental information should be stored in a systematic method using big data and made visually accessible to stakeholders and the public.
  6. According to the EIAO, project proponents must give the public a 14-day and a 30-day consultation period for their project profile and EIA report respectively. The government must consider the opinions of all stakeholders and not forgo the engagement process in the name of optimisation.
  7. Climate change is worsening. The government must incorporate climate impacts and adaptation measures into the EIA statutory procedures, mandating project proponents submit carbon emission data and climate vulnerability assessments.

Interested Topic:
Eco City

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