|Environmental Protection in Hong Kong
Pollution problems in Hong Kong are similar to those encountered in most comparable urban areas elsewhere in the world. However, a
decade ago the Government embarked on a comprehensive plan to tackle the problems and the results of this on-going programme have seen
considerable improvements in a number of areas, such as sewage and waste disposal, and a more enlightened society. A review of the state of
the environment is published each year in Environment Hong Kong.
The Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) advises the Government on measures for the prevention and abatement of pollution.
The Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands, who has overall responsibility for policy on environmental protection, receives assistance
on the formulation of new policies as well as on specific environmental issues from the Director of the Environmental Protection Department
The Environmental Campaign Committee organises territory-wide events to promote community environmental awareness and administers part
of the Environment and Conservation Fund.
The Environmental Resource Centres (ERCs) in Wan Chai and Tsuen Wan provide public access to environmental information. A new
mobile environmental resource centre will come into operation in early 1999.
Planning Against Pollution
Considerable emphasis is placed on preventing future environmental problems by applying environmental impact assessment procedures to
ensure that environmental factors are considered at all stages of planning and project development. In relation to strategic planning, this is
achieved through EPD membership of appropriate planning committees and environmental inputs to the formulation of the Territorial
Development Strategy. Consideration of environmental aspects in relation to local planning matters is achieved through the application by
planners, architects and engineers of the guidance provided in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines.
The Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance was implemented on April 1 1998. It provides the legal framework for the conduct of
environmental impact assessments and the implementation of agreed environmental measures. The purpose of the ordinance is to avoid,
minimise and control adverse environmental impacts of designated projects through the environmental impact assessment process and
environmental permits. There are also administrative procedures requiring the evaluation of environmental implications of other proposals and
strategies. These evaluations provide useful information for Government decision-making.
To promote sound environmental management, EPD has published guides and produced a video to assist organisations in carrying out
environmental audits and putting in place environmental management systems (EMS). The EPD forms partnerships with other organisations in
ISO14000 EMS promotion programmes and participates in government-wide environmental auditing training courses and workshops.
Legislation and Pollution Control
EPD is responsible for the implementation of most of the measures contained in the main pollution control legislation.
Regulations in force under the Air Pollution Control Ordinance (1983) stipulate that approval from EPD is required for fuel burning equipment
being installed or altered. Major emitters, known as Specified Processes, are subject to licensing control.
All of Hong Kong has been declared as Air Control Zones and Air Quality Objectives have been published. The Fuel Restriction Regulations
prohibit the use of solid and liquid fuels in Sha Tin and restrict the sulphur content of fuel in other districts.
Unleaded petrol, made available from April 1, 1991, represents about 87 per cent of all petrol sales. Car emission limits comparable with the
strictest international standards became effective on January 1, 1992. About 65 per cent of petrol cars are fitted with catalytic converters. The
permitted sulphur content in automotive diesel fuel was lowered from 0.2 per cent to 0.05 per cent on April 1, 1997 to facilitate the continued
application of the strictest international emission standards for all diesel vehicles.
Another measure to control air pollution is a Smoky Vehicle Control Programme under which owners of vehicles reported by accredited
community spotters are required to present their vehicles for testing at designated centres.
The Open Burning Regulation, which prohibits open burning of construction waste, tyres and metal salvage, came into operation in February
1996. The Construction Dust Regulation came into operation in June 1997. It requires construction contractors to adopt standard dust control
measures while carrying out construction works.
Legislation for the control of asbestos in buildings and ships came into full operation in June 1997. Registration of asbestos consultants,
supervisors, laboratories and contractors under the Asbestos Administration Regulation, and ban of import and sale of blue and brown
asbestos, are already in force.
To help protect the global ozone layer, Hong Kong has taken up the full obligations under the Montreal Protocol and its subsequent
amendments through the enforcement of the Ozone Layer Protection Ordinance. In addition, regulations are in force to ban the venting of CFC
refrigerants and import of certain products containing controlled substances.
The Waste Disposal Ordinance enacted in 1980 provides control on the collection, treatment and disposal of waste. The ordinance was
amended in early 1995 to enable permit control on import and export of wastes in line with the requirements under the Basel Convention, and
was in place in September 1996. The ordinance was further amended in early 1997 to enable more effective implementation of waste disposal
Cradle-to-grave control of chemical wastes was implemented in May 1993. Waste producers are required to pay for part of the treatment
cost for wastes delivered to the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre. The purpose of the charging scheme is to create an economic incentive for
waste minimisation. Under the same polluter pays principle, a regulation was enacted in February 1998 requiring users of refuse transfer
stations to pay for the service. Draft regulations to effect charging for waste disposal at landfills have also been formulated and will be
implemented when operational arrangements are finalised.
A start was made in June 1988 on a scheme to prevent pollution by livestock waste. Towards the end of 1997, pollution from indiscriminate
discharge of livestock waste to watercourses has been reduced by around 90 per cent, an amount equivalent to the raw sewage waste from
1.48 million people. A new Dumping At Sea Ordinance came into effect in April 1995 to enable permit control on marine dumping activities.
The Water Pollution Control Ordinance, enacted in 1980 and amended in 1990 and 1993, provides for declaration of 10 water control zones
to cover the whole of Hong Kong. As from April 1996, all discharges into these zones are subject to licensing control. A Technical
Memorandum of Effluent Standards provides transparency in setting licence limits. They are designed to enable achievement of the water
quality objectives. Regulations were made in June 1994 requiring owners of premises to connect to public sewers.
The Noise Control Ordinance, enacted in 1989 and last amended in 1997, provides for the control of noise from construction sites, domestic
and public places, industrial and commercial premises, motor vehicles, intruder alarm systems as well as from specified noisy equipment. Noise
from general construction work at night and on public holidays including Sundays is controlled by EPD through a construction noise permit
(CNP) system, which has essentially banned non-essential noisy construction work in built-up areas. All percussive piling work requires a
CNP and is prohibited at night and on public holidays including Sundays. New provisions to phase out the use of noisy percussive hammers
came into effect in April 1998. Hand-held breakers (jack-hammers) and air compressors must comply with stringent noise emission standards
and fitted with noise emission labels.
Noise from domestic premises and public places is controlled by the police on a subjective assessment basis, whereas noise from industrial or
commercial premises is controlled by EPD through noise abatement notices. In order to help minimise road traffic noise, newly registered
motor vehicles including motor cycles are required to comply with stringent noise emission standards.
Enforcement of the above pollution control ordinances is undertaken by six Local Control Offices (LCOs) of EPD through inspection and
licensing of pollution sources, issuing pollution abatement notices, and prosecution of offenders. The LCOs have proved very effective in
tackling local pollution concerns in the 18 districts, strengthening communication with the community on government's environmental protection
work as well as promoting increased environmental awareness of the general public.
Waste Collection, Treatment and Disposal
An extensive sewerage system serves most urban areas, but has not kept pace with the growth in population or with industrial activity and
there are significant deficiencies in the rural village areas.
A sewage disposal strategy was adopted by the Government in 1989 and 16 sewerage master plan studies were undertaken to cover all of
A major deep tunnel collector system and treatment works is at present under construction. There are 24 km of large tunnels under the central
urban area and a sewage treatment works at Stonecutters, providing chemically assisted treatment for up to 3.5 million cubic metres of flow
per day, has been commissioned.
EPD is the waste disposal authority which is responsible for planning and development of waste treatment/disposal facilities.
A daily total of about 8 400 tonnes of municipal solid waste, which include domestic, commercial, and industrial wastes, are collected by the
municipal councils and private waste collectors. It is disposed of at landfills. Action has been taken to reduce substantially the quantity of
construction waste disposed of at landfills to 6500 tonnes per day.
Municipal waste is expected to increase from the current level to some 12000 tonnes daily by the year 2006. A waste disposal plan including
the development of three very large strategic landfills together with a network of nine refuse transfer stations is being implemented. The three
strategic landfills provide a total capacity of about 135 million tonnes of waste which will cater for Hong Kong's needs for the next 15 years. In
order to prolong the life of these strategic landfills, an integrated Waste Reduction Plan covering waste avoidance, material recovery and
development of bulk waste reduction facilities will be implemented in late 1998.
Seven of the nine refuse transfer stations are now in operation. They process more than 4900 tonnes per day of domestic waste for
containerised bulk transfer to the strategic landfills. Starting April 1998, two of the seven stations have extended the service to private waste
The Chemical Waste Treatment Centre on Tsing Yi Island started in April 1993 and has since treated more than 324000 tonnes of chemical
waste (including oil/water mixtures and oily wastes from ocean-going vessels). Plans are being formulated for the disposal of special wastes.
These include incineration facilities for clinical waste, animal carcasses and security waste, a storage facility for low level radio-active waste and
the disposal of large quantities of sea-bed muds contaminated with toxic substances. Restoration programmes of 13 existing landfills are
underway. By the end of 1998, construction of restoration facilities at two-thirds of the old landfill sites will be completed.
Apart from Government's effort in waste management, local recycling operations are playing an important role. In 1997, an annual average of
1.2 million tonnes of recyclable wastes with a value of $2.1 billion were exported for recycling.
Environmental Monitoring and Investigations
EPD has introduced environmental monitoring schemes and specific investigations in order to establish an objective basis for local action.
Water quality monitoring includes 82 routinely-sampled stations for inland waters and 166 for marine waters and bottom sediments. There are
104 sampling stations for the monitoring of water quality for beaches and eight for water sports centres.
An Air Pollution Index (API) and forecast were introduced in June 1995 to provide members of the public daily air quality information. One
general and one roadside air monitoring stations are being built to expand the current monitoring network. A new roadside station in Causeway
Bay was built and successfully commissioned in December 1997.
Territory-wide surveys of waste generation have been initiated since 1981 to provide the information needed for the planning of future waste
Environmental Awareness Programme
The government is committed to building up community awareness, through campaigns, publicity, education and action programmes, with a
view to harnessing the community's support for and contribution to achieving desired environmental goals, and securing a long term solution to
environmental problems through development of an improved environmental ethic within the community.
The EPD organises events, produces educational materials, operates a Visitors Centre and two Environmental Resource Centres (ERC),
and provides advice to community groups to arouse environmental awareness. EPD also liaises with green groups in Hong Kong to harness
their support, provides secretarial support to the Environmental Campaign Committee (ECC), and plans and coordinates development of new
The EPD assists the ECC, through its secretariat, in obtaining funding from the Environment and Conservation Fund and in applying such
funding to implement the Committee's projects. The ECC organizes annually, the Environmental Protection Festival, the World Environment
Day celebration, the Schools Environmental Award Scheme and the Student Environmental Protection Ambassador Scheme. The ECC also
publishes a monthly bulletin "ECCO".
Historical Development of Environment Protection in Hong Kong
The fear is it will outgrow it-self: was the comment by a visitor to Hong Kong in the early days of 1845! Hong Kong has been growing ever
since, with growth usually outstripping the arrangements needed to deal with the pollution generated by an expanding population and increasing
industrial and commercial activity.
The earliest efforts by the Government to protect Hong Kong's environment were the result of the recommendations of a consultant, Mr
Osbert Chadwick, who was sent from England in 1881 to"enquire and report on the sanitary condition of the Territory". Chadwick's report led
to the creation of a Sanitary Board, the forerunner of the present Urban Council.
As is often the case in the environmental field, a lack of appreciation of the seriousness of the implications of pollution, and pressure from
vested interests, prevented timely implementation of Chadwick's recommendations. Continuing unsanitary conditions led to an outbreak of
bubonic plague in 1894, that killed 1,000 people, changed community perceptions, and led to action to implement Chadwick's
In the years that followed, there was fragmentary activity on building additional sewerage, some provisions for dealing with the growing
quantities of garbage and in 1959 the introduction of a Clean Air Ordinance to control dark smoke from factories - prompted by the dire
effects of emissions from a umber of coal-burning enamelling factories in Tsuen Wan.
Establishment of Environmental Pollution Advisory Committees
Driven by a surge in the manufacturing sector in the late 1960's and the start of the world-wide environment movement, the Governor
appointed an Environmental Pollution Advisory Committee. The Committee, known as EPCOM, found it difficult to make progress because of
a lack of expertise in this newly developing field.
To help out, a team of consultants was commissioned in 1974 to review the Territory's pollution problems and to make recommendations on
how they should be tackled.
The consultants' review, published in 1977, examined all aspects of the Hong Kong environment and predicted the likely consequences that
would occur if no action were taken. The review stressed the urgency of developing a flexible framework for environmental planning and
management, including setting priorities and introducing necessary controls. The report noted that the framework would need to be flexible
enough to accommodate the rapid growth of Hong Kong's thriving economy.
The specific problems noted at that stage included: pollution of coastal waters including Tolo Harbour, northwest Kowloon, Victoria Harbour
and the Territory's beaches; pollution of the New Territories, in particular from agricultural wastes and industrial discharges; and the increasing
effects in urban areas of sulphur dioxide emissions from industry.
Environmental Protection Unit formed in 1977
At that time, at least eight executive departments within the Government had some involvement in pollution control work. The Consultants
recommended that a central authority was needed and proposed two options: either to establish a new department which would take over the
executive functions of the other departments, or to establish a policy unit, without its own monitoring or enforcement officers, that would deal
through those departments already involved in one way or another in various aspects of pollution control. The second option was selected,
mainly due to opposition to the establishment of a new Environment Protection Department by those departments that already had
responsibilities in the field at the time.
Accordingly, and Environmental Protection Unit (EPU) was established in 1977 to formulate policies to protect the Territory's environment
from excessive pollution and to coordinate the activities of the various departments involved in pollution control. The remit of the Unit did not,
however, include such things as conservation and other aspects of the natural environment. The Unit consisted of the Environmental Protection
Advisor, who was later joined by four environment protection officers covering air, water, noise and waste. Faced with difficulties in obtaining
the information on local environmental conditions that was needed to provide a basis for developing new legislation, and finding it impossible to
change some long established practices, the Unit made only slow progress.
Environmental Protection Agency formed in 1981
The Unit was replaced in 1981 by the more weighty Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This body was charged with developing a
comprehensive programme of measures to protect the environment from excessive pollution, although its role was largely advisory and
concerned mainly with conducting the necessary monitoring to ensure that any new measures it developed, for protecting Hong Kong's
environment, were tailored to Hong Kong conditions.
Environmental Protection Department formed in 1986
As concern for the environmental grew, the need developed for a separate and more powerful department with executive powers to control
pollution in Hong Kong and to address future environmental management concerns, The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) was
established in its present form in 1986, with staff and resources from six government departments. Uniting under the Director of Environmental
Protection, the department was made responsible for all pollution prevention and control measures, including the planning of the territory's
sewage and wastes management programmes, but excluding responsibility for conservation and the natural environmental which remains with
the Agriculture & Fisheries Department.
Whilst the EPD and its predecessors, the EPA and EPU, have provided a consistent thread in the development of environmental protection
work in Hong Kong, there are of course other important contributors. At the policy level, the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
has overall responsibility for policy on environmental protection. He receives advice on all matters concerning pollution from EPCOM's
successor, the Advisory Council on the Environment, which consists entirely of non-government people, and he receives assistance from the
EPD in for mutating new policies and programmes. For major policy initiatives, such as those involving new legislation, the Secretary must
obtain the approval or the Executive Council and the Legislative Council. Apart from passing laws and controlling public expenditure, the
Legislative Council (LegCo) also monitors Government policies. In performing its monitoring role, the LegCo has set up a Panel system to
examine issues in specific policy areas. As far as environmental issues are concerned the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs provides a
forum for the exchange of views on environmental and conservation issues.
In addition to its responsibilities for formulating policy proposals for consideration by the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands, the
EPD is responsible also for enforcing environmental legislation; monitoring environmental quality; drawing up plans for the treatment and
disposal of all types of waste; an advising on the environmental implications of town plans, large new industrial plants and any other
developments or new policies that could have a significant adverse effect on the environment. The department provides also complaints and
enquiries handling services.
A White Paper on Pollution, published in June 1989, explained the main problems and set-out a comprehensive plan for tackling them over the
next 10 years. The first review of progress on the White Paper was published in June 1991, the second in December 1993, the third in March
1996, and the fourth in February 1998.
There are publication list and online documents.
Full details on the Hong Kong Government's environmental protection activities are provided in the annual report Environment Hong Kong
and other publications.
Original source: Environmental Protection Department of Hong Kong
Submit by CEIN News on 8/19/1999