Insufficient information on the environmental impacts of proposed airport developmentThe construction of a third runway at the Hong Kong International Airport will undoubtedly have a major impact on Hong Kong’s environment. However, while the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK)’s consultation paper used detailed statistics to explain the economic impact of the third runway, there was minimal information provided on the environmental and ecological impacts.
WWF believes that the environmental impacts of the project are key factors to consider and that AAHK should release the comprehensive environmental impact information it has in its possession to the public immediately. Without this information, the public will be unable to fully assess the full impact of the third runway and provide informed feedback during the consultation period.
According to a letter from Ms Eva Cheng, Secretary for Transport and Housing, to the Legislative Council dated 24 June 2009, the AAHK commissioned a two-year engineering and environmental feasibility study for the third runway in August 2008. WWF-Hong Kong questions why AAHK did not announce the detailed results of this study when the public consultation period began and whether this was a tactic designed to play down the overall impact on the environment.
Dr Alan Leung, Conservation Manager, Terrestrial at WWF-Hong Kong says, “The consultation paper has not come close to providing the full picture of the environmental impacts of this major development project. WWF asks AAHK to reveal the overall costs and benefits that the third runway construction would have on Hong Kong so that we can have a meaningful debate.”
Impact on Chinese white dolphins
In the consultation paper, the impacts on Chinese white dolphins are downplayed. However, WWF believes a third runway will result in the following:
1. Direct and permanent loss of habitat
The construction of the proposed new runway will reclaim 650 hectares of the sea, the second-largest ever reclamation project in Hong Kong. This will result in the direct and permanent loss of the Chinese white dolphins’ habitat.
2. Disruption to dolphin activities and threats to their well-being
The location of the proposed third runway is at the heart of three Chinese white dolphin hotspots: Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau, Southwest Lantau and the Brothers Islands. Firstly, this will create a physical barrier in the water, which will disrupt dolphin activities between these important habitats. Secondly, it is likely that the marine environment adjacent to the airport will become even more congested, resulting in a higher risk of marine vessels hitting dolphins.
3. Implications for Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau Marine Park
As well as damaging the immediate marine environment, the construction of the proposed third runway will disturb Chinese white dolphins in the nearby Marine Park, and disrupt their activities and distribution.
WWF urges the Government and AAHK to immediately release the full results of the two-year engineering and environmental feasibility study to the public. Furthermore, WWF asks that a comprehensive assessment on the environment of the proposed third runway is carried out without further delay.