The Legislative Council resumed its session today (29 December) to pass the proposed resolution to amend the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance 2023 (Amendment of Schedules 2 and 3) Order, including the establishment of a central database. It is expected to cut the EIA process by about half, taking about 18 months for typical projects and about 24 months for large-scale projects.

The Secretary for the Environment and Ecology, Mr Tse Chin-wan, said the purpose of the amendments was to provide a clear definition of the designated projects and to improve the wording and scope of application of the Chinese text to avoid confusion.

The Legislative Council passed amendments to the EIA Ordinance. (Profile photo/Photo by Liao Yanxiong)

The Government proposes to amend the Ordinance to propose four major areas of improvement, including the establishment of a central environmental database, updating the list of designated projects, making good use of the direct application route for environmental permits and updating the assessment requirements of the Technical Memorandum, etc., to shorten the usual time required for EIA to 18 to 24 months, but the time limit for public access will remain unchanged.

Chen Shaoxiong urged the avoidance of project cut-off submissions

Chan Siu-hung, chairman of the relevant Legislative Council subcommittee and member of the Legislative Council of the Election Committee, said that in the past, large-scale projects may be broken up into smaller projects, avoiding the circumvention of the EIA process, and the bureau continues to improve the mechanism.

According to Pakatan Rakyat-lak Chairman Lo Wai Kwok and a member of the Legislative Council for the engineering sector, the measures are expected to cut the EIA process by about half, which takes about 18 months for ordinary projects and about 24 months for large-scale projects. LegCo member Tse Wai-chuen of the Architecture, Surveying, Town Planning and Landscape Boundary (LegCo) said that after setting up a central database, it is necessary to prevent the misuse of data and ensure that readers are careful.

Ho questioned that EIAs are sometimes used to erase images

Ho Chun-yin, a member of the Legislative Council of the fishery and agricultural sectors, said that the people did not know how long the consultation period would be, and hoped that the government would do a good job of explaining it in advance. He also criticized many projects for claiming that they had little impact on the fishery, but the truth is the opposite, questioning the government's EIA report only to "plug the fishermen's mouth" and wash the image.

The Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance 5 (Amendment of Schedules 5 and 2023) Order (the "Order") and the guidelines for technical assessment in the Amendment of the Technical Memorandum on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedures (the "Memorandum of Technology") were gazetted on 2 May. The Order will come into operation on 3 June and the amended Technical Memorandum is to be implemented upon the expiry of the Council debate period of the Technical Memorandum under section 6(30) of the Ordinance.

A Government spokesman pointed out at the time that after the implementation of the Order, the items contained in the list of designated works in Schedules 2 and 3 of the Ordinance will be more clearly defined and better meet the needs of scientific and technological progress and development in recent years. The revised Technical Memorandum will further standardise the technical assessment methodologies in EIAs to enhance consistency, efficiency and quality. The entire EIA process will be streamlined and the pace of implementation of designated projects will be accelerated, bringing long-term environmental benefits to the community as a whole.

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