San Tin/Lok Ma Chau Development Node receives conditional EIA approval

San Tin/Lok Ma Chau Development Node

20th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) of Hong Kong has conditionally approved the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the San Tin/Lok Ma Chau Development Node (ST/LMC DN), addressing concerns raised by various groups. This approval marks a significant step forward for the project, expected to be a pivotal development in the northern territories of Hong Kong.

The EPD spokesperson emphasised the rigorous, scientific nature of the EIA process underpinned by the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (EIAO) and its Technical Memorandum (TM), which set forth strict, objective standards for environmental review. The process involves multiple stages of public and expert consultation to ensure transparency and comprehensive assessment.

The EPD provided detailed responses to several specific concerns raised during the public consultation phase:

  1. EIA Study Brief’s Validity: The EPD reaffirmed that the EIA Study Brief was meticulously prepared in line with the TM, covering all necessary environmental issues and complying with all stipulated requirements.
  2. Ecological Impact: The department highlighted the extensive ecological baseline surveys conducted, which integrate continuous local ecological data, including efforts by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society since 2012. These surveys have been crucial in assessing the ecological value and impact on the habitats within the project area.
  3. Environmental Impact Prioritization: The project adheres to the ‘avoidance, minimization, compensation’ hierarchy in managing environmental impacts. Significant measures include preserving key natural habitats and implementing strict building restrictions to protect local wildlife, such as the Mai Po Lung Village Egretry.
  4. Protection of Avian Species: The EIA included comprehensive surveys and assessments of the potential impacts on local bird populations, particularly egrets and herons. Strategies have been devised to maintain and protect key flight corridors and foraging grounds.
  5. Conservation of Eurasian Otters: Recognizing the potential presence of Eurasian otters in the area, the project plans to include above-ground and underground wildlife corridors to facilitate safe animal movements.
  6. Wetland Compensation Effectiveness: The EPD cited previous successful enhancements of fish pond wetlands which significantly increased bird populations as evidence of the effectiveness of their proposed compensation measures.
  7. Mitigation During Construction: The EIA report outlines several mitigation strategies to minimize ecological disturbances during construction, including noise barriers and phased construction schedules aligned with migratory patterns.

The EPD’s approval is not the end of the environmental oversight. The department outlined ongoing and future initiatives to enhance the ecological value of the area further. These include desilting operations to improve water flow in natural reserves and the management of invasive species to increase habitat spaces for migratory birds.

Additionally, the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) is tasked with implementing these enhancements and is preparing a comprehensive Habitat Creation and Management Plan. This plan will be overseen by a newly formed Environmental Committee, comprising government officials, environmental experts, and representatives from green groups.