Thursday, September 20, 2012
The Airport Authority has decided against embarking on a study to estimate the intangible social impact that a third runway will have on society, as demanded by environmental activists.
It will instead carry out a study according to World Bank and European Union standards to estimate the social and environmental impact of the runway.
That decision was to have been communicated to the activists in a meeting yesterday, but they saw red once they caught wind of what was in the air and refused to show up.
The study will be on top of the environmental impact assessment that is due to start this month.
The EIA is mandatory under the law to assess the effect of the runway on air quality, noise, marine ecology and fisheries and Chinese white dolphins.
Authority corporate development executive director Wilson Fung Wing-yip said the social return on the investment approach that green groups want adopted is mostly used for small-scale community or charity projects and unsuitable for large infrastructure developments.
“The methodology is usually used by volunteers and non-profit sectors and its indicators can be subjective," said Fung, reiterating there is no single method for evaluating social and environmental impact.
Plans to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport were shelved in 2010 largely because a social return study showed that the impact on people living near the airport outweighed the economic benefits.
Fung said the authority believes the World Bank and European Union standards offer a more comprehensive assessment of the social and environment impact of the project.
In addition to air quality and noise, which will be covered in the EIA, the World Bank methodology also covers the impact on climate change, utility relocation, resettlements and accidents.
Fung said the authority will complete the study as well as the EIA in two years.
Greeners Action chief executive Angus Ho Hon-wai was among those furious with the decision.
“They are showing a lack of commitment to a wider public consultation and refusing to provide more concrete information," said Ho, adding that his group is planning joint countermeasures with other green activists.
Friends of the Earth senior environmental affairs officer Melanie Chau Yuet-cheung said she fears the authority is refusing to commit to returning anything to community.