Grannie Green Revivial

For post before Aug 09, please read it with Traditional Chi Big 5 Code

Chp 102, Governance and institutional structure – Forty years champion for the environment

Governance and institutional structure

While Environmental Protection Department was the main government department looking after the environment, over the years CA came across many other government departments that have responsibility over certain aspects of the environment, such as

  • Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department
  • Antiquities and Monuments Office
  • Drainage Services Department
  • Food and Environmental Hygiene Department
  • Leisure and Cultural Services Department
  • Planning Department
  • Sustainable Development Unit
  • Transport Department

The same goes for the government boards and advisory committees, for example,

  • Advisory Council on the Environment
  • Antiquities Advisory Board
  • Council for Sustainable Development
  • Country and Marine Parks Board
  • Energy Advisory Committee
  • Environment and Conservation Fund Committee
  • Town Planning Board
  • Transport Advisory Committee

In 2002, the introduction of the ministerial system (the “Principal Officials Accountability System”) by Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa was to bring in a major reform in the institutional structure. However, the green groups regarded that as having started in the wrong footing, and collectively issued a statement in April expressing “grave concerns” about the proposed merging of Environment and Food Bureau with Health and Welfare Bureau into a new Environment, Health & Welfare Bureau. The green groups considered the new bureau as “a backward step that overwhelms environmental issues with other policy issues.” They suggested an independent Environment Bureau dedicated solely to environmental issues. A week later CA wrote to the Chief Executive separately putting forward the idea of a new its proposal of an Environment and Resources Bureau to be charged with:

  • pollution control and environmental planning then undertaken by the Environmental Protection Department;
  • waste management by a new Waste Management Authority to take over the work of waste management from Environmental Protection Department and waste collection from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department;
  • energy policy and promotion of alternate energy and energy efficiency by a new Energy Department (then the responsibility of the Energy Efficiency Unit of Electrical and Mechanical Services Department);
  • water supply and conservation by the Water Services Department;
  • management of our agriculture and fisheries resources by a new Rural Resources Department to take over the agriculture and fisheries work of the Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department;
  • a new Conservation and Countryside Management Department to take over the conservation of natural (such as ecological, geological and landscape), cultural and historical heritage, then under the remit of different departments such as AFCD, Planning Department, Antiquities and Monuments Office and Civil Engineering Department, to manage also the Country and Marine Parks; and
  • greening and landscaping of Hong Kong currently undertaken by various departments.

The Environment, Health & Welfare Bureau did not materialize. But the green groups did not get their way either, as the final product was the mammoth Environment, Transport and Works Bureau with nine departments under its wings, EPD being only one of them.

Not to give up on that, CA put forward a paper in September 2002 on the advisory committees, and another one in February 2003 suggesting a re-structuring of the departments under the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau.

On the advisory bodies, CA proposed that the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) should be re-structured with five subcommittees under its umbrella:

  1. Environmental awareness through the Environmental Campaign Committee
  2. Waste management and Reduction through the Waste Reduction Committee (it should be renamed as Waste Reduction and Management Committee to broaden its scope of work)
  3. Waste water management
  4. Air Pollution and Greenhouse gas emission
  5. EIA Subcommittee

There should be a new Advisory Council on Conservation and Resources with the following under its purview:

  1. Country and Marine Park Board
  2. Advisory Committee on the Quality of Water Supplies
  3. Energy Advisory Committee
  4. Wetland Advisory Committee
  5. Environment and Conservation Fund
  6. Endangered Species Advisory Committee

The CA paper also proposed that all meetings and papers of these committees be open to the public, and that an “empowerment fund” be considered to providing funding for third-party advisors or consultants to assist the work of the advisory committee members.

In 2003, the CA proposal was simplified to become one single “Council on Environment and Resources”, with 5 bodies under it respectively on EIA, pollution management, biodiversity and conservation, resources management and community environmental action.

Simplification was also the theme for the departments under the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau. CA’s proposal was for three separate authorities to be created: a Water Authority, a Waste Authority and a Conservation Authority, with EPD retaining its role as an independent regulator on the environment.

In the end, the juggling of government departments was not a green group’s job, so CA’s views were flatly ignored. But CA continued to pursue the matter of government re-structuring when the third term Chief Executive Donald Tsang unveiled his plan on the restructuring of the policy bureaus in 3 May 2007. The concern was with the creation of a new Development Bureau. The main issue as pointed out in a CA submission to the LegCo Panel on Constitutional Affairs was that the newly conceived Bureau should be a Sustainable Development Bureau (26 May 2007). Thus said the CA paper: “We suggest that the Development Bureau should seek policy guidelines from the Council on Sustainable Development. And as the Development Bureau is only responsible for development-related heritage conservation only, the Environment Bureau should take up the responsibility of both nature and heritage conservation, besides taking up matters on energy.” CA would also like the Development Bureau to speed up sustainable development projects such as the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme Stage 2B and Integrated Waste Management Facility.

For the government, however, “Development” and “sustainable development” just had to be separate. But at least sustainable development came under the newly created bureau dedicated to the environment – something green groups have wanted for a long time.

But it was also this same bureau which incurred the first objection from green groups. At the instigation of CA, six green groups including Clear the Air, Green Lantau Association, Green Sense, Green Student Council, the living Islands Movement and WWF Hong Kong jointly issued a statement on 7 June in the re-organisation of the Environment Bureau, expressing disappointment that the Director for Environmental Protection (DEP) would be taken up by the Permanent Secretary for the Environment, an Administrative Officer. “The DEP is the top expert within the government to offer professional advice to the Chief Executive in Council and to other government departments with regard to all issues related to the environment. Therefore this post should only be taken up by a professional scientist or engineer with relevant training, expertise and credibility in the subject matter concerned.” The green groups were especially concerned about DEP’s statutory role under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance which might be compromised if the Director post were to be “twinned with that of the Permanent Secretary and be filled by a person who does not have the requisite professional and technical expertise.” The same was said also of the Director for Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation for which green groups preferred a professional scientist rather than an administrative officer. Neither was heeded by the government.

July 21, 2015 Posted by | Dr WK Chan book | Leave a comment