Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, at the Legislative Council meeting today (December 9):
The section of Tolo Highway beside Wan Tau Tong Estate, King Nga Court, Tak Nga Court and Classical Gardens is undergoing widening works to add a lane each for southbound and northbound traffic. Some local people have recently relayed to me that the widening works involve the felling or transplanting of a large number of trees and they are also worried that with the works going on and the future growth in traffic the noise problem will be aggravated. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a)given the information provided by the authorities to this Council onDecember 19 last year that the widening works would involve the felling and transplanting of about 11,120 trees, whether the number needs to be adjusted, and of the number of trees which have been removed; if the number needs to be adjusted, of the details and reasons for that;
(b)given that the green areas along the aforesaid road section are providing open space for many residents within the district, and they are also the habitat of a large number of birds, whether the authorities will re-assess the ecological impact of the widening works on the environment nearby;
(c)whether it will consider carrying out the widening works mainly on the northbound lanes which are relatively farther away from residential areas, so as to alleviate the impact on the residents nearby while the works are being carried out; if not, of the reasons for that;
(d)of the estimated increase in the daily vehicular traffic flow and the estimated increase in traffic noise after the completion of the widening works for the road section concerned; of the estimated number of residents to be affected by the noise; and
(e)of the details of the tree-replanting plan after the completion of the widening works, including the specific planting locations and dates, as well as the species of trees to be planted?
(a)With the funding approved by the Legislative Council (LegCo), the Government commenced Stage 1 of the Tolo Highway widening project (between Island House Interchange and Tai Hang) in August 2009. We pointed out in our submissions to the LegCo for funding application that about 11,120 trees within the area to be widened had to be removed for project implementation and the majority of the trees affected are common species and are planted within the man-made slopes along the Tolo Highway during and after its construction. Due to their existing location, if the widening works were to be taken forward, there is no other choice but to remove the trees concerned. According to the latest estimation of the Highways Department (HyD), the number of trees to be removed remains unchanged and no revision is needed for the time being.As at end November, about 230 trees have been removed as required under the project.
(b)During the detailed design stage of the Tolo Highway widening project, we conducted a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project as required under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (Cap. 499) (the Ordinance). The EIA already covered the potential impact of the project on the surrounding ecological environment (including the woodlands along Tolo Highway in the vicinity of Wan Tau Tong Estate, King Nga Court, Tak Nga Court and Classical Gardens in Tai Po). According to the EIA Report of the project, for the project as a whole, the woodlands affected are of low to medium ecological value.
In accordance with the requirements of the Technical Memorandum on Environmental Impact Assessment Process (Technical Memorandum), a series of ecological environment mitigation measures were put forward in the EIA Report, including the tree planting proposal covering an area of about 8.5 hectares along the concerned road sections under the Tolo Highway widening project for the provision of ecological environment and as habitats for animals nearby. The report also pointed out that the proposed mitigation measures were considered appropriate and adequate to compensate for the impact of the project on the ecological environment.
The above mitigation measures have been included in the works project and will be carried out during the construction period. HyD has, in accordance with the requirements of the EIA Report and the environment permit, set up an environmental monitoring and audit team for the works and engaged an independent environmental checker through their engineering consultant to regularly monitor and audit the environmental impact of the works during the construction period.
(c)We had thoroughly considered the specific locations of the works areas of the project and assessed the feasibility of different options during the planning and detailed design of the Tolo Highway widening project. Due to the close proximity of the northbound lanes of Tolo Highway to the existing Shan Tong Road and Shan Tong New Village, and there is insufficient space for carrying out the required works at the location, it is not feasible for the works to concentrate inthe northbound lanes.
(d)We anticipate that upon completion of the project, the number of one-way vehicle trips per hour during peak hours at the road sections concerned will increase from around 4,200 currently by about 700, i.e. to about 4,900. We will install noise barriers along the roadside of the project as recommended in the EIA Report to ensure that the traffic noise would not exceed the limits as stipulated in the Ordinance and the Technical Memorandum. As a result, the widening works will not increase the noise level along the road section concerned. Instead, for all residents (about 1,800 households) being currently affected by the noise impact originated from the existing road section, the noise level will be reduced by a range of 1 to 13 decibels due to installation of the noise barriers.
(e)Subsequent to the widening of Tolo Highway, more than 3,620 large trees with diameter over 75 millimetres, 44,000 seedlings and 50,500 shrubs will be replanted along the road section concerned. The total number of tress to be planted will outweigh the number of tress affected by the Project. Except the elevated bridge sections where tree planting is not possible, the planting areas are widely spread over the flatlands and the newly built man-made slopes along both sides of the project area.
As proposed by landscape experts after considering the ecological and aesthetic factors, we will plant new tree species including Sapium sebiferum, Litsea glutinosa, Schefflera heptaphylla, Cratoxylum cochinchinense, Syzygium cumini, Crateva unilocularis, Jacaranda mimosifolia and Koelreuteria bipinnata. We will start the planting works upon completion of the major civil and bridge structural works under the project in mid-2012. Depending on the progress of the works under the project, both tree planting and the works will be completed in 2013.