Following is a question by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (June 10):
In reply to my written question in May 2006, the Government advised that the Steering Committee on Greening ("SCG") was responsible for monitoring and coordinating the concerted efforts in different greening works of various Greening Master Plans ("GMPs") and those works in the districts concerned. Moreover, I have learnt that earlier this year, the Transport Department conducted a study on the proposed improvement works under the Area Improvement Plan for the Shopping Areas of Mong Kok, and it planned to widen the pedestrian crossing at the road junctions of Prince Edward Road West and Fa Yuen Street in September this year. Yet, the Civil Engineering and Development Department commenced, in accordance with the recommendations made in the GMPs for Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei, its tree planting works at that pedestrian crossing in May this year. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) in respect of the various completed or ongoing greening works of GMPs in the past two years:
(i) of the number of reports received by the Government about the newly-planted vegetation withering or being damaged, together with a breakdown by GMP of the incidents mentioned in such reports, with the respective dates of uncovering the incidents, locations and the relevant reasons (e.g. the newly-planted vegetation being damaged by people, being hit by cars or withering naturally);
(ii) whether the Government had re-planted vegetation at the locations concerned; if so, of the details such as locations where vegetation had been re-planted and the plant species;
(iii) whether any newly-planted vegetation had been removed upon plantation in order to tie in with other works projects, respond to the request from members of the public or for other reasons; if so, of the details such as the dates when the plants were removed, the locations of and reasons for the plants being removed, the species and quantities of the plants concerned; and
(iv) whether it had assessed the quantities of newly-planted vegetation which would need to be transplanted or removed owing to the implementation of the 10 major infrastructure projects (including the Hong Kong section of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and the Shatin to Central Link), the Central-Wan Chai Bypass, the MTR West Island Line and the Central Kowloon Route project, together with a breakdown by the works projects;
(b) whether the Government had, in the past two years, received reports about newly-planted vegetation being damaged by members of the public and shop tenants in the vicinity; if so, whether it had issued warnings to or prosecuted the persons and shop tenants concerned, together with a breakdown by GMP of the locations mentioned in such reports, number of prosecutions instituted as well as the relevant penalties imposed;
(c) of the average frequency at which SCG meets at present; whether SCG has adopted measures to enhance the coordination with the 10 major infrastructure projects, other major infrastructure projects and the district minor works projects implemented by various District Councils; given that some green groups have pointed out that the newly-planted vegetation withers or is damaged easily as the plants do not fit in with Hong Kong's environment, whether SCG or the relevant government departments will adopt any remedial measure; and
(d) as the Task Force set up by the Chief Secretary for Administration is exploring the possibility of having a single office to coordinate tree management work within the Government, whether the Task Force will review the existing work of SCG, and how responsibilities will be divided between such an office and SCG?
The Government has been actively promoting greening to improve our living environment. Our target is to bring noticeable improvements in urban greenery and to enhance existing greened areas. Works departments make every effort to plant new vegetation in the implementation of new public works projects. In parallel, as an enhanced greening initiative, the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) with the support of the Development Bureau has in recent years been implementing Greening Master Plans (GMPs) that seek to define the overall greening framework for various districts and carry out related greening works in an orderly manner.
Before answering the questions raised by the Member, I would like to first elaborate the arrangements for implementation of GMP works:
* If a contractor needs to replace planted trees for various reasons during the construction period, he is not required to report to CEDD under the contract requirements of the GMP works. CEDD will inspect and accept the planted trees upon completion of all greening works.
* There is an one-year establishment period following acceptance by CEDD in accordance with contract requirements. If during that period, CEDD finds it necessary to replace the trees for various reasons, the department will instruct the contractor to make replanting arrangements. In this connection, a record of replanting information has been kept.
* After the one-year establishment period, CEDD will hand over the trees to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) for maintenance. LCSD will carry out proper maintenance for them together with other trees and vegetation under its jurisdiction. As such, we do not keep a separate set of information on trees that are originally planted under the GMPs.
Since implementation of GMP in 2005, districts with greening works completed are Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. GMP works have also been extended to Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Sheung Wan, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay in August 2008 for completion by end 2009. Regarding GMP works for the remaining urban areas, they are scheduled to commence before end 2009 for completion by mid 2011. Initial consultation work for developing and implementing GMPs in the New Territories will also start within 2009.
Replies on the four parts of the question are as follows:
(a) (i) - (ii) During the establishment period for the completed GMPs in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, there were about 10 cases in which CEDD was required to instruct the contractor to make replanting arrangements. Detailed information on the cases is at Appendix I.
(iii) In respect of the completed GMPs in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, there was only one case in which transplanting of planted trees was required following strong objections of affected people on the ground of obstruction to shop windows. Detailed information on the case is at Appendix II.
(iv) As mentioned above, districts with completed greening works in GMPs are Central and Tsim Sha Tsui only. If the planted trees have to be removed because of future infrastructure projects in the districts, we will make appropriate arrangements. As for infrastructure projects in other districts, CEDD and its consultant will examine in details the information on the related works when available, and make appropriate arrangements when developing relevant GMPs.
(b) We did not receive any complaints about newly-planted vegetation being damaged by members of the public and shop tenants in the vicinity in the past two years. As for cases of damages to trees planted under the GMPs in the past (including those cases listed in Appendix I), we have not issued any warning or instituted any prosecution due to insufficient evidence.
(c) To co-ordinate the Government's greening work, a high-level Steering Committee on Greening (SCG) was established in December 2002 to set the strategic direction and oversee the implementation of major greening programmes. SCG is chaired by the Permanent Secretary for Development (Works) with members drawn from various bureaux and departments. Since its establishment, SCG has held 21 meetings, about once every three to four months on average. In addition, the Greening Master Plan Committee (GMPC) set up under SCG is responsible for the development and implementation of GMPs. GMPC is chaired by the Director of Civil and Engineering Development with members from the bureaux and departments concerned as well as advisers from professional bodies and the academia. Since its establishment in August 2004, GMPC has held 12 meetings, once every four to five months on average.
One of the functions of SCG is to co-ordinate greening work among various departments. Therefore, if the implementation of any major infrastructure projects or district works involves greening-related issues, SCG will also take appropriate follow-up actions. In developing GMPs, we attach high importance to the views of District Councils (DCs) and the local community. Accordingly, to develop specific recommendations on GMPs, CEDD has adopted the "Enhanced Partnering Approach" including consultation of DCs and stakeholders, and holding thematic forums for people in the districts concerned to collect views.
As regards selection of plant species, there is an array of species available for planting in the Government's greening works. Basically, designers will make a choice in the light of the design concept and environmental factors (including micro-climate of the planting area, soil quality, visual impact, traffic flow, landscape features, whether the species can help protect the slope from soil erosion, etc.). Consideration must also be given to the estimated construction cost and comments of departments concerned on maintenance, as well as the views of DCs and local communities before plants are selected among the many species. Most of the species selected for planting in the Government's greening works are sub-tropical plants, generally well-adapted to the living environment of Hong Kong. If any problem occurs, the Government will look into the problem actively and make improvements.
(d) The Chief Secretary for Administration is leading a task force with bureaux and departments concerned to conduct a review on tree management. The scope of the review includes the institutional framework on tree management. Of course, it also covers whether there is a need to revise the coordination function of the SCG on greening works within the Government. The task force will complete the review by end June 2009.
Ends/Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Issued at HKT 15:45