The government says ditching the need for assessment reports for development projects spanning fewer than 50 hectares will not create loopholes when it comes to environmental protection. Under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance, projects covering more than 20 hectares require an environmental assessment report, but the administration wants to change this to 50 hectares. Terence Tsang, assistant director of the Environmental Protection Department, said on an RTHK programme on Wednesday that the authorities have reviewed assessment reports over the past two decades, and found that projects smaller than 50 hectares are usually related to housing or ancillary facilities that don’t have much of a cumulative impact on the environment. “We found that their environmental assessment impacts don’t always include recommendations on land allocation or special measures to improve the environment,” he said. Tsang added that specified infrastructure under the ordinance will require an environmental permit before construction, even if it is within sites that are smaller than 50 hectares. “We still have to look at the cumulative impact. So, I don’t see any loopholes in this respect,” he said. On the same programme, Roy Ng from the Conservancy Association said he is concerned that the proposed changes to the ordinance are aimed at speeding up development at the cost of the environment. Ng said the government must make sure the ordinance remains effective in protecting the environment.
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