Two activists lost their legal challenge on Thursday to prevent the construction of the Hong Kong International Airport’s third runway. The High Court dismissed their judicial review.
The two applicants, Lantau resident Ho Loy and member of Green Sense Yu Hin-pik, argued that the environmental impact assessment conducted by the Environmental Protection Department was flawed, as it did not provide a sufficient evaluation of the project’s ecological impact.
The third runway project was proposed by the Airport Authority in 2010 because of increasing traffic at Hong Kong’s only airport. The plan included reclaiming 650 hectares of land north of the airport for the third runway, as well as expanding the existing Terminal Two for immigration clearance.
New marine park
The applicants said the assessment failed to offer off-site mitigation measures regarding the loss of habitat by Chinese White Dolphins. However, Mr Justice Chow said the report already included a list of mitigation and compensation measures to avoid and reduce potential environmental impacts, such as the designation of a new marine park.
The activists also said that noise estimates and the predicted impact to air quality was based on information provided by the Airport Authority and the assumption that the mainland will open up its airspace. The judge said the Civil Aviation Department consulted expert opinion and relevant data to confirm the authenticity of the assumptions and data.
Mr Justice Chow said that the court only had to rule on whether the assessment by the city’s environmental watchdog had followed due procedures – not to examine the “Airport Authority’s wisdom in pursuing the project”.
In August, protesters held a demonstration at the airport in response to the construction of the third runway. They called for the Airport Authority to suspend land reclamation work and to stop charging passengers as a means to subsidise the project.
The Authority said they welcomed the ruling and will continue implementing the mitigation measures according to the environmental impact assessment and permits. According to Apple Daily, the applicants are currently looking into the judgment and will not rule out the possibility of filing an appeal. Green Sense said in a statement that they were “very disappointed” with the court’s decision.