The HKIA Master Plan 2030 revealed the two-runway airport would soon reach saturation point. It recommended a third runway with related facilities essential, to be built on land reclaimed from the sea. The scheme prompted calls from local green groups and residents to mitigate potential effects on marine wildlife and noise impacts.
About 40% of the area earmarked for the extension was previously a disposal site for mud dredged from Hong Kong harbour, which was known to be contaminated with industrial pollutants. It was feared construction would stir the mud up. We carried out the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and provided options that would allow the best balance to be struck between environmental protection, technical feasibility, cost and operational performance.
Our EIA work benefited from the fact that we were also producing scheme design for the three-runway system. This enabled these two elements of our work to be carried out hand in hand and saw environmental mitigation built in from the early design stage. This included minimising the land reclamation footprint, enhancing the eco-friendliness of seawalls and using non-dredge ground improvement to stabilise the sea bed. Strong engagement with multiple stakeholders kept them updated on EIA progress and proposals. Public forums and media briefings were set up when the EIA was published to clearly explain its findings and mitigation measures.
The extension to HKIA’s man-made island will be reduced by more than 20%, from 827ha to 650ha. Micro habitats will be built into the seawall to stimulate species diversity. Using non-dredge ground improvement methods will prevent contamination of the seawater. Flights will approach and depart the airport over water whenever practicable to minimise noise impacts.
A Marine Ecology Enhancement Fund and a Fisheries Enhancement Fund, proposed in our EIA, have been established to provide funding for research into further improvement of local waters. Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department approved our EIA and granted the Environmental Permit to AAHK in November 2014. Reclamation work for the three-runway system started in August 2016.