HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT EXPANSION:
OPINION ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF A THIRD RUNWAY
Currently, Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) operates upon a system of two runways. Under this existing set-up, the practical maximum runway capacity is limited to around 420,000 flight movements annually. This figure translates to approximately 1,500 flight movements per day, which breaks down to roughly 63 flights every hour. Such heavy aviation traffic means that operations can be extremely strained. To address the continual growth of aviation traffic, the Airport Authority has proposed to expand HKIA into a three-runway airport. The project aims to accommodate passenger demands in the long-term by constructing a third runway, with corresponding runway aprons and passenger concourses. The development is estimated to cost around 130 billion Hong Kong dollars.
Of course, in the creation of a third runway, we must closely monitor the situation for any underlying environmental impacts. Possible problems include noise pollution and a decline in air quality. In addressing the issue of noise, the Airport Authority has promised to implement the more stringent criterion of NEF25 contour (as compared with NEF30 in the United States). However, despite these measures, residents at Ma Wan continue to experience levels of psychological disturbance – a result of the excessive noise levels. It is therefore our hope that the Authority can do more to mitigate the effects of noise pollution. At the same time, we should aim to find a workable solution by opening our eyes, ears and minds to the concerns of these affected residents.
The proposed development of a third runway at HKIA will undoubtedly impact many residents in the area. The residents of Ma Wan near Castle Peak Road, and also those in certain parts of Tuen Mun, will be amongst those most severely affected. Given that the Government is more than willing to expend 130 billion dollars in the name of public interest development, the N.T. Concern Group feels that they should be made to account also for the needs of the minority adversely affected by the project. For one, the costs borne by residents to install sound-proofing materials and air-conditioning units should be compensated or at least subsidized. Such costs would be minute compared with the projected expenditure of the project. Ultimately, it would simply be bad policy to disregard the welfare of a minority in the name of the ‘greater public good.’