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Conservation of Natural Streams and Rivers

Legal protection


It is important to protect the natural streams and rivers, especially the upstream sections and those with high conservation value, against water pollution and unnecessary destruction. In Hong Kong, about 40% of the land area has been designated as Country Parks or Special Areas under the Country Parks Ordinance (Cap. 208). Streams and rivers within the boundaries of these areas are conserved and protected from incompatible activities and developments.
There are other ordinances which, to various extents, protect natural streams and rivers in Hong Kong. Examples of these ordinances include Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance, (Cap. 28), Waterworks Ordinance (Cap. 102), Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131), Public Cleansing and Prevention of Nuisances Regulation (Cap. 132BK), Waste Disposal Ordinance (Cap. 354) and Water Pollution Control Ordinance (Cap. 358).


Development planning


Currently, proponent of a project under planning should assess whether their project falls within the ambit of Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (EIAO) (Cap. 499).  If so, the proponent of a Designated Project has to obtain an Environmental Permit from the Director of Environmental Protection before commencement of the works.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) identified some natural streams and rivers as Ecologically Important Streams/Rivers (EIS) based on latest available ecological information. EIS are natural streams and rivers with important ecological functions such as providing habitats for diverse or rare animal or plant communities.
EIS at Sham Wat



During the planning stage of a project, the project proponents should try their best to avoid any potential impact on natural streams and rivers, particularly EIS. If this is unavoidable, project proponents should adopt appropriate measures to minimise or compensate such impacts. During the detailed design stage, the project proponents should adopt environmentally friendly design in order to maintain the naturalness, landscape as well as ecological value of natural streams and rivers.
EIS at Sha Lo Tung


Policy and guidelines


In line with Government's enhanced policy to better protect all natural rivers and streams from the impacts of construction works, new design approaches and guidelines have been formulated and are being adopted by works departments with the objective of achieving a river channel design as environmentally friendly as practicable. In essence, the following design approaches, in order of priority, are advocated:
  1. Avoidance approach - to avoid direct impacts on natural rivers and streams.
  2. Minimization approach - to minimize impacts if avoidance is not possible.
  3. Compensation approach - to compensate for significant residual impacts/loss when there is no other alternative available.
The government has issued the following guidelines to ensure that environmental concerns are taken into account in works projects in stream and rivers:




To enhance government officers’ awareness of the need to protect streams/rivers from adverse impacts arising from construction works, workshops are organised for management staff as well as site supervisors of various government departments.


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