Ma Wan will suffer from higher noise pollution from Airport Third Runway, if HK-Shenzhen Airspace Conflict Unsolved

The government approved the HK$141.5 billion Hong Kong International Airport Third Runway project. The decision immediately sparks criticisms and doubts on the project cost-effectiveness, and most importantly, the worrying HK-Shenzhen airspace conflict issues.

Government officers stress that once the third runway is completed, the airport could achieve a maximum 102 flights per hour, a significant increase to the maximum 68 flights per hour under our current two-runway system. However, such claim does have a prerequisite: the flights taking off from Hong Kong may head North without restrictions, i.e. occupying the low-attitude airspace controlled by the Shenzhen Airport.

Unfortunately, if our flights are allowed to do so, the normal operation of the only 24-miles away Shenzhen International Airport will be seriously disturbed. It is unreasonable to believe that the developing city will give way to us. The government responses to the negative prediction by releasing “unofficial news” to the press that, “even if we are not able to make use of the North bound flight tracks, the third runway could still bring around 20 flights up (ie. 85 – 90 flights hour) to the maximum capacity to the current airport”.

But for the Ma Wan residents, who complained about the serious airplane noise for years, such statement is going to be a “death-sentence”. Civil aviation experts studied the third runway project plan carefully and concluded that, sadly, if Shenzhen does not agree our flights to head into their airspace, the additional planes taking off from the future mid-runway will have to fly across Ma Wan, while taking off flight track from the South runway is kept close to Ma Wan [See figure]. In other words, Ma Wan residents are going to suffer from higher level of plane noise and air pollution, which could make the place unsuitable for living.

Green Sense chief executive Roy Tam urges the government to release more information. He says: “The environmental impact assessment report did not explain the potential harm, in respect to the noise and air pollution level, to Ma Wan residents under the situation that the airspace conflict cannot be solved. The report is simply faulty. The government ought to stop the project right now and redo the EIA report to relieve residents’ worries. Ma Wan residents have already borne enough noise from the airplanes for these years!”

Recently some experts suggests cutting some part of the hills to increase the capacity of the current two runways. According to the 1992 New Airport Master Plan, to achieve parallel arrival and departure, part of the two hills in Eastern Lantau, namely Tai Yam Teng (607feet) and Fa Peng Teng (897 feet), can be cut off. Only 36 feet and 197 feet should be cut respectively. These two hills are not in country park and these areas are not forest. If cutting off part of the mountain can be the alternative for the third runway, it is worthwhile for discussion. Besides, planes can turn earlier and do not need to fly across Ma Wan island. Noise pollution can be reduced.