March 9, 2009

Sample Research Proposal on Effectiveness and Enforcement Measures of Environmental Law in HongKong

I.        Introduction

The effectiveness of the laws tends to rely heavily on its enforcement. More particularly, without the effective enforcement initiatives, laws become basically mere guidelines that point out suggestions and not as rules that set the parameters of a specific area. This is similarly true with the context of the environmental laws. Along with the trend of standardisation among nations all over the world with regards to ratification of legislation, there is an impending issue on whether such standard laws pertaining to the environment are viable for certain countries. This issue is well seen in the context of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. To this end, the primary objective of this paper is to provide a detailed examination of the existing laws in environmental protection and the consequent enforcement of HKSAR on these legislations. The secondary objective is to compare these legal initiatives as well as the effectiveness of enforcement with the legal regime governing in other countries. For the purposes of this thesis, the foreign countries to be regarded will include Australia and the United Kingdom. Moreover, it is also deemed important for this study to address another Asian country in its pursuit for environmental viability. To this end, the study will also look into the case of China.  

The main source of data that this paper will employ will come from case laws from the three countries as well as the ratified legislation on environmental laws. In the same regard, the paper will also take into consideration the use of existing literature relating to the international standards, treaties and initiatives on environmental law and its enforcement.   

II.      Background and Concept behind the Statement

Studies focusing on the environment and its protection have constantly been regarded by lawmakers and politicians in both international and local levels in determining the proper rules and legislations needed in a particular state. For instance, studies have mentioned several areas of concern which could be addressed by legislation. These include the quality of the air, the quality of water, level of noise pollution, waste disposal, and its consequent environmental impacts.[1] The need to determine the need to address these perceived elements involving the environment intensifies almost in a daily basis. Particularly, with the continuous and unrelenting drive of state towards development and urbanisation, these stated elements will continue to deteriorate unless the state places a firm stand on its protection and act on breaches on these laws.[2]

Focus on the environmental regime governing Asian countries has been rather scant as compared to the discussion relating to the United States and European Union.[3] However, these types of discussions relating to these major countries tend to provide a model for less developed ones in the enforcement of such laws. For instance, the study of Babbitt, Cory, and Kruchek tried to justify the criminalisation of the laws covering environmental protection to intensify the enforcement of the laws and some level of protection because of the consequent deterrence it could bestow as precedent cases are established.[4]  

In the context of China, it has won it bid and anticipating the hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Articles have noted that the city, as well as the entire country's environmental well-being is rather skint. Coal burning and emissions from automobile and the industrial areas are not regulated.[5] The rivers are brimming up with sewage and pollutants. In this regard, the state has been up in arms in battling this deteriorating state of environment in China. In the recent study of Schmidt,[6] he pointed out that hosting the summer Olympics should "serve as a catalyst for environmental improvement and help to promote sustainable development" on the part of China. Chepesiuk on the other hand indicated that this would be feasible considering the fact that the "country's leadership can make tough big-ticket decisions and implement them quickly."[7]     

III.    The Environmental Laws in Hong Kong

Since the focus of this study is Hong Kong, it is imperative to provide the governing legislation involving the environment in the said administrative region. In the same manner, providing such an account on this set of legislation will make research on similar laws and case laws in the other respondent countries of China, Australia and the United Kingdom. Specifically, the areas of concern to be covered include air quality, noise, waste, water quality, and environmental impact assessment.      

A.    Air Quality

The primary legislation covering the protection of the quality of air in Hong Kong is the Air Pollution Control Ordinance.[8] This law was originally enacted in 1983 to deal with emissions and other harmful discharge in the air of HK. This means that the law covers motor vehicles, industrial and power plants, construction and the dangers of asbestos.

Other legislation includes Ozone Layer Protection Regulation and Ozone Layer Protection Ordinance (Cap. 403) 1989 which makes the Vienna Convention of 1985 and Montreal Protocol of 1987 effective under the regime of Hong Kong. This means that Hong Kong has to comply with the obligations and responsibilities provided by the said international treaties. At some point of this dissertation, the effectiveness and level of enforcement of the administrative region will be examined based on the cases heard on these legislations.

B.     Noise

There are at least three major legislations in Hong Kong that covers the mitigation of noise pollution in the region. These includes the Noise Control Ordinance, Civil Aviation (Aircraft Noise) Ordinance, Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374) 1982. The Noise Control Ordinance, which was originally implemented in 1989, covers areas of constructions, motor vehicles and even the operations of plants and factories in Hong Kong.[9] On the other hand, the Civil Aviation (Aircraft Noise) Ordinance covers the certification of aircrafts to comply with a set of standards.[10] This particularly applies to the aircrafts intending to use the Hong Kong International Airport. And lastly, Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374) 1982 sanctions the police enforcement of the law relating to complaints on noise and even traffic concerns.

C.    Wastes

The Waste Disposal Ordinance is the foundation of the waste management regime in Hong Kong.[11] This was initially enacted in 1980 and was subjected to at least eight amendments since. The amendments constitute simple control of livestock to more complex compliance of international laws enacted in the Basel Convention.   

D.    Water Quality

Hong Kong is governed by the Water Pollution Control Ordinance which was enacted in 1980. This is the foundation of the regime protecting water control zones (WCZs) within the boundaries of the administrative region.[12] This means that the law covers discharges on these WCZs, specifically of oil and other hazardous substances from vessels. This law was amended twice, 1990 and 1993, which added provisions like the removal of exemptions as well as the increase in regulation in water waste coming from commercial and industrial sectors of Hong Kong.   

E.     Environmental Impact Assessment

In line with the purposes of avoiding further adverse implications in the environment, Hong Kong has also enacted a law requiring any project carried out in the administrative region to go through an environmental impact assessment process (EIA) and acquire permits before commencing. This is embodied in the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance. This serves to protect the environment from any adverse effects of the project in the future.

IV.   Conclusion

The discussions above have provided a description of the environmental regime in Hong Kong. Basically, there has yet to be a study covering the legal effectiveness of such legislation on the administrative region. In the same regard, it would also be beneficial to carry out a comparative study on such implications and the existence of legislation in other countries with similar legal structures as that of Hong Kong.  

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