Local activists have filed a complaint with the Ombudsman over the failure of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) to prevent illegal dumping on the Pui O wetland.
A letter to the Ombudsman says the EPD had given the go-ahead for landfill on a site, despite knowing that fly-tipping, a criminal offence, had already taken place.
It says the landowner has ignored the EPD’s demands to cease, yet the department has taken no steps to prevent further destruction or to arrest the landowner, despite “evidence of a criminal offence.”
The Ombudsman complaint follows a visit to the wetland by EPD, CEDD, AFCD and Planning Department on Friday in which they were unable to explain the government’s unwillingness to use its powers to prevent landfilling “on a pristine piece of wetland habitat.”
Under questioning by local residents at the site – farcically adorned with a kitchen sink – an EPD official admitted that if he saw a truck dumping construction waste he would take no action.
Hours after the meeting, residents called police after sighting further landfilling and clearance on the site.
The owner has applied for Town Planning Board approval to have the 400 sq metre plot rezoned as agricultural land.
The plot is designated Coastal Protection Area which, despite the name, offers no protection.
In fact under Hong Kong Waste Disposal Ordinance, dumping can take if the EPD “acknowledges” it, although the Coastal Protection Area regulations specifically rule out landfilling.
In the case of this site, the dumping began before the acknowledgement was granted, which is illegal.
Additionally, the EPD’s practice in handing out acknowledgements, which have caused the degradation of other parts of the Pui O wetland, is being tested in a judicial review.
The case has been heard but the judge has not yet handed down a decision.
The Ombudsman complaint argues that the EPD erred in giving the acknowledgement when a judicial review decision is pending.
The Sustainable Lantau Blueprint, issued in June, acknowledged the Pui O wetland as a conservation priority, specifically referencing “illegal dumping activities of construction waste” in the village.
It says an inter-departmental working group had been formed to tackle fly-tipping and would “take a pro-active role to strengthen measures against illegal dumping of construction waste.”
The Living Islands Movement has written to Carrie Lam, arguing that the EPD’s role in approving landfill on a wetland “directly contradicts your stated policy intent. ”