The owner of a Pui O wetland site already in breach of several environmental laws has begun building a brick wall around the plot.
Construction of the wall at the site, next to the Pui O beach car park, began on Tuesday.
The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) says its surveillance camera captured fly-tipping – a criminal offence – on the site between November 20 and 23 on the site. The owner applied to the Town Planning Board to change the land use to agriculture on November 27.
The Pui O wetland is zoned Coastal Protection Area under local planning rules, but this carries no enforcement or penalty.
Under the Waste Disposal Ordinance, landowners are allowed to dump landfill on their site if they receive ‘acknowledgement’ from the EPD – but the fly-tipping took place before the ‘acknowledgement.’ Additionally, all landfill dumping is banned from CPA sites.
EPD officials, who visited the site along with Planning Department and Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) officials last Friday, have ordered the owner to stop landfilling, but have taken no action to enforce their order.
The wall also appears to be in breach of rules that prohibit fixed structures on wetland.
Local residents have filed a complaint to the Ombudsman over the EPD’s unwillingness to use its powers to stop destruction of the site. The complaint states:
EPD have taken no steps to physically stop the landowner by way of injunction or similar legal instrument or by arrest, despite having evidence of a criminal offence. This will result in the destruction of a pristine wetland habitat, the protection of which clearly falls within the jurisdiction of the EPD.
The landfill dumping and wall construction also fly in the face of the government’s own policy.
The Sustainable Lantau Blueprint, issued in June, set down the conservation of the Pui O wetland as one of its environmental priorities.
The report acknowledges the wetland as a valuable ecological and cultural site as well as a crucial buffalo habitat.