The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) was created in 1986 to co-ordinate and carry out pollution prevention and control activities. Between 1986 and 31 March 2005, the EPD functioned mainly as an executive department enforcing environmental laws and implementing environmental policies, the latter having been determined by the relevant policy bureau. To enable the EPD to play a more efficient role and concentrate on the environmental protection work, the Environment Branch of the then Environment, Transport and Works Bureau, which was responsible for environmental policy making, merged with the EPD on 1 April 2005. The head of the Environment Branch took up the dual role of Permanent Secretary for the Environment and Director of Environmental Protection. This development has placed the EPD in the position of both determining and implementing environmental policies. Subsequent to the re-organisation of government bureaux on 1 July 2007, a new Environment Bureau was formed overseeing the formulation and implementation of policies on environmental protection, conservation, energy and sustainable development, etc. The Permanent Secretary for the Environment under the Secretary for the Environment is also the Director of Environmental Protection.
Following the re-organisation on 1 July 2007 the EPD has adopted a new structure based on three operational divisions, four policy divisions, a cross-boundary division, and a corporate affairs division. These divisions are:
- The Environmental Infrastructure Division, responsible for planning, developing and managing waste disposal facilities, such as strategic landfills, refuse transfer stations, and a chemical waste treatment centre. The division is also responsible for implementing programmes to reduce waste generation and for regional and local planning for sewerage. The regional and local sewerage planned by this division is implemented by the Drainage Services Department as works agent.
- The Environmental Assessment Division, responsible for reviewing the environmental implications of policies and strategic and local plans, and administering the application of the environmental impact assessment process under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance. This division is also responsible for policy formulation, strategic planning and programme development in the area of environmental impact assessment and environmental noise management.
- The Environmental Compliance Division, responsible for enforcing pollution laws and facilitating business not only to comply with environmental requirements but also going beyond compliance.
- The Air Policy Division, responsible for policy formulation, strategic planning and programme development in the field of air quality management.
- The Water Policy Division, responsible for policy formulation, strategic planning and programme development in the area of water quality management. This includes policy in relation to sewage treatment, and strategic planning for sewerage and sewage treatment facilities which are implemented by the Drainage Services Department.
- The Waste Management Policy Division, responsible for policy formulation, strategic planning and programme development in the field of waste management. This includes policy for waste reduction and recycling.
- The Nature Conservation and Infrastructure Planning Division, responsible for the formulation of nature conservation policy, the development of the Integrated Waste Management Facilities, and also the development of the Pilot Biodegradable Waste Treatment Plant and the Organic Waste Treatment Facilities. Implementation of nature conservation policy however rests with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
- The Cross-Boundary & International Division, responsible for liaison with the Mainland authorities on environmental issues of mutual concern, and also for the development of plans to implement the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants.
- The Corporate Affairs Division, responsible for the departmental administration support, accounting, resources management, human resources management (HRM), information technology and knowledge management, and also provides support to HRM reforms and corporate development.
As at 31 December 2011, the department had an establishment of 1 683 staff. Of this, 28.5% are professionals, 45% are technical grade staff and the remaining 26.5%are administrative and other support staff. The changes in size of the establishment in the department over the years are shown in the figure below:
Merger of the Environment Branch and the Environmental Protection Department (23 Sept 2004)
Government Secretariat : Environment, Transport and Works Bureau (Environment Branch) and Environmental Protection Department [EC(2004-05)10] (17 Nov 2004)
Re-organisation of Policy Bureaux of the Government Secretariat : Changes in Civil Service Organisation Structure (11 May 2007)