Pollution control in Hong Kong, as anywhere, requires a carrot and stick approach. The carrot is not so much a reward as a gentle hand to encourage polluters to comply with the law. The stick is the enforcement of pollution laws. "Enforcement" is a catch-all term for a range of activities that include licensing, carrying out field inspections, sampling and monitoring water, noise and air emissions to verify compliance, issuing pollution abatement notices, prosecuting offenders and responding to emergencies.
Several principles underpin the EPD's enforcement strategy on pollution:
|1.||Enforcement must be conducted in a fair, consistent and transparent manner.|
|2.||Enforcement priorities are based on the public health risk, the sensitivity of the receiving environment and the pollution loads.|
|3.||Operators are encouraged to adopt self-monitoring programmes and to act promptly to rectify any pollution problems. The public is encouraged to report any violation to the EPD's Customer Service Centre or their Regional Offices.|
|4.||Prosecution of environmental offences is regarded as a means to deter others, as well as punish polluters who break the law.|
A Fair and Open Hand
How do EPD officers decide whether to prosecute a polluter? It is a question regularly asked by polluters and the general public who may be concerned about either unfair treatment or lax controls.
The Regional Offices and Territorial Control Office have limited resources so priorities have been established based on the risks involved in polluting activities. Anything likely to involve heavy pollution loads, a high potential for harming public health and a high risk to a sensitive environment will be given greater priority.
When a suspected violation is encountered, our enforcement teams will analyse the evidence and prosecute if it is warranted. There may be many variables involved, such as the degree of pollution, the potential environmental impact, and the attitude and actions of the polluter, but the aim is to be even-handed and consistent and to achieve environmental objectives such as cleaner air and water.
Raising Awareness of the Law
Polluters are not left in the dark about environmental laws. EPD organise a number of briefing sessions and seminars for relevant industries in advance of new laws coming into force, as well as increase their understanding to environmental law and regulations. Environmental Information is also disseminated through various channels, e.g. websites, leaflets, guidebooks, handbooks, CD, etc. to increase community environmental awareness.
In following the law, potential polluters are expected to take precautionary measures, monitor their own emissions regularly and promptly rectify any violations that have an impact on the environment.
A Strong Deterrent
Although the general environmental awareness of Hong Kong people and operators has improved through the efforts of the EPD and others, it is not yet considered advanced enough to rely solely on polluters policing themselves. Stronger signals are needed to encourage good environmental practices.
All pollution offences detected by enforcement staff are considered for prosecution, with the aim of providing a strong and effective deterrent to other polluters.