To serve the community through enforcing
pollution control laws to safeguard people's health and welfare.
Held a workshop for livestock farmers on controlling their
waste, with experts from the Mainland.
Launched the Livestock Waste Information System on our web
Developed a system for real-time monitoring of dumping at sea.
Allocated internal resources to deal with fly-tipping in advance
of the implementation of construction waste charges in January
Saw pollution complaints drop nine per cent (11 per cent if
complaints handled by Police are excluded) from 2004 and prosecutions
drop 49 per cent.
in Hong Kong has improved remarkably in recent years. Our
partnership programmes with problem industries and greater
environmental consciousness among operators, have resulted
in a dramatic drop in prosecutions. In 2005 we launched 300
prosecutions as against a record 1 824 in 2000. Yet the improvements
have not been trouble-free. Some operators, such as certain
livestock waste producers, are making it more difficult to
carry out enforcement work. Others, when caught, are putting
up tough fights in court. In response the Environmental Protection
Department (EPD) has sought to build its capacity to deal
Apart from partnership programmes, we tackle non-compliance
through legal and technological means and policing. A Central
Prosecution Unit was set up in 2001 dedicated to training
enforcement officers and prosecuting cases. New technologies,
such as hand-held devices and global positioning systems,
are being used to monitor potential polluters. And we continue
to sharpen our enforcement activities in response to new problems
and new tactics by offenders. The cases described below illustrate
how these measures make us more effective in securing compliance
with environmental laws.
Electronic waste falls in a grey area. Used computers, televisions,
monitors and other devices can be second-hand goods to some, waste
to others. They can also be potentially hazardous. Used monitors
and televisions are often dismantled for cathode ray tubes (CRTs),
which release harmful substances if they break. In 2004 a growing
number of used electronic items was being shipped to Hong Kong for
temporary storage or, in a few cases, dismantling in the New Territories
before re-shipment to the Mainland or other developing countries
in Asia for recycling. This raised complex issues related to enforcement.
The EPD does not want to discourage proper recycling. However,
the potential damage of improper handling of CRTs needed to be addressed,
as did illegal shipments of such hazardous waste. To effectively
control the problem, the department established direct communication
channels with the source countries to collect and share intelligence
about questionable shipments. We also conducted joint operations
with the Customs and Excise Department, Marine Police and Mainland
authorities against offenders. After a series of vigorous enforcement
actions, the problem was contained and showed signs of tapering
off in mid-2005. Furthermore, Mainland China banned the use of second-hand
CRTs, monitors and televisions in the manufacturing of similar products
from late 2005, a move that will likely contribute to diminished
international demand for waste computer monitors and televisions
and a decrease in such illegal shipments to Hong Kong.
|EPD field officers
check and record a shipment of imported electronic waste.
We still had to deal with residual court cases related to illegal
shipments in 2005 and they proved difficult to prosecute. Some defendants
argued the electronic waste was not waste but valuable goods and
won their cases. The EPD has responded with the argument that once
an article is abandoned by the original owner, it is waste irrespective
of whether it is still workable or can be sold for value. This was
accepted in the Magistrate's Court in a number of cases in 2005
and has helped us to polish our approach in prosecuting illegal
shipments of hazardous electronic waste that are transported under
the guise of second-hand goods.
Some of our most difficult enforcement work concerns livestock
waste. Pig farms produce highly noxious levels of waste. Farmers
are supposed to treat the waste and arrange for proper disposal.
However, some farms continue to dump their waste into rivers and
streams in the New Territories, creating serious pollution problems.
Considering there are 265 pig farms in Hong Kong with a maximum
capacity of 426 000 pigs, even a few bad apples can have ruinous
|A section of Yuen Long Creek flooded
with livestock waste.
||Mainland experts visit a
wastewater treatment facility at a local pig farm.
Over the years the EPD has stepped up enforcement, conducting midnight
raids to catch farmers dumping waste. However, some farmers have
responded by making our job more difficult. They have combined discharges
with other farms to make investigations more laborious, put up illegal
fences on riverbanks to keep our officers away and thrown stones
at officers, claiming they thought they were robbers. The EPD therefore
has refined its enforcement work to tackle the problem from several
On-site enforcement will continue but we are also trying to reach
out to farmers. A major workshop was held in July 2005 with experts
from the Mainland, who shared their experiences in managing pig
farms and wastewater. The workshop at the Kadoorie Agricultural
Research Centre of The University of Hong Kong was well attended
by farmers. In addition to seminars and discussion sessions, the
experts also visited several local pig farms to address their farming
practices and wastewater treatment systems. The event aimed to develop
better awareness and knowledge among farmers, an approach that has
helped us to reduce offences in other areas (see
Hong Kong has seen a steady decline in complaints
and prosecutions relating to pollution. Since the peak year
of 2000, complaints have dropped 22 per cent (23 per cent
if complaints handled by Police are excluded) and prosecutions
more than 80 per cent. In 2005 alone, complaints fell nine
per cent (11 per cent if complaints handled by Police are
excluded) to 24 086 (20 676 if complaints handled by Police
are excluded) and prosecutions were down 49 per cent to 300.
Many factors may be contributing to the decline.
The EPD's partnership programmes, described in Chapter
4, have certainly helped. We have formed partnerships
with the construction trade, restaurants, vehicle repair workshops
and property management companies to promote better compliance
with environmental laws. Since 2000, when partnerships were
in their infancy, complaints against these four industries
have dropped 22 per cent to 6 017 and convictions a dramatic
90 per cent to 111. Deepening public concern for the environment,
and demand from overseas markets, may also be prompting operators
to reduce their pollution.
staff visit an automatic refuse collection system at a housing
The public can also help us enforce livestock waste disposal by
putting greater pressure on polluters to comply. In September we
launched the Livestock Waste Information System on our web site.
Residents can click on the site to see the location and distribution
of major livestock farm clusters in the North and Yuen Long Districts
and assess their impact on river water quality by comparing on-line
samples taken upstream and downstream of farms. They can also learn
about livestock waste controls, complaints and enforcement actions.
By making the problem more transparent to the public, we hope to
secure their understanding and support for our control activities.
||The EPD web
site provides information on locations of livestock farms.
|EPD field officers inspect a barge loading operation.
A final example of our work is the use of technology in controlling
dumping at sea. All marine dumping barges are required to have on-board
automatic self-monitoring systems that record where they dump their
loads. Only certain areas are designated for dumping to protect
marine ecology. The EPD collects the data periodically and if a
ship has dumped outside the permitted area – short dumping
– it is prosecuted.
However, in 2004 potential flaws in the system emerged. A dumping
permit holder and ship operator were prosecuted for short dumping
more than ten times due to incorrect setting of their equipment.
In court, the defendants successfully challenged the accuracy and
reliability of the equipment and consequently they were acquitted.
To tackle this issue and improve the use of technology in enforcing
short dumping, the department has since been developing a real-time
system. This new system will link up to EPD offices, enabling us
to detect short dumping and take immediate action. It will go on
trial in 2006 and should significantly enhance our enforcement in
Every year the EPD's enforcement team faces new twists on old problems,
and new problems. As a result we are constantly refining and updating
our efforts to promote better compliance by polluters. The department
has adopted new technology, new techniques and a more sophisticated
approach to prosecuting cases. Our ability to adapt and respond
has not only built up our enforcement capabilities. It has also
helped us to improve Hong Kong's environment by ensuring irresponsible
operators are prosecuted and responsible ones are supported in their
efforts to comply with environmental laws.
Pollution control is often characterised
by rapid advances in the early stages and frustratingly slow
progress in controlling the residual pollution. This has been
the case for the Sham Tseng nullah. This water stream was
heavily polluted in the past so the EPD devoted resources
to tackling downstream pollution from villages, restaurants
and a market. 90 per cent of the polluting flow was removed.
However, a squatter area upstream continued to pollute the
water with unsightly toilet waste.
and DSD work jointly to provide sewers to a squatter area
to clear up Sham Tseng nullah's residual pollution load.
Tseng nullah's water quality has improved significantly
since nearby residential developments and roast goose
restaurants were connected to public sewers.
The EPD has worked with the Drainage Services
Department (DSD) to resolve the problem. Although the conditions
in the squatter area cannot fully meet the DSD's operational
and technical requirements, they have agreed to lay sewers
as best they can. It is hoped the work will be completed in
2009 and help clear up the nullah's residual pollution load.
The Government has given priority to
reducing waste and air pollution, as outlined elsewhere in
this report and in the "First Sustainable Development
Strategy for Hong Kong" released in May. The Environmental
Compliance Division is supporting these priorities in two
ways. We are beefing up enforcement ahead of the imposition
of construction waste charges. We have also been involved
in negotiations to use licence controls to limit power plant
Construction waste charges come into effect
in January 2006. We have deployed additional resources to
cope with fly-tipping - the illegal dumping of waste - during
initial implementation. This is a precautionary measure and
we do not anticipate fly-tipping will be a serious problem
as landfill charges will be charged to the waste producers,
not the waste haulers.
A total cap on air pollutants
emissions in a specified process licence was imposed for the
first time in 2005. The cap applied to the Castle Peak Power
Station and is part of an overall effort to reduce power plant
emissions. The emissions cap will be extended to other power
stations upon licence renewal.
Peak Power Station has a total cap on air pollutants emissions
imposed in its specified process licence.
A truck stops in front of the weighbridge
office at a landfill.
Enhance partnership programme and enforcement actions to stop
the malpractices of persistent problematic livestock farmers.
Prepare to implement a new control scheme on clinical waste
from 2007, upon enactment of an amendment bill and the passing
of subsidiary legislation in 2006.
Test a real-time monitoring system to detect short dumping
at sea and take immediate action.