Legco Speaking Notes 7 May 2009

These speaking notes are an official record of verbal evidence given by Living Lamma to the Legco Sub-Committee on Combating Fly-tipping on 7th May 2009 and refer to the report submitted to Legco on the case of fly-tipping in the Yung Shue Long Valley.

  • Living Lamma is greatly concerned about the dumping of C&D and other waste on land zoned for agricultural use on Lamma Island.
  • A loophole in existing legislation allows these activities to occur.
  • Landowners only have to claim that they own the waste and are “storing” it on their own land for government departments to be unable to take any action to prevent such dumping.
  • Such activities by a few local landowners destroy the ecological and agricultural value of these areas.
  • This is without doubt the intention of such landowners, who aim to get the land rezoned for building at some point in the future.
  • If this situation is allowed to continue, land zoned for agricultural use like this (picture Appendix 6) will increasingly look like this (picture Appendix 4)
  • Such dumping destroys natural habitats of protected species, contaminates neighbouring farmland, pollutes water sources, threatens public health, reduces the value of nearby property, sets a poor precedence for education on environmental protection, and affects the livelihoods of local business owners who benefit from the large numbers of tourists who come to enjoy Lamma’s green spaces.
  • Since 23rd March 2009, one such case of dumping has completely buried a lily pond, destroyed a breeding ground for the protected Romer’s tree frog, partially obstructed a stream and blocked drainage from the neighbouring fields, which are farmed to produce vegetables sold locally.

 

As far as the Government’s Response goes, so far:

The EPD can only “investigate whether the dumping activity has created any air and noise problems, whether there is any polluted water discharging from the site and whether it constitutes illegal waste disposal.” In this case, under current legislation, they can do nothing to stop the dumping, or prevent other such dumping elsewhere on Lamma.

The DSD has investigated and concluded that the flow capacity of the concrete pipe that the landowner has placed in the stream at the site was “not sufficient to cater for the quantity of flow that the downstream [DSD] engineering channel was designed for.” The DSD have not promised any action other than to monitor the situation.

The AFCD were informed that Romer’s tree frogs, a protected species, had been heard at the site before the dumping. AFCD said that the landowner had not technically violated the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance because he did not “willfully disturb” the habitat of the Romer’s tree frogs. Furthermore, AFCD assessments for species listed under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance are only undertaken within country parks or other protected areas, or on large-scale developments, not on Lamma,

The District Lands Office issued an advisory letter, posted at the site on 27th March 2009, which asked the owner “to be more considerate” and to stop dumping. This was simply ignored.

The Planning Department said that Lamma Island is not designated as a development permission area, so they could not act to protect agricultural land from dumping. Though the Lamma Island Outline Zoning Plan states that the filling of land with C&D materials can not be undertaken without permission from the Town Planning Board, the Planning Department has said that “There is no provision for undertaking enforcement action under the Town Planning Ordinance on Lamma Island.”

  • In these circumstances, it seems that the Environmental Protection Department cannot protect the environment, the Drainage Services Department cannot act against someone who affects the flow capacity of their drains, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department cannot defend agriculture or protected species, the Lands Department can only ask people who cause nuisance to others and destroy agricultural land to be nice, and the Planning Department cannot enforce its own planning codes.
  • All measures are largely remedial in nature rather than preventative.
  • And meanwhile the dumping continues.

We, therefore, ask that urgent action is taken to protect ALL land zoned for agricultural use in Hong Kong by prohibiting the dumping of all waste, save for the depositing of soil for the purposes of agriculture. This prohibition should be enforceable so as to prevent dumping, with heavy penalties and reinstatement provisions for those found guilty of infringement.

Stop this (Appendix 4) happening to this (Appendix 7)

Living Lamma

April 2009

Authored & presented by: Jo Wilson