Ombudsman castigates EPD over passive response to fly-tipping

The Ombudsman has castigated the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) for being too slow and reactive in dealing with fly-tipping.

It has called on the department to increase inspections and take “stronger actions” against fly-tipping in rural Hong Kong.

The Ombudsman’s report on fly-tipping, issued today, did not refer specifically to Pui O, where EPD has been passive in the face of multiple incidents of fly-tipping and landfilling.

But its findings validate many of the concerns of frustrated local residents and activists.

Some filed a complaint to the Ombudsman last month after the EPD failed to take action even though it had video evidence of landfilling without permission.

The report notes that although the Environment Bureau had instructed agencies to conduct regular inspections of fly-tipping blackspots, the EPD had carried out just two in 2017.

Though being one of the major enforcement authorities, EPD has yet to work out an action plan for such proactive inspections. EPD usually acts only on reports from the public, referrals from other departments or media reports.

The Ombudsman also noted that over a 22-month period the EPD had launched just 18 prosecutions – less than one a month.

Over 90% of EPD inspections take place during office hours, drawing complaints from members of the public because it meant fly-tippers could easily evade inspections.

EPD should have conducted more comprehensive inspections so that there would be no loopholes for offenders to evade its enforcement action.

The Ombudsman also admonished the department for the lack of progress in implementing GPS, “despite years of study.”

A trial of mandatory use of GPS in construction vehicles began in 2015 but the system still has not put it into practice.

As GPS is already a well-developed and popular technology, and the government has already spent years studying [it], … we consider that EPD, as the department enforcing [the Waste Disposal Ordinance] should make more efforts to push forward with the aforesaid legislative amendments.

It called on the EPD to expedite the introduction of the system.

The Ombudsman said EPD officials should step up inspections and enforcements outside office hours and draw up “proactive inspection plans for stronger actions against fly-tipping activities.”

The report also criticised the Planning Department for taking too long to enforce ‘Reinstatement Notices’, requiring landowners to return sites to their previous state, and said its prosecutions had little deterrent effectd.

Between 2006 and 2017, landowners had complied with the RNs in just 8% of cases.

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