Following is a question by the Hon Li Kwok-ying and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 28):
Regarding illegal piling of waste on agricultural land in the New Territories, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the details of the complaints received by the Government in the past two years about piling of waste on agricultural land in the New Territories, and the follow-up actions taken;
(b) given that it has been reported that as the terms of the block leases under which old schedule agricultural lots were granted do not expressly prohibit the use of such lots as landfills, the authorities cannot take law enforcement actions against the activities of piling of waste on such agricultural land, of the ways currently adopted by the Government to resolve this problem; and
(c) whether the authorities will consider amending the relevant legislation as soon as possible to curb the recurrence of the above situation of piling of waste?
My reply to the three-part question is as follows -
(a) From November 2005 to October 2007, various departments received complaints about waste depositing or land filling activities in the rural New Territories. There may be some duplication in the complaints received by the departments, and the figures should not be just added up to give a total figure. Details are as follows -
(i) The Planning Department (Plan D) has received 252 complaints. Following investigation and following up the cases, the department has taken enforcement actions against 81 land filling cases constituting "unauthorized development".
(ii) The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has received 24 complaints and taken appropriate follow-up actions accordingly.
(iii) Other departments have also taken appropriate follow-up actions in relation to the complaints received (e.g. the Lands Department having received 107 complaints and the Buildings Department 24).
(b) As most private land in the rural New Territories is held under Block Government Leases, it is difficult for the Government to control effectively the use of such land where it does not involve the construction of buildings through such leases. To address this, the Town Planning (Amendment) Ordinance, enacted in January 1991, has imposed a degree of control over the land in the rural New Territories. Plan D can take enforcement actions against any development on such land that fails to comply with the requirements of statutory plans or that has not been granted permission by the Town Planning Board (TPB).
At present, most areas are regulated by statutory plans. The remaining areas are either country parks subject to regulatory control under the Country Parks Ordinance or a small number of remote areas without any immediate development pressure. Generally speaking, for areas covered by conservation-related zones, "Green Belt" or "Agriculture" zones, prior planning permission from the TPB is required for land filling or excavating activities. For cases without such permission, Plan D can take enforcement actions, including issuance of warning letters, direct prosecution or issuance of Enforcement Notices requiring the person concerned to discontinue the land filling activities within a specified timeframe.
Regarding the piling of waste, the Government will take appropriate actions depending on the circumstances of individual cases. The disposal of waste is regulated under various Ordinances. Should the depositing of waste pose an imminent risk of serious environmental impact, EPD can exercise its power in accordance with the procedures in the legislation to enter the private land and remove the waste. Furthermore, when the depositing of waste causes nuisance and hygiene problems, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department can issue notices to the landowner concerned, the person who has deposited the waste or the owner of the waste to abate nuisance or remove the waste within the prescribed time limit.
Apart from enforcement actions, the Government has taken preventive measures through encouraging the implementation of the Trip Ticket System for construction waste applicable to public sector construction sites in private sector construction sites, and having issued guidelines to the industry on the proper handling of construction waste, e.g. handbook and booklet on environmentally friendly construction techniques.
(c) We will continue to pay attention to the issue of piling of waste on agricultural land in the New Territories. As to whether the relevant legislation should be amended or not, we will evaluate if there is a genuine need and whether there are strong justifications. We should also strike a balance between private rights and the public interest.
Ends/Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Issued at HKT 15:01