Two individuals have been convicted of violating the Waste Disposal Ordinance on Wednesday after illegally dumping construction waste in protected wetland at Tsim Bei Tsui, New Territories last year.

Prosecution estimated that around 1 hectare of wetland and mangrove forest had been affected by the illegal dumping. The Environmental Protection Department said that part of the wetland has been dug up and filled with spackling paste, which can kill the mangrove trees. The department estimated the repair cost to be at HK$6 million.

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(left) Tam Chi-ming, (right) Tam Tin-po.

The two accused – 65-year-old dump truck driver Tam Tin-po and 63-year-old transportation sub-contractor Tam Chi-ming – admitted to their crime at Fanling Magistrates’ Courts and were each fined HK$15,000 afterwards, reported Apple Daily.

During the hearing, the two requested a lenient sentence on the grounds that they are first offenders. According to the Waste Disposal Ordinance, first offenders are liable for a fine of up to HK$200,000 and six months in prison.

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Satellite images of the dumping site in April 2015 and August 2015. Photos: Land Justice League, Apple Daily.

The dumping site is listed by the government as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, which is meant to protect wildlife, habitats and geographic features in Hong Kong, according to environmental protection group Land Justice League.

Land Justice League witnessed a truck driver dumping construction waste into the wetland on December 29, 2015 and reported it afterwards. The driver, whose identity is unknown, later admitted to have transported construction waste from Yuen Long to Tsim Bei Tsui under the order of their sub-contractor.

Based on satellite images captured last year, the league estimated that the illegal dumping began in January 2015.

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Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, spokesperson for the Land Justice League, said that the sentence was too lenient to deter people from committing the crime again.

Chu added that the government should amend clauses in the Waste Disposal Ordinance which allows business owners to dispose construction waste on their private property, otherwise the law would not address the root cause of the problem.

The third defendant in the court case, 44-year-old Yu Kim-ming, was absent from the hearing and due to return for a rehearing on September 6, 2016.

Gene Lin is a Journalism and Computer Science student at The University of Hong Kong. He worked as a reporter for the 'LIVE: Verified Updates' during the Occupy Central protests. He is also an editor at HKU's first English-language student paper, The Lion Post.