A judicial review of four permits allowing waste dumping on privately-owned land began on Tuesday.

The Secretary for the Environment issued permits allowing four Pui O property owners to dump construction waste on their private land in September 2014 and in February 2015, according to Stand News. Last year, Lantau resident and former chair of Clear the Air environmental group Christian Jose Lucien Masset filed a judicial review over the decision.

Photo: Facebook/Eddie Chu.

Before the court session opened, environmental groups staged a demonstration outside the courthouse. Lawmaker-elect Eddie Chu Hoi-dick said some of the private land concerned was located near the Pui O wetlands. He expressed concern that dumping would affect the local ecology.

“As long as the owner agreed, the dump truck drivers can dump at will on the private land, no matter what kind of land – this is very ridiculous. The Environmental Protection Department should protect the environment, and not become a department that permits people to run private dumps.”

The applicant’s lawyer said in court that even non-chemical construction waste can potentially destroy animal habitats in Pui O. He said that the Environmental Protection Department has a responsibility to ensure that the waste will not damage the environment, adding that it should not only consider whether property owners consent to the practice.

Photo: Facebook/Eddie Chu.

The lawyer added that the government should take preventive measures before damage to the environment took place. Although the department could prosecute after finding evidence of pollution, the damage would already be done, he said.

The respondent said the original intent of the Waste Disposal Ordinance is to allow dumping as long as the property owner agreed. Therefore, the department must issue the appropriate permits.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.