Conservationist condemns 'light' penalty imposed on road builder A man who dammed a stream by illegally building a road to an unapproved village housing development in Tai Po was fined HK$6,500 in Tsuen Wan Court yesterday. A conservationist said the sentence was lenient and that tougher action was needed to protect the environment. Chan Sai-hin, 63, pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful excavation of unleased land at Lo Lau Uk in Tai Po. The court also ordered him to pay restoration costs of HK$9,588 to the Lands Department. Prosecutor Phillis Loh said the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department notified the Lands Department of a suspected unlawful excavation on January 3. The court heard that staff from the Tai Po Lands District Office inspected the site and found Chan was doing the excavation without a permit. Ms Loh said Chan had admitted he was responsible for the work, which involved the excavation of about 258 square metres, devastating the pristine setting of a section of the Upper Tai Po River near Lo Lau Uk and the Wilson Trail. Defence counsel Jeff Ho Chun-lui said Chan, a decoration worker, had been planning to build a house in Lo Lau Uk and had decided to build a temporary crossing so that he would be able to transport construction materials across the muddy area. Mr Ho said Chan was stopped by Lands Department officials during the excavation and the area had been restored by the department. During sentencing, Special Magistrate Amy Chan Wai-mun said she had taken into account Chan's guilty plea and the fact that the excavated section had been restored. Chan was fined HK$1,000 in Sha Tin Court on April 30 for cutting down trees without lawful authority or excuse concerning the same incident. The maximum penalty under the Lands (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance is up to HK$50,000 and six months' imprisonment, while the maximum fine under the Forests and Countryside Ordinance is up to HK$25,000 and one year in prison. Conservancy Association campaign manager Peter Li Siu-man said Chan's penalty was too light. He said the penalty for deliberately destroying the environment should be increased, to maintain its deterrent effect. Mr Li also said the government should educate the public about the damage caused by such work. The road was in an area covered by a development plan submitted to the Town Planning Board by the head of the nearby Pun Chau Tau village, aimed at turning the green belt into a village-house zone. The damage to the Upper Tai Po River was first reported in the South China Morning Post on January 14.