'Give public all the facts' in reclamation debate
The public needs more information if they are to be convinced of an urgent need for reclamation - an option that has proven to be a tough sell for planners and environmentalists, a university professor says.
Chau Kwong-wing, from the University of Hong Kong's department of real estate and construction, said citizens should be given all the facts and possible solutions to the crisis to be able to make an informed decision on options laid out by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
'Reclamation may not be a bad choice given the lack of infrastructure in the New Territories,' Chau said. 'But the public is hardly going to be convinced if they are not informed of the pros and cons of all [the] options.'
Tsang has outlined six ways to boost the city's land supply to ease the housing crunch, including reclamation and moving infrastructure to 'rock caverns' - new commercial or public spaces - to free up space in developed areas. Another option is to rezone industrial, agricultural and green belt areas, along with underutilised government land.
Chau said each option carried specific costs, risks and environmental impacts. 'If the public is informed of the high opportunity cost involved, they may be less resistant to reclaiming sites [where the impact on marine life] would be lower,' he said.
The public consultation on added reclamation projects and using rock caverns to house anything from sewage plants to restaurants is due to end next month.
Rezoning and redevelopment options faced 'major limitations', according to consultation notes released by the Civil Engineering and Development Department last month.
Meanwhile, green groups and town planners have questioned why the government would consider more reclamation when there is abundant land in the New Territories. But Chau said green-belt land in remote areas was often ecologically sensitive and incompatible with large-scale housing developments.
The government says Hong Kong needs 1,500 hectares more to support projected population growth. However, the figure has been deemed unreliable pending the drafting of an official population policy.
A Development Bureau spokeswoman said they were scouring land in the New Territories suitable for redevelopment.
The bureau says about 20,000 hectares of rural land, excluding protected areas, are available. Of that number, 1,000 hectares have been identified for development.
The remaining areas are unsuitable due to topography, multiple ownership and other problems.
The approximate size of vacant development land, in sq km, in Hong Kong as of 2010, according to the Planning Department
Sites identified for reclamation where marine life could be threatened
Tseung Kwan O Area 131
Home to sea whip, a type of soft coral found in 2005
Shuen Wan, Wu Kai Sha
Close to Lung Mei Beach, where over 200 types of marine life found
Shek O Quarry
Rare red lionfish found in 2003
Table coral found here in 2001
Lamma North, Lamma Quarry
Feeding ground for migratory birds
Peng Chau - Hei Ling Chau
Sea pen, a feathershaped form of marine life related to coral, discovered here in 2002
South Cheung Chau
Home to the finless porpoise