Develop the New Territories instead of ruining important natural asset
The government should realise that the beauty and attraction of Hong Kong is because it is an archipelago comprising hundreds of islands large and small. Our sea and our shorelines are an invaluable natural asset which should be enjoyed not only by the present but also future generations.
Reclamation to make land by destroying these beautiful islands does not make sense. There is simply no need and it cannot be justified. There is almost 100,000 hectares of land in the New Territories. Although 56,000 hectares are reserved for country parks (which we support), there are still at least 20,000 hectares that are undeveloped or underdeveloped.
According to our research, Kam Tin Valley and Hung Shui Kiu in the western New Territories together can already provide 3,000 hectares. These areas are served by West Rail and Route 3, both of which are very underutilised. The border areas next to Shenzhen can provide another 2,000 hectares. These 5,000 hectares will be enough to satisfy the projected population increase.
The government should properly plan the development of these areas to provide a good living environment while preserving sensitive sites. It should not propose to make land from the sea through the 25 reclamation projects and ignore the huge areas of land we already have.
The engineering works of the proposed reclamations will be very expensive. Unlike Macau, our waters are very deep. In addition, the infrastructures and the transport systems needed will make the reclaimed land prohibitively expensive. Hence any housing built on it will be too expensive for the general public and cannot solve our problem of high housing prices.
The Joint Declaration was signed 28 years ago in 1984 which made the New Territories part of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. This increased Hong Kong's land area 10-fold. Yet now, almost 15 years after the handover, the administration has still not properly planned the development of the New Territories, where the future of Hong Kong's expansion lies. To implement the plan to develop the New Territories, of course, many problems will have to be resolved. Nevertheless, the government should have the wisdom and courage to do the right thing for Hong Kong.
Perhaps an ordinance similar to the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance should be enacted to safeguard our shorelines from excessive and unnecessary reclamation.
Winston K. S. Chu, adviser, Society for Protection of the Harbour