New land formed by reclamation offers resettlement option for residents

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2012, 12:00am


I refer to the editorial ('There's enough land already available', February 23), and the article ('Harbour 'cheaper route to gain land'', February 20).

As the editorial rightly suggests, land supply is a complicated issue with complex environmental, political and social dimensions. Our goal is to strike a balance among the social, environmental and economic factors, so as to achieve a sustainable land supply model and address the political dimension through the public engagement process.

Your February 20 report highlights the cost-effectiveness element in considering land supply options. But, in all our dialogue with the public and media, we have also been discussing the impact on, for example, the local community, environmental aspects, accessibility and planning flexibility. The monetary cost is not the government's only or main concern in assessing different land supply options.

We have put forward a six-pronged proposal, with all present land supply options including rezoning, redevelopment, resumption, reuse of ex-quarry sites, rock cavern development and reclamation outside Victoria Harbour being deployed flexibly. However, all six options face their respective challenges.

While reclamation may affect marine ecology, land development - including rezoning, redevelopment and resumption - may have an impact not only on the terrestrial ecology, but also on social aspects such as local culture, traditions and social networks. Land development is not necessarily better than reclamation from environmental and social perspectives. Rather, they are complementary. The new land formed by reclamation can provide an option for resettlement of residents and businesses displaced by land development. Public fill generated by land development can also be handled by reclamation. Reclamation should not be ruled out (the same goes for other options), nor should it be regarded as the last resort. We need all six options in play to meet our short-, medium- and long-term needs.

Moreover, the practical meaning of the notion of turning to reclamation as a last resort is hard to conceive. Shall we use up all agricultural land however environmentally sensitive or redevelop all rural and village land in the New Territories before resorting to reclamation? Timing wise, shall we start planning reclamation only when other options provide no further land? It will take 10 years or more to develop a piece of land, whatever its source. We must act now before it is too late.

Edwin K.H. Tong, head of the civil engineering office, Civil Engineering and Development Department