Reclamation is one option

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 3:14am

I refer to your editorial ("Reclamation must be a last resort", April 8).

Reclamation has been a major source of land in Hong Kong. New towns such as Sha Tin, Ma On Shan and Tai Po illustrate this. About 500 to 700 hectares of land was formed by reclamation every five years from 1985 to 2004. Following the Court of Final Appeal's ruling in 2004, the government has been very cautious about reclamation, with 84 hectares formed from 2005 to 2009 and just 5 hectares from 2010 to 2012.

In the past decade, reclamation has virtually been dormant and developable land comes from other options, which all face different challenges and limitations. Now, we are short of developable land. Ironically, more than 400 hectares of land has been formed in Taishan using our surplus public fill, generated by infrastructure and land development such as urban redevelopment, delivered to Taishan since 2007. Experience demonstrates that no land supply option, including reclamation, should be regarded as the last resort as they can complement each other. Indeed, the result of Stage 1 public engagement showed general support for the multi-pronged land supply approach.

Apart from completing reclamation to meet short-term needs, we may reserve a site and carry out studies but refrain from construction until the need arises. This can shorten the response time to make available developable land in the medium term. Likewise, a reclamation site can be earmarked as a long-term land reserve with only preliminary studies conducted.

The government agrees with striking a balance between social, economic and environmental needs. In selecting potential reclamation sites, places of high ecological value were ruled out early in the process. Besides, we shall conduct a detailed environmental impact assessment to confirm the environmental acceptability before reclamation can commence. Eco-shorelines will also be designed to enhance the marine environment, while advanced reclamation technology will be employed to minimise environmental impact during construction.

The government is conducting the Stage 2 public engagement to seek views on potential reclamation and rock cavern development sites, and the idea of developing artificial islands in the central waters. Regarding the Sunny Bay site, though it may not be suitable for residential use, it is suitable for tourism, recreation or business use. It will create jobs and reduce land demand for such uses in urban areas, which can be spared for residential use.

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