Report reveals public's rejection of government plans for land reclamation

HKU report reveals the extent of public dissatisfaction with sites proposed by the government for land reclamation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 January, 2014, 3:58am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 January, 2014, 4:38am

Just one of five sites proposed by the government for reclamation has won public support. But the novel idea of artificial islands garnered a more positive response, the latest report commissioned by the government shows.

Of the five locations the government suggested for land reclamation near the shore, the controversial Ma Liu Shui site in Sha Tin near Chinese University received the strongest opposition.

Some 19,829 people were against the idea, out of 38,084 total responses to the second stage of public consultation on the government's plans for reclamation works beyond Victoria Harbour.

While the prospect of artificial islands - with a site between Lantau and Hong Kong Island mooted as a possible location for one - generated less resistance, few agreed that public housing should be built on them.

The proposals are part of the administration's plan to provide more land for housing to cope with the city's rising demand.

But a site in Lung Kwu Tan in Tuen Mun, as well as sites in Siu Ho Wan and Sunny Bay on Lantau Island, were also rejected by the majority of respondents.

"There was particularly strong resistance against the potential reclamation site at Ma Liu Shui from residents [living nearby] ... and some students of [Chinese University]," the report compiled by the University of Hong Kong's social sciences research centre noted.

Respondents cited the possible impact on existing community and transportation services, as well as on the coastal landscape and marine ecology, as key concerns with the proposed sites.

Only the Tsing Yi Southwest site got more support than rejections.

Some 5,082 individuals were in favour of all five potential sites, while 6,107 rejected all of them, the report says.

Most objections came from signature campaigns or petitions, as well as from Facebook. Some supportive views came from the construction industry, which "suggested an economic argument for reclamation, for example, in terms of creating jobs," the report said.

Some 6,440 submissions backed plans for artificial islands, with 2,377 against the idea.

About 4,000 people voiced concerns about the environmental impact of artificial islands - including over 2,000 submissions expressing concern about potential damage to marine ecology.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong, an environmental campaigner with the group Green Sense, cast doubt on the HKU centre's credibility, citing its previous practice of carrying out surveys with questions about a third runway at the airport itself.

Tam also argued that an artificial island would be unnecessary.

"It involves too big a cost as it requires two cross-harbour bridges as connections. There are simpler ways to provide more affordable housing," Tam said.

He said there was a "social consensus" that there had already been too much reclamation, which had involved too great an ecological impact.