Responsible leaders look forward and plan for tomorrow. Hong Kong's government is doing as it should by looking for ways to increase the supply of land so that our city can further develop. But the issue is complex and building consensus for a viable strategy is not easy. Even reclamation, a long-favoured solution to providing more land and generating revenue, is controversial.
When he recently released the details of six reclamation sites for public discussion, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po stressed reclamation was needed to build a "strategic land reserve". Referring to the 6,800 hectares of land created over the past century, he argued reclamation had long been the main land supply strategy. About 27 per cent of housing and 70 per cent of office space is on reclaimed land, yet it only represents six per cent of the city's total area. Chan said problems with land supply had persisted since reclamation ceased in 2007. The minister seems to imply that the question is no longer "to do or not to do".
Whether the numbers and arguments can find public support remains to be seen. But reclamation being a long-standing strategy does not necessarily mean it is still acceptable. People have no qualms about building a land reserve. But the city has long abandoned the mindset of pursuing development at all costs. A balance is needed.
Development sometimes comes with a price. The benefits of reclaiming land have to be weighed against damage to the environment. Officials have yet to make clear the benefits of each new site. Some appear to be unsuitable for residential use. For instance, the proposed 100 hectares of land in Sunny Bay is directly under the airport's flight path.
Efforts to address environmental concerns also still leave a lot to be desired. Officials have yet to put up a convincing case that the adverse impact on marine life can be minimised. Until questions are answered and concerns addressed, reclamation remains a last resort that should not be adopted lightly.