A HK$227 million study on building artificial islands in central Hong Kong waters - including the East Lantau Metropolis proposed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in January - is slated to start in three months.
The study area stretches from northern Tsing Yi in the north to the sea border in the south and the waters between Hong Kong Island in the east and Lantau Island in the west.
The aim is to identify locations and determine the number of islands that could be built while assessing the impact the developments might have on the environment and marine traffic.
Transport between the islands and other parts of Hong Kong will also come under scrutiny. The East Lantau Metropolis is expected to be able to house hundreds of thousands of people.
"We will examine options for transport connections. They will absolutely not become isolated islands," a Development Bureau spokesman said.
In a paper submitted to the Legislative Council's development panel yesterday, the bureau expanded on the scheme set out in the policy address under which a new core business district in addition to Central and Kowloon East would be built on an artificial island between Hong Kong and Lantau islands.
Islands District Council member Rainbow Wong Fuk-kan said he was concerned about marine transport. "The effect of the construction on water currents in the area has to be evaluated," he said.
"Many cargo vessels sail through the central waters. Where can they berth later? The plan has big implications for Hong Kong's shipping industry."
The bureau spokesman said that while the proposed uses of the East Lantau Metropolis had been set out clearly, uses for other possible artificial islands had yet to be identified.
These could include public rental housing development, new towns, tourism attractions and recreational facilities, as suggested in a public consultation last year.
The administration plans to appoint a consultant to lead the three-year study, which will begin in July.
It is due to apply to Legco's public works subcommittee next month and to the finance committee in May for funding of HK$227 million.