RECLAMATION work which is steadily narrowing Victoria Harbour should be appreciated because many of the world's major cities were built on rivers, a principal government town planner said yesterday. In a bid to redress criticism of the intensive reclamation work which is shrinking the span of the harbour, Dr Ted Pryor compared Hong Kong to renowned cities divided by famous rivers. The town planner said after a Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce luncheon, that reclamation would bring benefits to Hong Kong - originally named for its 'fragrant harbour'. 'I don't know how many of you have been to cities that are built on rivers - New York on the Hudson, London around the Thames, Frankfurt on Main, Paris and so on,' Dr Pryor said, displaying a map of London which marked the River Thames. 'London is a great city in terms of architecture and design, and it has a river of 300 metres. But the narrowest point of the Victoria Harbour after the reclamations would be 860 metres.' Mr Pryor said the completion of the Central-Wan Chai reclamation would reduce the width from shore to shore by one-quarter, from a present 1,200 metres to about 860 metres. 'You think we've got a great city in terms of design? That's contestable. We certainly have some great buildings coming up - but if you try to walk along the shoreline from Shau Kei Wan to North Point, you can't do it. 'Reclamation will give us this opportunity. The city will only become integrated with the harbour if you carry out the reclamation,' he said. Leading solicitor and town planning board member Winston Chu Ka-sun unveiled a harbour protection bill and launched a public campaign to preserve the channel on Wednesday. Critics have said the scale and intensity of the reclamation is unrivalled anywhere in the world. Wholesale reclamation work has deepened concern about air-pollution and the safety and efficiency of sea traffic in a shrinking harbour, they say. Some have accused the Government of choosing the easy way to accommodate urban development - avoiding renewal of old areas and further development in the New Territories, which involves complicated land ownership issues. Legislator Christine Loh Kung-wai said she was 'very, very upset' about Dr Pryor's comments. 'I don't believe he could find one person in Hong Kong who would prefer a river to a harbour,' she said. 'The Victoria Harbour is the natural environment of Hong Kong. It's beautiful and magnificent. It's absolutely rubbish to suggest we should want a river instead of a harbour.' But Dr Pryor said he could rebut most anti-reclamation accusations. He said the inner harbour would not become a 'mere trickle of a river' but would remain a very wide harbour. 'It will be wide enough for vessels and the current fairway will be maintained.'