HONG KONG - the fragrant harbour - no longer very fragrant and soon not much of a harbour either if all the proposed reclamation projects go ahead. Reclamation is the misnomer generally used for filling in the sea with sand and concrete. If you go up to the Peak, you will get a good view of all the reclamation works going on in Victoria Harbour. For example, West Kowloon reclamation is the huge piece of land being formed near Yau Ma Tei and Mei Foo. The Central and Wan Chai reclamation includes the new outlying island ferry piers, and the new Convention Centre. These are only part of the total committed and planned reclamation in Victoria and Western harbours which will create a new land mass of 1,700 hectares. The land area of Hong Kong has been expanding ever since the British took over, with more than 4,100 hectares added over the past 150 years. The tram line through Wan Chai used to run along the seashore but is now hidden from the sea by many blocks of tall buildings. However, the reclamation projects in the past were small-scale and spread over many years. The current concern about the ongoing reclamations is due to the large size and pace of the works which are having an impact on the environment and the landscape. To give you some idea of the scale of the reclamation works, the districts of Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Happy Valley combined would fit onto the reclaimed new airport platform. The Lantau Port Development, which would double the size of Hong Kong's port (already the busiest port in the world), will stretch five kilometres into the Western Harbour, mid-point between Green Island and Discovery Bay. Green Island itself, the last island in Victoria Harbour, will no longer be an island in a few years' time when the sea separating it from Hong Kong island will be filled in with construction rubble. The environmental impacts from such large-scale engineering projects are immense. Not only do the reclamation sites cause noise and dust while they are being built, but there are more permanent effects caused by the loss of natural coastline and shallow water habitat. Fish use rocky coastal areas for breeding but many of these fish nursery areas are being lost. This means that there will be fewer fish for the bigger marine animals such as dolphins and porpoises to eat, as well as fewer fish for the fishermen and you and me! The sand which is used to 'fill in' the sea often comes from the seabed somewhere else. Huge quantities of sand are taken from the seabed in one area and dumped in another. The process of taking the sand called 'dredging' stirs up the fine sands and creates plumes of silt. If this is one in areas of clean, clear water, such as the waters to the East of the Territory, this silt can harm the marine life. Before the seabed can be reclaimed, a layer of fine muds has to be removed and dumped somewhere else. The muds in the harbour are very toxic due to the years of pouring toxic industrial wastes and untreated sewage into the sea. Much of the toxic mud removed from the harbour seabed before reclamation has been dumped in an area of north Lantau, near to the habitat of the Chinese White Dolphins. All of these problems are created by our need for more land. There are really too many people in a crowded city and our need for more houses, shops, ports and roads is threatening the home of our marine neighbours. If our city is to continue growing at the same pace we may lose some of our neighbours, such as the dolphins, forever. Friends of the Earth is a local non-profit environmental organisation. For further information, please call 2528 5588.