THE post-handover Government will be urged to carry out studies into proposals to reclaim up to 1,000 hectares in Tolo Harbour to provide much-needed land for housing. Initial plans have been put to Chief Executive-designate Tung Chee-hwa as a way of solving the territory's housing crisis. Provisional legislator Raymond Ho Chung-tai, who proposed the plan as chairman of the Engineers in Society group, said further investigations were needed. 'We made proposals to Mr Tung on issues including housing, transport and environment. We will ask the Planning, Environment and Lands departments to carry out further studies,' Mr Ho said. This would assess Tolo Harbour's suitability for reclamation and look into environmental and flooding issues. Recently, the engineers group, which has former secretary for works Nicky Chan Nai-keong as president, stepped up its campaign to win support for the scheme. It has been involved in discussions with officials to encourage further investigations. Mr Ho said the project could create between 500 and 1,000 hectares of land. This would form an area about three times the size of the West Kowloon reclamation and provide space for about 500,000 people. This compares with a Planning Department estimate, which said homes for 640,000 people would be needed between 2001 and 2006 to cope with a population influx from China. Mr Ho said Tolo Harbour was one of the best sites for future development because it would be easy to reclaim land. 'Tai Po is quite shallow compared with other areas such as Tseung Kwan O, which is much deeper, he said. This would make it cheaper and quicker to form because less landfill material is needed. He also believed there would be less public opposition to reclaiming land in Tolo Harbour compared with along the waterfront in Central, Wan Chai and Kowloon. Apart from housing, reclamation would also provide land for new infrastructure development. This would include a north-south highway to relieve congestion on the Tolo Highway and improve cross-border connections at Shataukok. 'There will be more north-south based infrastructure between Hong Kong and the mainland. Shataukok will be developed into a major highway connection,' Mr Ho said. The Government plans to build a 20-kilometre expressway to form a Sha Tin bypass and Tai Po link road, although work is unlikely to start until the turn of the century. The Tolo Harbour plan has also received support from the Geotechnical Engineering Office, the Government's slope-safety watchdog. Office chief Andrew Malone said restrictions on further reclamation in Victoria Harbour would create extra pressure to develop hillsides. This could lead to risks from landslides. He said it would also mean higher costs because more work would be needed to ensure slopes were safe.