Lantau project not just a question of money

  • The real issue is whether Hong Kong’s latest mega reclamation plan should go ahead in the first place, not whether we are willing to throw a trillion dollars at it
PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 7:44pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 10:13pm

“Experts” for the government’s mega reclamation project for Lantau Island are out to paint its opponents as ill-informed and irrational, their objections technically unfounded and scientifically unsound.

Writing in this newspaper, Ken Chu, a national committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, doesn’t mince words.

“Unfortunately,” he wrote, “emotions and misinformed judgments have clouded the public debate over the proposed reclamation project to build 1,700 hectares of artificial islands”.

Is that so? I find the investigations carried out by the Citizens Task Force on Land Resources, a group of professionals, along with Designing Hong Kong, on the proposed reclamation first-rate. I urge people to check out their resources to decide if they are being irrational and ill-informed. Among their members are engineers, city planners and former government land surveyors.

Chu says we can afford it even if it costs a trillion dollars. But the real question is not whether we can afford it but why we should afford it.

Carrie Lam bulldozes ahead with Lantau Island reclamation idea...but at what cost?

He claims unused land in Hong Kong consists of country parks, which account for 40 per cent of our total land area and are unsuited for development and also needed for the environment. True, but given the 25 per cent of land already developed, that still leaves 35 per cent of undeveloped land, a big chunk of which will have development potential.

“We must continuously and tirelessly seek out-of-the-box solutions,” Chu wrote rhetorically.

Actually, this reclamation plan is nothing new. A version of it dates from the late 1980s. A member of the Citizens Task Force has dug up its dirty history and will present it to the public at a later date, so I won’t steal his thunder here.

Meanwhile, engineers from the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers and several universities have blasted a claim made by former Observatory director Lam Chiu-ying, who has warned that the proposed reclaimed islands housing up to 1.1 million people could be devastated by rising sea levels and violent typhoons caused by climate change.

I don’t know whether independent experts in the field agree with Lam. But his objection is largely beside the point. The real issue is not that the reclamation is infeasible, but rather it is all too feasible, provided you are willing to throw a trillion dollars or more of our money at it.

This just takes us back to square one – whether we should do it in the first place.