Hong Kong’s land shortage means city must dig deep – for underground space
I am writing in response to the land supply issue in Hong Kong, a red hot topic for years but with no panacea in sight. I believe solutions recommended by the government, such as improving urban planning and creating more area by developing underground space, are justified.
The government’s Task Force on Land Supply last year estimated that Hong Kong currently needs 1,200 hectares for housing and economic development, infrastructure and public facilities. The city undoubtedly has a serious and urgent land shortage problem. Among all the suggestions by the government, exploring developable land, such as underground space, is the most feasible way forward.
Developing underground space can create more area for economic development and public use. This approach to increasing land supply for business and leisure has been extremely successful in both the West and Asia. Projects in the Paris metropolitan area and the Kamppi underground complex in Finland have already used this innovative approach to create space.
A Hong Kong government public consultation in 2016, on developing the built-up urban areas of Tsim Sha Tsui West, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley and Admiralty-Wan Chai, included as examples Tokyo and Taipei’s sprawling shopping streets, the La Defense business district in Paris, and the Zhujiang new town in Guangzhou, all of which integrate commercial development with the urban railway system.
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However, Hong Kong lags behind and deems that developing underground space will face several limitations. Fire safety, connections to nearby passageways and to transport and other facilities are cited as the greatest concerns.
But in fact the technologies to implement these projects are well-developed and the related restrictions have been reduced.
Developing underground land will not only increase commercial space, it could also reduce the density of urban areas and ease connectivity and pedestrian congestion issues, especially in districts like Central. It is a modest and less disruptive way to achieve the goal of increasing land supply.
To develop a vibrant and energetic city, many factors need to be considered – the plan itself, the facilities involved and, most importantly, the community. As stakeholders in our city, we should actively comment on the policies that affect us all.
Sin Ka Kit, Pok Fu Lam