Why Hong Kong is about to make a costly mistake in reclamation for East Lantau Metropolis
Roger Nissim’s letter (“Why Hong Kong’s land supply debate is starting to look like a farce”, August 17) points out how Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Our Hong Kong Foundation have undermined the Task Force on Land Supply, making a mockery of the public consultation now underway (“Think tank suggests new island to ease shortage of homes”, August 7). I’d argue that the task force is a pliant enabler of the government’s determination to make mega reclamation the centrepiece of development.
The government’s plan to reclaim 1,000 hectares from the sea to create a city – the East Lantau Metropolis – has met with scepticism since former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced it in January 2014. His administration subsequently withdrew a proposal to the Legislative Council for a feasibility study of this metropolis.
Lam’s administration, which sees reclamation as “unavoidable”, set up the task force last year, ostensibly to seek public input on ways to tackle the purported land shortage.
The task force lists the East Lantau Metropolis as one of 18 options in its “public engagement exercise”. However, the metropolis is in a league of its own because of its complexity, cost and environmental impact. Planned to house up to 700,000 people, it’s presented as a panacea for Hong Kong’s housing crisis. In fact, it cannot increase housing supply in the short term and will cause overcapacity in the long term.
It’s also the only option that will immediately incur huge expense. The feasibility study the government wants to commission will cost HK$248 million. Before spending millions on such a study, there will need to be preliminary assessments of whether the project is even minimally viable.
As veteran planner Ronald Taylor pointed out (“Why Our Hong Kong Foundation’s new East Lantau plan is premature: where are the enhanced transport links?”, August 23), the transport problems alone are intractable. Many other issues require professional scrutiny before any feasibility study.
Lam has asked the task force to provide a preliminary report on the public consultation before her October policy address. Task force chair Stanley Wong Yuen-fai has said that developing brownfield sites and nearshore reclamation are two of the options most supported by the public. So Lam can claim “consensus” for reclamation in her policy address, resubmit the funding request for the feasibility study and urge legislators to “fast track” it.
Construction companies and developers will rejoice at the prospect of HK$248 million for the study and an estimated HK$470 billion for the biggest reclamation project in Hong Kong’s history.
Tom Yam, Mui Wo