Hong Kong housing

Hong Kong rural leaders propose artificial island for waste dumps and sewage plants to free up space in land-starved city

Heung Yee Kuk reveals report on land use submitted to government and also raises development of ‘ancestral lands’, provided villagers get proper compensation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 11:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 2:21pm

Hong Kong’s rural leaders have proposed building an island for waste dumps and facilities such as sewage plants to free up as much as 590 hectares of land which could house 300,000 people across the city.

The plan was one of seven land-use concepts put forward by the Heung Yee Kuk, a government-recognised body that represents the interests of New Territories villagers.

Landfills and their supporting facilities such as leachate pools would be built on the man-made island, and other essential but “unwelcomed” facilities, including waste recycling plants or sewage treatments, could also be located there, according to the kuk.

The group however did not specify where this artificial island would be located.

Kuk chairman Kenneth Lau Ip-keung, who is a member of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s cabinet, said the idea was in line with the “new thinking” of the administration.

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“No one wants to live near a landfill, so moving landfills to a man-made island off Hong Kong will not only solve the problem but open up the original sites for housing. It would be a win-win option,” Lau said.

No one wants to live near a landfill
Kenneth Lau, kuk chairman

The kuk, which released on Thursday the report it earlier submitted to the government task force on land supply, said more than 270 hectares of land in the New Territories was being used as landfills, comprising 61 hectares in Ta Kwu Ling in North district, another 100 hectares in Tseung Kwan O, and a 110-hectare plot in Tuen Mun.

“These landfill sites used to be regarded as remote countryside but with urban development, they are now closer to developed residential areas,” Lau said.

The Environmental Association’s Dr Yau Wing-kwong, also a co-opted member of the kuk, said: “With new technology, closed landfills can be restored for housing. Take the Shanghai Expo site for example – it was previously regarded as having the most polluted soil in the city.”

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In total, Hong Kong’s land fills occupy about 590 hectares of land across the city, including 10 that are already closed due to expanding urban areas.

The kuk estimated the sites, if redeveloped for housing, could accommodate some 300,000 people.

In its 31-page report, the kuk also highlighted the need for the government to “cooperate” with villagers to develop the more than 2,400 hectares of so-called ancestral lands scattered around the New Territories.

“We are not against the government developing our ancestral lands. But there should be proper compensation,” Lau said, adding the kuk would be looking at ways to make it easier for villagers to sell such plots.

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At present, sale of ancestral lands is only allowed if the consent of all villagers in the clan is obtained.

Other proposals in the kuk’s report included opening up the border area near Sha Tau Kok for development, and reclaiming Nim Wan in Tuen Mun to create 1,600 hectares of land.

It also suggested the small-house policy be relaxed to allow high-rise village homes.

Under the policy, a male indigenous villager is allowed free village land in his lifetime to build a three-storey house, with about 700 sq ft for each floor.

But the kuk opposed converting the Fanling golf course for housing, or developing brownfield sites before “practical” relocation plans could be established for the businesses in these areas.