East Lantau Metropolis the Bankrupt Hong Kong Tomorrow Vision articles

There has been a flurry of articles about the crazy idea to build a huge reclamation east of Lantau, for a new metropolis complete with Central Business District and homes for up to a million people or so. Hugely expensive - may well completely empty Hong Kong's coffers; hugely risky given rising sea levels and intensifying storms; and hugely controversial.

Here are clippings from a selection of these articles.

From Reuters:

Rising sea levels, storm surges pose risks for Hong Kong's artificial island project

As Hong Kong recovers from one of the strongest typhoons in decades, a controversial plan to build a vast artificial island is facing intense scrutiny from environmental groups, lawmakers and academics who say it will be vulnerable to rising sea levels and storms.

The East Lantau Metropolis plan, backed by powerhouse property developers including New World Development and Henderson Land, is the government’s favored option to address a chronic housing shortage in one of the world’s most expensive property markets.

But the project, which envisions housing more than 1 million people across 1,700 hectares of reclaimed land, is probably the worst choice, said Lam Chiu-ying, a former director of Hong Kong’s weather bureau.

...  The Citizens Task Force said the foundation’s plans were based on an inflated estimate of population growth and demand for land.

A better alternative would be to develop more than 1,000 hectares Hong Kong property developers already own in the city’s verdant New Territories.

Article based on a march against the project:

Welcome to Insanity Reef: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam creates her own Frankenstein’s monster

The East Lantau Metropolis could be the political equivalent of the grotesque, sapient creature, created by Shelley’s fictional scientist. Frankenstein’s monster creates havoc, death and destruction for its creator and there are already worrying signs that Lam’s monstrous reclamation project, could also have calamitous and dramatic political consequences for her.

The gigantic 1,700-hectare land reclamation project, announced at the Chief Executive’s policy address, earlier this month and re-named Lantau Tomorrow Vision, might attract a few more unofficial names before it’s completed.

...
The dangers for the Chief Executive are threefold. First, though some student groups including Demosisto were represented at the protest, most of the attendees appeared to be mainstream Hongkongers, not political agitators. Secondly, at the core of the protest is not an intangible ideal like democracy or independence but a huge artificial island seven times the size of Cheung Chau, costing hundreds of billions of dollars of public money. Thirdly, the one legitimate area of protest and dissent often tolerated, to a surprising degree, on the Mainland is environmental issues and this is a very big one.

Commentary by Lam Chiu Ying, an adjunct professor in the Geography and Resource Management Department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and an honorary fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society:

Island of fear: massive reclamation off Lantau would be a disaster in age of climate change and sea-level rises

... is an artificial island really the answer to Hong Kong’s housing woes?

... in this age of climate change and rising sea levels, is it wise to create an island through large-scale reclamation?

... The idea of an artificial island between Hong Kong Island and Lantau has been floated for decades. It has been the pet subject of generations of engineers. Yet, nothing has happened so far for two simple reasons: there is no real need for it, and the government does not have the money for it.

Is there now a need for it? No.

... To go for a gigantic artificial island facing the open sea in a warming world is an unequivocally disastrous move.

An opinion piece by Tom Yam, who is doing much to rally opposition to the Metropolis scheme:

Why East Lantau Metropolis is yet another conjuring trick by the Hong Kong government

Before committing to the biggest infrastructure project in Hong Kong’s history, likely to take 20 to 30 years, costing more than the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, third runway and high-speed rail link to the mainland combined, detailed scrutiny of its viability is imperative. Astoundingly, in glossy brochures and glib speeches, government and foundation officials deploy skewed projections, emotive images and feel-good scenarios in place of serious analysis.

They begin by inflating the demand for land.

... Such a city-in-the-sea, kilometres from land, will be vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather.

... Our Hong Kong Foundation is campaigning for reclamation on a scale even larger than the government has proposed, but otherwise they are singing from the same song sheet. And it’s the usual two-part harmony.

The foundation’s governors and supporters represent the major developers, financial groups, big business and powerful insiders – New World, Henderson, Hang Lung, Sino Group, Shui On, Shimao, Shun Tak, Fung Group, Lan Kwai Fong Group, Arthur Li, Elsie Leung, and Bernard Chan. So it has deep pockets to lobby for reclamation-centric development.

 

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Recent news item:

Environmentalists say project is not necessary as official data indicates the population will peak at 8.22 million in 2043 before declining

... concern groups said on Thursday that such a large-scale reclamation, based on a projected population of nine million, was not necessary as official data indicated the number of Hongkongers would peak at 8.22 million in 2043 before declining.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong, chief executive of the environmental group Green Sense, feared the project would drain the city’s coffers, estimating it could cost up to HK$1 trillion (US$128.2 billion), almost all of Hong Kong’s fiscal reserves.

Another opinion piece, here from Albert Cheng:

The scale of the project is ridiculous; even former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing is having trouble getting behind the plan.

... It’s as clear as day that mainland China’s construction sector will be the biggest winner. Sure, although infrastructure ... may deliver economic benefits to the city, the actual amount is in doubt.

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Thousands of residents have already excoriated the massive plan, while questions remain over what it does to the land supply task force, how much it will cost, and whether it can pass the legislature

the reaction since she unveiled the blueprint on October 10 suggests Lam has a lot more explaining – and convincing – to do.

Criticism has come not only from her long-time detractors but also some of her closest advisers.

Even politicians who believe she is right to get started on the long-term project now may hold back from expressing support, anxious not to upset voters ahead of next year’s district-level elections.

“I think the middle class has been triggered,” said lawmaker Tanya Chan, of the pro-democracy Civic Party.

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Carrie Lam’s “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” makes no sense in terms of its scale, timelines and costs. Meanwhile, many objections to it make good sense

The government’s rationale makes no sense. Meanwhile, many objections make good sense. Here are the most salient ones summarised by land activist Tom Yam:

● Exorbitant cost, possibly to the tune of HK$1 trillion;

● Depletion of fiscal reserve;

● Compromising the welfare of future generation by taking money away them;

● Damage to the environment;

● Catering to special interests;

● Influence by “small circles” interests such as former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa’s Our Hong Kong Foundation;

● Overcapacity for a planned population of 9.4 million when the maximum could be 8.2 million.

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Excerpt from Google translated version:
 
'If you really build an artificial island in East Lantau, you may encounter a strong typhoon every few years, and the fate is like the earlier Kansai Airport in Japan. In addition, most of Hong Kong is blowing southeast wind, and the southeastern side of the artificial island has no barriers. It can be called "blowing to the right". It can be seen how stupid and irresponsible the "Tomorrow's Day" project is! ‘