HK government has crazy plans for reclamations

Seems the government has gone barking mad; even claiming such reclamation projects will be environmentally friendly! This from S China Morning Post, showing what various green groups think.

Building artificial islands for housing off the coasts of Hong Kong would be a major waste of resources and could threaten marine life, several experts said.
The government has floated the idea of building man-made islands to increase land supply, and the proposal is in the early stages of discussion.

Greg Wong Chak-yan, a veteran civil engineer and former vice-chairman of the Town Planning Board, said that while such a venture was feasible, it was not necessary at the present time. "Artificial islands are feasible in engineering terms, but many people might ask why we must have these reclamations. Will some people become shelterless if we don't create land from the sea?"

Wong said it would make more sense to move unpopular facilities like prisons to artificial islands rather than build new homes on them.

Dr Ng Cho-nam, a member of the Transport Advisory Committee who teaches geography at the University of Hong Kong, said the proposal served little purpose as there was still plenty of undeveloped land in the New Territories.

He said: "How could these [artificial] islands attract development, especially when there is still lots of land in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun for use?"

This sentiment was shared by Winston Chu Ka-sun, an adviser to the Society for Protection of the Harbour. He said the solution to the city's housing shortage was developing more land in the New Territories. Construction on reclaimed land would be too costly, he said.

There are also environmental concerns in building man-made islands, according to groups such as the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society and WWF Hong Kong.

Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the society, called the idea ridiculous and said it would put marine creatures at risk.

Samantha Lee, from WWF, noted there were rich coral resources near Po Toi Island, while Tolo Harbour was a vital breeding ground for animals. "We do not oppose all reclamation but some sensitive sites have to be avoided," she said.

Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi-pong, meanwhile, said instead of providing unlimited land supply to support population growth, "the real challenge is capping the population".

He said luxury housing on artificial islands might be aimed more at rich mainlanders rather than locals.

 

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Martin Williams's picture

From today's SCM Post:

Hong Kong's government planners are out of control
Proposals to reclaim vast tracts of land from the sea are unnecessary; with population projections indicating that the city will not need that much space
 MONITOR, Tom Holland

The government-developer complex in Hong Kong is out of control and urgently needs to be reined in.
On Wednesday, the government announced proposals for new reclamation projects at up to 25 sites around Hong Kong's coastline, with plans for vast new artificial islands complete with bridges and tunnels to connect them to the city.

The government says all this reclamation is necessary to provide the 1,500 hectares of additional building land Hong Kong will need by 2039.

(Although if all the proposed projects were to go ahead, the total reclamation area would come to around 3,000 hectares. That's more than twice the size of Lamma Island and more land than Hong Kong has reclaimed from the sea since 1990, even including the massive airport and West Kowloon reclamation projects.)

The government says Hong Kong will need this new land to house its swelling population, which the Census and Statistics Department projects will grow by 25 per cent over the next three decades to hit 8.9 million in 2039.

Let's examine those figures for a moment. According to official figures, in the middle of last year the city's "usual resident" population numbered 6.9 million.

Over the past 10 years, our annual birth rate has averaged 9.2 babies per 1,000 inhabitants, while the death rate has averaged 5.6 per thousand.

If we assume those rates won't change, and that there will be no net migration, projecting Hong Kong's population growth over the next three decades gives us a city of just 7.6 million usual residents in 2039 (or 7.9 million if you count the "residents" that don't actually live here); a far cry from the government's 8.9 million forecast.

But even that projection overstates likely population growth, because our birth rates and death rates will change. Hong Kong has an ageing population, with more than half the population over 40 and one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. That means, as our population gets even older, there will be more deaths and fewer births. This declining natural growth rate means the city's population will fall well short even of 7.6 million usual residents by 2039.

In other words, the government's population projection assumes not only that the immigration rate will rise almost 50 per cent compared with recent years, but that those immigrants will be busy making lots of babies.

This is hard to swallow, especially given the government's hostility even to granting permanent residency to long-serving maids.

Other demographers agree. Working from the same starting point and factoring in a moderate but declining immigration rate (which makes sense as the mainland grows richer relative to Hong Kong), the US Census Bureau projects that Hong Kong's population will peak in the middle of the next decade and then decline to 6.9 million by 2039. That's two million fewer than the government's forecast (see the chart).

So you have to wonder why we need to reclaim all that building land from the sea. The truth is that Hong Kong is neither short of housing, nor of land to build on. In his policy address in October, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen admitted that the city has more than 200,000 flats sitting empty. That's enough to meet all housing demand for the next eight years.

On top of that, the government is already freeing 3,000 hectares for building by re-zoning and re-developing unused or underused land, largely in the New Territories.

And if that is not enough, Hong Kong boasts an additional 2,600 hectares of industrial land (which doesn't include land devoted to transport infrastructure), much of which can be redeveloped relatively cheaply in the future.

As a result the government's latest reclamation plans don't just look unnecessary, they look nuts.

It's hard to conclude anything except that the planners and their construction industry cronies have run completely amok, crazed by the prospect of getting their hands on the government's huge fiscal reserves and using them to build ever more grandiose, expensive and unneeded civil engineering projects.

They need to be stopped.

 

Martin Williams's picture

also from SCM Post:

A representative of Hong Kong's fishing industry yesterday vented his anger at government plans for land reclamation, saying they ignored the possible damage to fishermen's livelihoods.
"Each bit of the sea that is filled is a dent in our rice bowl, and the government thinks they can just put us out of work and pay us off," said Keung Siu-fai, secretary of the Hong Kong & Kowloon Floating Fishermen's Welfare Promotion Association. "A fisherman cannot find a job on land - we don't have the skills for it."

Keung was also referring to the ban on trawling that went into effect on December 31, which cost the government HK$1.72 billion to compensate those boats that used trawl nets.

He was speaking at a forum of almost 100 officials, engineers and environmentalists discussing the 25 sites suggested by the Development Bureau as suitable for land reclamation. The land will most likely be used for building homes for the future population and to create more space for landfills and utilities.

The government estimates Hong Kong's population will grow by 25 per cent from 7 million to 8.9 million by 2039. However, it has overestimated population growth in the past, and some analysis suggests the projection could be too high by two million.

"The government has demonised fishermen as damaging the environment," Keung said. "But at the same time, we have the government proposing 25 sites for land reclamation. Let's have a professional compare whether trawling or land reclamation will do more damage."

He said there were 3,000 fishermen in Hong Kong. "We should pay respect to the ancestors of this city which started off as a fishing village, but look at how the government is humiliating us." He said the proposed reclamation site off North Lamma would wreak the most damage to the fishing industry.

WWF conservation director Dr Andy Cornish, who attended the forum, agreed the government should make sustaining the fishing industry a priority, but that there seemed to be a mismatch in objectives. "You have one side of the government that wants to protect the fishing industry, and one side that is taking their livelihood away and then trying to pay them off."

A common complaint raised in the discussion over suitable sites was that Hong Kong lacked strategic goals for 2039.

"In the past 30 years, the government has never predicted the census correctly. So we need to look at what kind of city we want to be by 2039," said urban designer Roger Chan Chun-kwong. Chan pointed to Singapore as an example of a city that had successfully incorporated land reclamation as part of its long-term goal.

Cornish said the WWF did not object to reclamation outright and accepted that development would have an impact on the environment. But the government should spell out its goals, so conservationists could better plan what to save and how.

"We do not make decisions on how to protect the environment in a vacuum," he said.

Environmentalists at the forum were most concerned about sites on North Lamma, Peng Chau to the west and ones that would require claiming part of Po Toi Island, to the south.

Development Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor denied the government had exaggerated the projected population in 2039 in order to garner favour for land reclamation to build housing.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong, president of Green Sense and who was at the forum, said he was not completely opposed to land reclamation, but he would only consider pledging his support if the government promised the land would be for public housing or home ownership scheme flats.

 

Martin Williams's picture

Two letters to SCM Post re the mad plans:

Appalled by proposal to join islands
The website of the Hong Kong Tourism Board features a prominent section on "Great Outdoors Hong Kong", citing "breath-taking natural scenery ... far from the city's restless pace".

How can it be, then, that the so-called Development Bureau can come up with a reclamation plan that would involve the destruction of much of this natural scenery in an attempt to meet supposed land bank targets?

The latest plan contains gems of imbecility, such as the proposed joining of Beaufort and Po Toi islands, which indicate a staggering level of contempt for every effort that is currently being made to conserve the natural wonders and clean up the environment in this "special" zone.

Special indeed, if such ludicrous suggestions are even permitted to see the light of day.

How alarming that there would appear to be no sense of judgment within the bureau on the practicality of its own proposals and how shameful that such destructive proposals can even be considered.

Still, as long as these bureaucratic minions can meet their planning targets, who cares about the consequences?

Asia's world city? What a joke.

Mike Tinworth, Lantau

 
Destruction, not genuine development

The government lost the battle over the destruction of Victoria Harbour. So now it has decided to ruin, whoops, "enhance land supply" elsewhere.

In case it is not clear quite what level of destruction is thought possible by our "can't see beyond a shopping mall" leadership, consider the implications.

Apart from its batholithic beauty, Lo Chau Mun (the Beaufort Channel) is the deepest part of Hong Kong waters. To fill it in will require doing what's known as a Chek Lap Kok.

What I mean by that is, destroying Lo Chau (Beaufort Island), and no doubt much of Po Toi too, to fill the hole.

To reclaim between Peng Chau and Hei Ling Chau will require the levelling of both those islands, and so on. Not the mere Comprehensive Environmental Degradation Department then; more, the Complete Environmental Destruction Department.

As Tom Holland eloquently argued ("Hong Kong's government planners are out of control", January 6), there's been enough of the Civil Engineering and Development Department.

Stephen Davies, Tai Hang

Martin Williams's picture

Excellent article on the reclamation plans in the Guardian. Includes:

... if Hong Kong's planners have their way, tonnes of construction waste will be dumped in and around Tolo harbour, disfiguring shorelines, despoiling uninhabited islands and wrecking a rare recreational resource.

The plan is part of a broader aim to create 1,500 hectares of land to provide homes and land space for millions more people. The planners talk of creating 25 islands and waterfront extensions of hundreds of hectares each. They would dump concrete in the sea to join up islands where weekend sailors see porpoises and turtles, and wipe out natural pebble and sand beaches.
...
The trouble, says a range of experts, is that the department's assumptions are wrong, its reasoning faulty, and the process flawed. Take the Cedd's claim that Hong Kong's population (of 6.9 million) will reach 8.9 million by 2039. "I don't believe it," said Prof Paul Yip, Hong Kong's top demographer, from the University of Hong Kong's department of social work and social administration.
...
After researching the figures, local commentator Tom Holland said: "It's hard to conclude anything except that the planners and their construction industry cronies have run completely amok, crazed by the prospect of getting their hands on the government's huge fiscal reserves, and using them to build ever more grandiose, expensive and unneeded civil engineering projects. They need to be stopped."

Hong Kong plan to create 25 islands threatens wildlife, say protesters

Creation of 1,500 hectares of land in the region is flawed on environmental and demographic grounds, say experts