Lantau Tomorrow: The environment will pay the price for the government's unnecessary plans
Hong Kong has a plan to tackle the need for housing. In her most recent policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a plan to reclaim 1,700 hectares of new land around Lantau to create a new economic and housing hub to alleviate pressures on Hong Kong’s economy from its’ growing and ageing population.
The plan is likely to cost in the region of $500,000,000 HKD, which is around 64 million in US dollars. There has, of course, been concern about the chances of this plan actually being worth the money and whether or not it will succeed in easing concern for housing.
Some have questioned the need for the plan at all. Land leases in Hong Kong are sent to come to an end in 2047, it is simply not possible to predict the political situation of One Country, Two Systems at this point, with Beijing never indicating publicly what intentions it has. With all land possibly falling into the hands of Beijing's central government, accurate predictions about the value and use of the land are hard to come by.
The Greater Bay Area developments are expected to progress in the coming years, further integrating Hong Kong with the SAR of Macau and Zhuhai on the Chinese mainland. This would also bring about greater transport links, meaning travel throughout the area should be a lot easier and simpler. Hong Kongers may no longer be limited to looking at just the city for land and will have a wider net of options to cat their eye over.
After all, with Hong Kong’s population ageing, retirees may choose to sell property in Hong Kong in order to take advantages of the high real estate cost and use the profit to find cheaper alternatives in the Greater Bay Area or wider afield.
Ignoring all that, and say the project is decided to be the best of all the options, it would still have grave potential consequences for the environment.
An obvious consequence of reclaiming land will be a reduction in seaspace and of course, many marine creatures live in the seas surrounding Hong Kong. Fishermen who fish in these waters would also feel the effect if the damage to the habitat endangers species who call the waters of Hong Kong home.
Smaller sea channels will naturally lead to a rise in sea levels, which could result in more rubbish being trapped and washed upon along the coasts and increasing the risk of flooding and the need to invest in flood defence. The change in current patterns needs to be accessed through high technological computer modelling which does not appear to be have been conducted.
Gan Jianping of the University of Science and Technology told South China Morning Post: “This is a very serious issue the Hong Kong government should investigate, you need to do research. It can’t just be speculation.”
In 2018, just 47 Chinese white dolphins were spotted in the lands of Hong Kong. The species have a long association with Hong Kong having been chosen as the mascot for the handover from the British Empire to China.
All 47 spottings occurred in the land surrounding Lantau, where the reclamation is due to take place. A drop of in sightings occurred after the construction of the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge began in 2012 and increased ferry activity has also been cited as a factor in the loss of numbers. The WWF has released statements saying more protections need to be adopted at construction sites to safeguard dolphins who could easily swim into dangerous waters. With just 47 sightings, this is the lowest since records began and concerns over the species’ survival have been raised over the plans to undertake a massive construction project in their natural habitat.
We believe that the Lantau Tomorrow Vision could have dire consequences for the environment and marine wildlife in Hong Kong plus the government’s own plans have given alternatives that would ease the need for the new land and housing to be built in Hong Kong itself. The plan will be of great cost and it is unnecessary.