Land reclamation has had a significant impact on Hong Kong's development, shaping the region's growth over the years (pun intended). Since colonial times, Hong Kong has adopted land reclamation practices to increase space so that the island may meet its growing population and need for infrastructure; moreover, land reclamation projects continue to this very day. Just recently, the government announced its new Lantau Tomorrow Vision project, which would see an artificial island constructed off the shore of south Lantau island. With this being the case, I believe that it is important to clarify what land reclamation really is, as well as explain how it affects the surrounding eco-system.
Land reclamation is the process of creating or refining district areas to allow for more intensive usage, whether that be land cultivation or the construction of more infrastructure. There are many ways of 'reclaiming' land, many of which are specific to the type of land that requires development. In the past, Hong Kong employed the Dry Earth Movement method of land reclamation for which they excavated dry terrain and threw the debris into the coast, raising the sea bed until it became useable land. However, this method of land reclamation (like most other land reclamation methods) has various negative environmental impacts.
Firstly, land reclamation is irreversible, so once a new artificial island has been made, it can't ever be unmade. Now, while this in itself may not be reason enough to prevent land reclamation, it should at least prompt people to think carefully as to whether land reclamation is really necessary for a given situation. Land reclamation also has grave impacts on sea life; land reclamation can harm the fish population that requires the coast to breed by replacing the coastal area with new land structures. Furthermore, increased noise pollution levels -- brought about by more human residents living near the bay -- may also drive away sea creatures inhabiting the area. For example, a report from the Hong Kong division of WWF explains how, since the construction of the 2009 Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, the white dolphin population living nearby decreased by more than 70%.
It is important to understand that human lives are not the only ones affected by land reclamation. We must take into consideration how our need for more space may affect the homes of others living nearby.
Written by: Ishaan Mukherjee