Date
22 October 2018
Former head of the Hong Kong Observatory, Lam Chiu-ying, says the government must think twice before proceeding with the plan to build artificial islands given the climate change problem. Photos: HK Govt, HKEJ
Former head of the Hong Kong Observatory, Lam Chiu-ying, says the government must think twice before proceeding with the plan to build artificial islands given the climate change problem. Photos: HK Govt, HKEJ

Ex-observatory chief voices concern over artificial islands plan

The government’s plan to create artificial islands in Lantau waters to create new land for housing is a bad idea, a veteran meteorologist said, warning that the reclamation carries many risks.

Lam Chiu-ying, former director of the Hong Kong Observatory, said new islands built in the sea will be vulnerable to disasters stemming from climate change, including rising sea waters.

Given the ongoing changes in global weather patterns, risks such as stronger downpours, storm surges, rising sea levels and more frequent super typhoons will only increase in the future, he said.

It is best to drop the plan to build artificial islands in the seas, said Lam, who currently lectures at the Geography and Resource Management Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

If the government still wants to pursue the plan, it should do so only after putting in place adequate risk management measures, the Hong Kong Economic Journal quoted the weather expert as saying. 

The comments came after Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam, in her policy address on Wednesday, unveiled the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision”, under which the government would create islands in waters off Lantau through large-scale reclamation as part of efforts to boost land supply for housing.

The artificial islands can provide as much as 1,700 hectares of land, which can then be used for the construction of up to 400,000 residential units, the chief executive said in her speech.

Voicing his concerns over the reclamation plan, Lam Chiu-ying said if authorities want to persist with the mega project that will cost several hundred billion Hong Kong dollars, there must be proper catastrophe management so that misfortune will not be passed down to the next generations.

The former observatory chief listed five suggestions, with the first one being that the project should only be done in phases. Otherwise, officials will not be able to halt construction in case there is a sudden change in the global economic or political landscape, he said.

Second, risks posed by climate changes over the next two centuries must be put into consideration so as to prevent unbearable losses.

Next, the government must avoid financial disaster through detailed advance analysis and risk assessment.

Also, Hong Kong’s ecological capacity must be enhanced to ensure that the negative environmental impact of the project is minimized, he said, adding that the government must also carefully plan the process of transferring people to the artificial islands.

The climate expert called on the government to consult specialists at the observatory when it studies the potential effects of climate change, instead of seeking opinions from outsourced consultants.

A consulting firm hired by Our Hong Kong Foundation, a local think-tank which suggested in August that the government should double the initially proposed size of reclamation, had come to a conclusion after a feasibility study that the waves around the artificial islands will be two meters high at most.

Lam slammed such conclusion, saying no wise person will accept that argument.

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TL/BN/RC

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