The government’s plan to build artificial islands through large-scale reclamation activities, as a way to create new land for housing, has more opponents than supporters among the public, an opinion poll showed.
According to the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong (HKUPOP), a survey has indicated that almost half of the city’s residents have a negative view of the Lantau reclamation plan, while those in favor of such development number less than 40 percent.
In the poll commissioned by pan-democratic lawmakers, 49 percent of 1,000 residents randomly interviewed by phone in early November said they objected to the planned reclamation in waters off Lantau.
Meanwhile, only 39 percent of the respondents expressed their support for the controversial plan, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Under her “Lantau Tomorrow Vision”, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had on Oct. 10 unveiled a plan to create artificial islands in the seas through large-scale reclamation.
Delivering her annual policy speech, Lam said the artificial islands can provide as much as 1,700 hectares of land, which can then be used for construction of up to 400,000 residential units.
The apartment blocks that will be put up on the new islands will be able to accommodate up to 1.1 million people, helping ease the population congestion in other parts of the city, Lam suggested.
The plan, however, drew fierce criticism from many people, including opposition lawmakers and environmental groups.
Some critics labeled the project as a waste of public resources and also argued that it will cause a serious dent in the government’s fiscal reserves seriously damaged.
Meanwhile, others expressed worries about the potential harm the reclamation will cause to marine ecology in the region.
All such worries apparently found an echo in the latest poll conducted by HKUPOP on the issues.
As per the survey, nearly seven in 10 respondents favored putting existing land resources to good use before undertaking any reclamation.
Such resources include brownfield sites, which refer to land that has been zoned for industrial or commercial use but is now mainly used for other purposes such as storage dumps, and the Fanling golf course.
Those who opposed such order of land development only accounted for roughly 20 percent.
Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, convener of the pan-democrats’ meeting group of lawmakers, said the poll did not give the interviewees a ballpark figure for expenditures of the mega reclamation plan, as the government has been unable to provide a precise amount so far.
The public’s opposition to the reclamation is clear, and they want the chief executive to explore other housing options, Mo told RTHK.
Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong, a lawmaker who represents the accountancy functional constituency in the Legislative Council and is a member of the pan-democratic group The Professionals Guild, urged the government to explore land development in the right order.
Authorities should first tap brownfield sites, then look at lands of country parks, and only then consider sea reclamation as the last option, Leung suggested.
Mo, on her part, demanded that the chief executive should shelve the Lantau reclamation plan before considering other options.
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