Work on the reclamation of 130 ha of Tung Chung Bay to create land for housing formally began today.
Government officials descended on north Lantau this morning to don the traditional yellow hard hats for the ceremonial project start.
Combined with the removal of 150 ha of the northern side of the bay to create an artificial island for the HK-Macau bridge, the new project will reduce the bay, once two kilometres wide, to a narrow channel.
A HK$12 billion contract to carry out the reclamation was let to a Singapore-China joint venture, Build King-SCT, last month.
The Tung Chung east project is the biggest part of what is officially known as the Tung Chung New Town Extension – the biggest project in the district since it was built two decades ago.
It is intended to provide 40,000 homes, with the first people forecast to move in in 2023. Another 9,000 homes are to be built at Tung Chung west near Shek Mun Kap. More than three-fifths will be public housing.
Finance Secretary Paul Chan – who as Development Secretary was the chief salesman for the East Lantau Metropolis – used the occasion to hail the importance of reclamation, which has slowed down in the last two decades.
Between 2000 and 2015, Hong Kong generated a total of only 690 hectares of land (ie, an average of more than 40 hectares annually) through land reclamation, far less than the 3,000 hectares between 1985 and 2000 (that is, an average of 200 hectares per year About ten Victoria Parks), a decrease of nearly 80%.
Without elaborating, Chan argued that reclamation is synonymous with urban growth, noting that nearly half of the city’s population lives in ‘new towns’ – urban areas such as Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun and Shatin that were built in the 1970s and 80s.
Tseung Kwan O and Tung Chung were created in the 90s, but no new residential districts have been developed since.
Chan says up to now Tung Chung has lacked the scale of other new towns like Shatin, which has 700,000 people, and Tai Po 280,000, to support local facilities.
Originally anticipated to house 200,000 people, today has little more than 80,000. Chan blames the shortfall – again without any details – on the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s and SARS in 2003
He says the expansion will bring a “substantial improvement in local facilities” to the district, including two new MTR stations, a 3 ha playground, “post-secondary education facilities, clinics, large-scale public markets and more than 5 km of promenades.”
The expansion will also provide 870,000 sq metres of commercial floor space will be used for office, retail and hotel development, enabling more local job opportunities.