【明報專訊】THE GOVERNMENT has suggested twenty-five locations for reclamation. One may say this is an ambitious plan the likes of which it has rarely proposed in recent years.
Infrastructure development has stagnated in the territory. There are many reasons, but the chief one is that the government has failed to make long-term plans. Hong Kong does not lack land. However, the government has failed to supply land in a planned and orderly way. It is towering public resentment that has woken it up. It will go all out to create land. Its reclamation proposal counts as progress.
The government reckons that Hong Kong will be 25% more populous in 2039, when its population (7.1 million now) will reach 8.9 million. To meet housing and other needs, it is necessary to make about 4,500 hectares of land. Much land is available for development in the SAR. However, citizens very much cherish the countryside. Conceivably, they would rather the government reclaimed land from the sea.
The proposed locations for reclamation are all outside Victoria Harbour. Apart from conventional reclamation, the government has come up with the creative idea of making artificial islands and connecting certain outlying islands.
The SAR government has remained lethargic for at least ten years. It has come up with few delightfully surprising plans. Its reclamation proposal is such that we must see it in a new light. There are still officials who have dreams and want to change Hong Kong's landscape and allow it new scope for development. Whether they succeed or not, the courage they have displayed is commendable.
Though Hong Kong needs to reclaim land from the sea, as conservation is now all the rage, potential resistance is not to be ignored. For example, black finless porpoises and Chinese white dolphins have been spotted at some proposed locations, and mangroves and fish farms are near others, conservationists are certain to raise objections.
The government will consult the public about the reclamation proposal. We believe the following three points are worth its particular attention.
(1) It need not seize the hour. It should allow citizens ample time instead of cutting the Gordian knot. It should provide citizens with information and heed their views so that they will see that it is sincere about the consultation.
(2) It should engage the public to build consensus in the consultation exercise. We hope it will do so to ensure that its reclamation plan will be smoothly carried out.
(3) It should heed young people's views. In conducting the consultation, it is important for the government to encourage and even mobilise youngsters to express their opinions. People who have the power to make reclamation decisions will no longer be in office in thirty years. Many of them may have departed this life then. As the reclamation plan has much to do with the next two generations' wellbeing, the government should listen to what people who were born in the 1980s or 1990s have to say. If it gives them sufficient information and proper guidance, it can, we believe, help them make the right choice.