The $63.8 billion Lantau Island project: A bane or boon for Hong Kong?
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The $63.8 billion Lantau Island project: A bane or boon for Hong Kong?

HONG KONG’s ambitious plan to build four artificial islands is slated to address its housing crisis in the world’s least affordable property market.

The artificial islands would be a fifth the size of Manhattan and could accommodate more than one million people, according to Bloomberg.

The move to create the island would be similar to the palm-shaped archipelago in Dubai, or Forest City in Malaysia and Jurong Island in Singapore, as part of a government plan to create a gleaming property and commercial hub.

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The huge “Lantau Tomorrow Vision project”, which was announced by Hong Kong Chief executive last year, involved 1,700 hectare (4,201 acre) islands in the city’s central towers, between Lantau Island and Hong Kong Island.

The islands were tipped to cost HK$500 billion (US$63.8 billion) and take the next two or three decades to complete 400,000 housing units for an estimated 1.1 million people starting in 2032.

The land reclamation would be Hong Kong’s largest and most expensive infrastructure project.

The development is also expected to create some 340,000 jobs over the next two to three decades.

“Improvement of livelihood and development of the economy and transport infrastructure … hinge on land resources, without which all strategies or plans will end up in empty talk,” Lam said in her policy address in October.

Aside from the eye-watering price tag of her vision, the project would come at a huge environmental cost.

Patrick Yeung, ocean conservation manager for the Hong Kong chapter of the World Wildlife Fund, told Bloomberg there would be potential damage to the marine food chain when microorganisms and other fishes are uprooted as a result of reclamation.

“The entire environment would be disrupted,” he said.

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Cabins cable-way ride above sea to the island Lantau, Hong Kong. Source: Shutterstock

“Is there really no other option than to reclaim land? That should be our first consideration.”

The project has also met opposition from activists. Just three days after Lam’s proposal, 6,000 people took to the streets to protest the project.

The project was also a major theme during an annual New Year’s Day protest.

China, which rules Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” doctrine, is considered a major beneficiary of the project as Lautau, which is Hong Kong’s biggest outlying island, would fall into Beijing’s greater plan of turning the region into a trillion dollar economy by through more connectivity with neighbouring Macau and the mainland.

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Steve Tsang, director of SOAS China Institute at the University of London, said the project would more in the favour of Beijing than Hong Kong.

“It may be going in the right direction for China, but that’s not going in the right direction for Hong Kong,” Tsang said.

“Simply getting Hong Kong into an integral part of a wider PRC development project diminishes Hong Kong in terms of its special character and special contributions to China, and does not enhance it.”

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