Benefits of Development
There has been a suggestion to reclaim part of the PCR for development of a "Plover Cove New Town" (PCNT). The suggestion involves reclaiming around 600 ha of land.
It is suggested that 300,000 units could be built on the reclaimed land to house 0.8 to 1.2 million people. The remaining area would be used for open space and water storage purposes. The suggestion also involves building two more desalination plants with capacity similar to the desalination plant in Tseung Kwan O, which is now at the planning stage.
Costs of Development
The suggested development of PCNT will undermine the stability and reliability of the water supply in Hong Kong, causing the strategic reserve to drop from a level of 4 to 6 months' consumption to only 3 to 4 months' consumption. This would affect the ability of Hong Kong to cope with water supply crisis, such as damage to the Dongjiang water supply system or the occurrence of extreme drought.
Like most of the reservoirs in Hong Kong, the PCR is located at areas of relatively high ecological and conservation value within a country park. The PCNT proposal may have impacts on the environment, including recognised sites of conservation and archaeological interest, historic buildings, ecologically sensitive areas, important habitats, as well as landscape and visual settings.
The costs of developing the PCR would mainly involve site formation works, necessary transport and other infrastructure facilities, including water supply, sewage, electricity supply and telecommunication facilities. Water supply works and infrastructure would also be required to compensate for the impact of reclamation of the reservoir; for example, the construction of a desalination plant, the reconfiguration of a substantial part of Hong Kong's water supply network, and necessary measures to mitigate the impact on neighbouring country parks and other environmental impact.
The PCR is far from major transport networks, has a dam of more than 10 metres high, and has poor accessibility by land or sea. These would present significant constraints on reclamation work. It is estimated that the construction cost would be very high.
Challenges and Uncertainties
As the PCR falls within a country park area, the suggestion to develop part of the PCR would also be subject to a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment.
The PCR is within the published water gathering ground under the Waterworks Ordinance (Cap. 102). If the suggestion is taken forward, the Water Authority would need to alter the limits or areas on the relevant maps of the gathering ground. For any major development proposals involving country parks and special area, the consent of the Country and Marine Parks Authority would be required prior to implementation, in consultation with the Country and Marine Parks Board and the Advisory Council on the Environment. In case of reducing the area of a country park, statutory procedures as stipulated in the Country Parks Ordinance (Cap. 208) would have to be invoked. Based on initial assessments, it would be a great challenge for such a suggestion not to have an overall adverse impact on the environment. Post-reclamation development would also be subject to the rezoning procedure according to the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131).
Reclaiming reservoir for development will reduce the strategic reserve and total water storage capacity of Hong Kong's reservoirs. Hong Kong will have to use other water sources, for example a desalinated plant or additional intake of the Dongjiang water supply to maintain the stability and reliability of its water supply.
- In exploring the use of desalinated water, due considerations have to be given to, amongst other things, the availability of a seafront site to build desalination plants, seawater quality at intake, ecological impacts at the outfall, and the associated water supply network and its operation mode.
- We also have to evaluate sustainability issues in terms of the high usage of electricity for the production of desalinated water and its associated environmental impact, as well as the security of the power supply.
- The feasibility and extra cost of the option of increasing the intake of Dongjiang water also have to be dealt with care, as Dongjiang water resources are almost fully utilised.
The suggestion to reclaim a part of the PCR for development whilst keeping the remaining part of the reservoir for water storage is against the Government's multi-barrier approach in protecting water resources. Developing a new town of such scale in close proximity to the reservoir zone will pose significant risks of pollution to the water resource.
Even if the proposal to reclaim a part of the PCR gains public support and is found to be feasible, it is anticipated that the entire development process would take more than 20 years to complete feasibility study, planning and engineering study, public engagement and other statutory procedures (including amending the boundaries of reservoirs/country parks and planning process). Therefore, such a suggestion can only be considered as a very long-term land supply option.
- As the PCR falls within a country park area, the considerations in connection with developing the periphery of country parks are also relevant to the suggestion of reclaiming a part of the PCR to build the PCNT.
- Reservoirs play an important strategic role in the water supply of Hong Kong. The proposal to reclaim the PCR would have a far-reaching impact on the stability of water supply and the optimisation of water resources in the long run. Before taking forward the option, operation of the whole raw water supply system and the corresponding mitigation measures should be assessed and considered in a prudent manner.
- Even if the option to develop PCNT gains support and is found to be feasible, it is anticipated that the entire development process would take more than two decades to complete. Such a suggestion can only be considered as a very long-term land supply option.