Study expected to take 2 years and yield 10 sites
The government is pushing ahead with proposals for greater adoption of underground cavern development by inviting consultants to undertake a study of underground space development.
The period for submission of expressions of interest to the Civil Engineering and Development Department closes for the Territory-wide Study on Underground Space Development in the Urban Areas of Hong Kong – Feasibility Study closes today.
Chinese newspaper Apple Daily reported Monday that the study would take two years to complete and the consultants were required to recommend 10 technically feasible sites out of an initial list of 40 sites for underground development.
Consultants would look at sites in Hong Kong, Kowloon and the various new towns in the New Territories and would study the feasibility of putting public facilities ranging from as small as refuse collection points and toilets up to public roads underground to release more land at surface level.
The possibility of putting commercial use underground would also be looked at.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who took up his post in July last year, has made the provision of more affordable housing a government priority.
However finding more land has proven to be a hot political potato with almost every proposal being subject to fierce criticism especially from environmental activists.
The government is currently sifting through comments from the public collected during stage 2 of public consultation for enhancing land supply by reclamation and underground caverns that ended earlier in June.
In the government budget last February, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said the government would spend HK$4.5 billion over five years on studies for reclamation outside Victoria Harbour, opening up new development areas and underground cavern use.
Underground development has been used in Hong Kong before such as the Stanley Sewage Treatment Works completed in 1995 and the Island West Refuse Transfer Station and Kau Shat Wan Explosives Depot on Lantau island, both of which were completed in 1997.
In 2009, the University of Hong Kong moved the Western Saltwater Service Reservoir into a cavern to release land for campus expansion.
According to the briefing document for stage 2 of the public consultation, Diamond Hill Fresh Water and Salt Water Reservoirs, the Sai Kung Sewage Treatment Works and the Sham Tseng Sewage Treatment Works are proposed to be reprovisioned in caverns.
The private sector also has examples of going underground such as the underground spaces at Tsim Sha Tsui East MTR station.
“You don’t notice it, in fact Tai Koo is an underground development, basically like an air-raid shelter,” Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design president Bernard Lim Wan-fung was quoted as saying in the Apple story.
A proposal by Planning Department in 2004 for an underground shopping area in Causeway Bay near the Sogo department store fell through due to site constraints and underground obstructions.