The creation of new land was for the need of human activities. Notable examples in the West include large parts of the Netherlands, parts of New Orleans (which is partially built on land that was once swamp); much of San Francisco's waterfront has been reclaimed from the San Francisco Bay; Mexico City (which is situated at the former site of Lake Texcoco); Helsinki (of which the major part of the city center is built on reclaimed land); the Cape Town foreshore; the Chicago shoreline; the Manila Bay shoreline; Back Bay, Boston, Massachusetts; Battery Park City, Manhattan; Liberty State Park, Jersey City; the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium; the southwestern residential area in Brest, Belarus, the polders of the Netherlands; and the Toronto Islands, Leslie Street Spit, and the waterfront in Toronto. In the Far East, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, the southern Chinese cities of Shenzhen, the Philippine capital Manila, and the city-state of Singapore, where land is in short supply, are also famous for their efforts on land reclamation. One of the earliest and famous project was the Praya Reclamation Scheme, which added 50 to of land in 1890 during the second phase of construction. It was one of the most ambitious projects ever taken during the Colonial Hong Kong era. Some 20% of land in the Tokyo Bay area has been reclaimed. Monaco and the British territory of Gibraltar are also expanding due to land reclamation. The city of Rio de Janeiro was largely built on reclaimed land, as was Wellington, New Zealand.
Artificial islands are an example of land reclamation. Creating an artificial island is an expensive and risky undertaking. It is often considered in places that are densely populated and flat land is scarce. Kansai International Airport (in Osaka) and Hong Kong International Airport are examples where this process was deemed necessary. The Palm Islands, The World and hotel Burj al-Arab off Dubai in the United Arab Emirates are other examples of artificial islands.
Agriculture was a drive for land reclamation before industrialisation. In South China, farmers reclaimed paddy fields by enclosing an area with a stone wall on the sea shore near river mouth or river delta. The species of rice that grow on these grounds are more salt tolerant. Another use of such enclosed land is creation of fish ponds. It is commonly seen on the Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong. These reclamation also attracts species of migrating birds.
A related practice is the draining of swampy or seasonally submerged wetlands to convert them to farmland. While this does not create new land exactly, it allows commercially productive use of land that would otherwise be restricted to wildlife habitat. It is also an important method of mosquito control.
Beach rebuilding is the process of repairing beaches using materials such as sand or mud from inland. This can be used to build up beaches suffering from beach starvation or erosion from longshore drift. It stops the movement of the original beach material through longshore drift and retains a natural look to the beach. Although it is not a long-lasting solution, it is cheap compared to other types of coastal defences.
As human overcrowding of developed areas intensified during the 20th century, it has become important to develop land re-use strategies for completed landfills. Some of the most common usages are for parks, golf courses and other sports fields. Increasingly, however, office buildings and industrial uses are made on a completed landfill. In these latter uses, methane capture is customarily carried out to minimize explosive hazard within the building.
An example of a Class A office building constructed over a landfill is the Dakin Building at Sierra Point, Brisbane, California. The underlying fill was deposited from 1965 to 1985, mostly consisting of construction debris from San Francisco and some municipal wastes. Aerial photographs prior to 1965 show this area to be tidelands of the San Francisco Bay. A clay cap was constructed over the debris prior to building approval.
A notable example is Sydney Olympic Park, the primary venue for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, which was built atop an industrial wasteland that included landfills.
Another strategy for landfill is the incineration of landfill trash at high temperature via the plasma-arc gasification process, which is currently used at two facilities in Japan, and will be used at a planned facility in St. Lucie County, Florida.
Draining wetlands for ploughing, for example, is a form of habitat destruction. In some parts of the world, new reclamation projects are restricted or no longer allowed, due to environmental protection laws.