Land reclamation

Land reclamation, usually known as reclamation, is the process to create new land from sea or riverbeds. The land reclaimed is known as reclamation ground or landfill.



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.[1] Some 20% of land in the Tokyo Bay area has been reclaimed.[2] 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 restoration

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.[3]

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.[4]

Environmental impact

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.

Environmental legislation

Hong Kong legislators passed the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance in 1996 in an effort to safeguard the increasingly threatened Victoria Harbour against encroaching land development.[5]

Land amounts added

  • Netherlands - about 1/5 land from land reclamation or about 7,000 km2.
  • South Korea - As of 2006, 38 percent or 1,550 km2 of coastal wetlands reclaimed, including 400  km2 at Saemangeum.
  • Singapore - 20% of the original size or 135 km2. As of 2003, plans for 99 km 2 more are to go ahead[6], despite the fact that disputes persist with Malaysia over Singapore's extensive land reclamation works[7].
  • Hong Kong - (Main article: Land reclamation in Hong Kong)
Praya Reclamation Scheme began in the late 1860s and consisted of two stages totaling 50 to 60+ acres.[1] Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong International Airport, and its predecessor, Kai Tak Airport, were all built on reclaimed land. In addition, much reclamation has taken place in prime locations on the waterfront on both sides of Victoria Harbour. This has raised environmental issues of the protection of the harbour which was once the source of prosperity of Hong Kong, traffic congestion in the Central district,[8] as well as the collusion of the Hong Kong Government with the real estate developers in the territory.[9][10]
In addition, as the city expands, new towns in different decades were mostly built on reclaimed land, such as Tuen Mun, Tai Po, Shatin-Ma On Shan, West Kowloon, Kwun Tong and Tseung Kwan O.
  • Macau - 170% of the original size or 17 km2[11]
  • Mumbai
  • Tokyo Bay, Japan - 249 km2.[12]
  • Kobe, Japan - 23 km2 (1995).
  • Bahrain - 76.3% of original size of 410 km2(1931–2007).
  • New Zealand - significant areas of land totalling several hundred hectares have been reclaimed along the harbourfront of Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. In Dunedin - which in its early days was nicknamed "Mudedin" - around 2.5 km2, including much of the inner city and suburbs of Dunedin North, South Dunedin and Andersons Bay is reclaimed from the Otago Harbour, and a similar area in the suburbs of St Clair and St Kilda is reclaimed swampland.


  1. a b Bard, Solomon. [2002] (2002). Voices from the Past: Hong Kong 1842-1918. HK University press. ISBN 9622095747
  2. Petry, Anne K. (July 2003). . Japan Digest, Indiana University. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  3. Paul B. Awosika and Marc Papineau, Phase One Environmental Site Assessment, 7000 Marina Boulevard, Brisbane, California, prepared for Argentum International by Certified.Engineering & Testing Company, Boston, Massachusetts, July 15, 1993
  4. . USA Today. 2006-09-09. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  5. Wallis, Keith (February 12, 1996). . Hong Kong Standard. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  6. . Planet Ark. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  7. . . CIA. 1 September 2010. section Transnational issues. Retrieved 1 October 2010. "disputes persist with Malaysia over […] extensive land reclamation works" 
  8. . Hong Kong Standard. August 14, 2006. 
  9. DeGolyer, Michael (March 15, 2007). . Hong Kong Standard. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  10. Ng, Michael (October 5, 2006). . Hong Kong Standard. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  12. . Japan Reference. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 

See also