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Speech by CS at HK Institution of Engineers Annual Dinner of Geotechnical Division (English only) (with photo)
     Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) 23rd Annual Dinner of Geotechnical Division today (March 10):

Joseph (The President of HKIE, Mr Joseph Choi), James (The Chairman of HKIE Geotechnical Division, Mr James Sze), Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     Good evening! I am most delighted to join you all at this annual gathering which also celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Geotechnical Division (GED) of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers this year.

     The past three decades have seen an incredible economic boom for Hong Kong, and the development of infrastructure is a crucial part of it. As a densely populated city with a mountainous landscape where about 60 per cent of the total land area consists of relatively steep terrain, Hong Kong has very limited natural, developable land for meeting our demand for urban infrastructure and facilities. Under these geographical constraints, however, we have made exponential progress in improving our economy and living quality. Our population has grown from 5.4 million to 7.3 millionover the past 30 years. Our per capita GDP at constant price level doubled from $140,000 in 1987 to $300,000 in 2015. And most remarkably, Hong Kong has been transformed from a small fishing village inconspicuous at the southern tip of China into an "Asia's World City" that is renowned, among other things, for our first-class infrastructure. We have topped global rankings in respect of infrastructure for seven consecutive years as assessed by the World Economic Forum in its annual Global Competitiveness Report.
Geotechnical Engineers’ Role in Reinforcing Hong Kong’s Foundation
     The Hong Kong SAR Government is committed to building a competitive, liveable and sustainable smart city. And for such a city, "safety" is the keystone. A safe living environment provides the sense of security that enables people to engage more freely in economic activities and other pursuits. The level of safety that Hong Kong enjoys, however, does not come from nowhere. It has been built up, bit by bit and little by little, with the concerted efforts of the community, underpinned by the technical expertise rendered by professionals like you, geotechnical engineers.
     Geotechnical engineering has always played a crucial role in building our city, where millions of people are living and working on the ubiquitous sloping terrains. We learnt a hard lesson from the series of tragic landslides in the 1970s, which took many lives and caused huge damage to properties. It was against this backdrop that the Geotechnical Engineering Office – or the Geotechnical Control Office as it was formerly called – was set up under the Civil Engineering and Development Department in 1977. Since then we have developed a comprehensive slope safety system known throughout the world for its thorough, rational and effective design. It involves many different aspects of work, such as setting world-class geotechnical standards, checking new engineering works, identifying and upgrading old substandard slopes, assessing the need for rehousing squatters on steep hillsides, ensuring that all slopes are regularly maintained, operating a Landslip Warning system in collaboration with the Hong Kong Observatory and, last but not least, educating the public on slope safety issues. Thirty years on, these efforts have yielded remarkable dividends. Our overall landslide risk arising from man-made slopes has decreased by a notable 75 per cent from that of 1977. And behind the meticulous planning, design, construction and maintenance of these slopes to ensure public safety are our geotechnical engineers. They are unsung heroes in every sense of the term.

    I thank you all for laying this safe and solid foundation for the development of Hong Kong. Looking ahead, we will continue to build on it to make this city an even better home for our people. Many major infrastructure and creative projects are in the pipeline. The Government’s annual expenditure on capital works projects will reach $86.8 billion in 2017-18 and will soon exceed $100 billion, which is significantly higher than the annual average of about $40 billion as recorded by the previous-term Government. This means that we will continue to see a wide range of geotechnical engineering activities to reinforce our existing foundation and enable us to scale new heights.
Foundation for Growth: Increasing Land Supply
     To support the ambitious blueprint that we have charted for the future, land resources are what we have to look for first. Increasing land supply has always been a priority on the Government’s policy agenda. We have recently promulgated a territorial development strategy known as "Hong Kong 2030+". From now until the 2040s, we will need another 4 800 hectares of land, which is about the size of 250 Victoria Parks, to house the growing population and sustain long-term economic growth. In pursuit of urban expansion, encroachment upon the steeper natural hillsides that fringe the urban and new development areas seems inevitable. The search for developable land in our mountainous topography is challenging indeed. But with the expertise of our geotechnical engineers, there is good hope that we can achieve continued success.

     As outlined in the Chief Executive's 2017 Policy Address, we will proactively explore the feasibilities of a range of long-term land supply measures, including reclamation outside Victoria Harbour. How to minimise the impact on the marine environment is among the unavoidable challenges faced by today's geotechnical engineers in reclamation designs. I understand that GED's Annual Seminar last year was based on this theme. It was a valuable platform for experts in this area to share their insights and experience. Many of you were at the seminar, so I believe that I am asking for the best advice from the right persons on our reclamation planning and engineering studies.

     Apart from reclamation, the Government is also considering rock caverns and urban underground space as another two sources of land supply. We have a long history of rock cavern development. There have been successful projects such as the Island West Transfer Station, Stanley Sewage Treatment Works and Western Salt Water Service Reservoirs. Relocating public facilities into rock caverns can release surface land for re-development. We will consult the public on the preliminary proposals on the relocation of service reservoirs at Diamond Hill, Sham Tseng and Sai Kung Sewage Treatment Works into caverns, with a view to freeing up more land for other community uses.
     We are also seeking public opinions on the development of underground spaces in Causeway Bay, Happy Valley, Admiralty/Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui. There is no lack of “wonder” projects in underground space utilisation around the world. One of the most impressive projects is the Montreal Underground City. Connecting 10 metro stations and more than 60 buildings, that mega underground city in Canada is an exemplar of subterranean solutions in improving congested urban environment and enhancing connectivity. Can Hong Kong be the next to create a wonder project of this kind?
     To answer this question, again we will need to look to our geotechnical engineers. GED will host the 2018 Associated research Centers for the Urban Underground Space (ACUUS) International Conference. Over a hundred overseas experts will attend the event. I welcome them to join the brainstorming in Hong Kong and look forward to the practical and meaningful insights about effective planning of underground space and enhancing liveability of urban areas from the Conference.
Foundation for Sustainability: Combating Climate Change

     Besides shortage of land, climate change is as much a challenge to our city’s liveability and sustainability. We must join forces with the community to tackle the problem. In our recently announced "Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2030+", we set a new target to reduce Hong Kong's carbon intensity by 65 per cent to 70 per cent by 2030 compared with the 2005 level. The Action Plan also highlights our efforts to step up local mitigation, adaptation and resilience actions.

     This is important. Climate change poses threats to people living in Hong Kong in many more ways than some have imagined. We have to face the likelihood of more frequent and intense extreme rainfall events brought by climate change, which may trigger serious landslides given our mountainous landscape. While the Landslip Prevention and Mitigation Programme launched by the Government in 2010 is running effectively, we are committed to further strengthening slope safety. I will also count on our geotechnical engineers to enhance the emergency preparedness and make our city more resilient to the impact of extreme weather.

     Recognising the need to further develop Hong Kong and move forward is the topmost cornerstone in our foundation. We are grateful to the construction and engineering industry, including the many trade unions and professional bodies under the umbrella of the Construction Industry Alliance, for their support to the blueprint that we have mapped out for Hong Kong and for consolidating the public consensus for us to take it forward.
Closing Remarks
     Ladies and gentlemen, we all wish to see this city that we call home to continue to grow and prosper. To reinforce the foundation for our various development initiatives, we are pulling together supporting slabs from all corners of the community. The engineering professionals are a group of contributors whom we cherish and appreciate. Engineers are to all intents and purposes the very engines propelling our infrastructure development and economic growth. Geotechnical engineers are instrumental in ensuring the stability of our architectures. They are crucial in assessing the quality of "rocks" and guaranteeing that they do not "roll". It is very much a "Rock but no Roll" profession. On that note, let me congratulate GED once again on its 30th anniversary. I look forward to your continued support in achieving our common vision of building Hong Kong into a liveable, competitive and sustainable Asia's World City.

     Thank you and have an enjoyable evening!
Ends/Friday, March 10, 2017
Issued at HKT 21:06
Today's Press Releases  


The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, speaks at the 2017 Annual Dinner of HK Institution of Engineers - Geotechnical Division today (March 10).