I had been wondering about the resiliency of Hong Kong. Especially in light of recent natural disasters, it is important to be aware of how resilient a city is to extreme change, natural or otherwise.
The thought of Hong Kong as a resilient (or not) city was first brought to my mind when I heard someone tell us that “everything” in Hong Kong is imported. This little fact might raise some eyebrows in sustainability circles, but it definitely seems to reflect on the city’s level of resiliency. Another way Hong Kong is not self-sufficient is in it’s water supply. There are two large pipes that import water from China into Hong Kong. Professor Peter Lee (Associate Dean of Engineering at the University of Hong Kong) informed our group on Saturday that Hong Kong formerly used huge rain reservoirs built in the 1960’s to collect fresh water. The city no longer relies on this rain catchment system as China has agreed to export their water, however the rain cisterns are still in place and available for use if needed- a point for city resiliency.
Hong Kong also used to address water needs with a desalinization plant. The plants have been demolished, as they were not very effective at providing clean water to residents. However, the government is looking into building a new plant as desalinization technology has improved, which will also help make Hong Kong more resilient.
Thirdly, as many posts have mentioned, much of Hong Kong is built on reclaimed land. With climate change and sea level rises, I wondered how resilient was a city built mostly on land that is naturally covered by water. Professor Lee, however, informed us that Hong Kong is built 5 meters above sea level, to be more resilient to changes in sea levels due to climate change, phew!
Ultimately, my concerns on the lack of infrastructure resiliency in Hong Kong was (mostly) allayed by our charming meeting with Professor Lee. I still wonder about the lack of food production in Hong Kong . . . although I did spot some clam diggers today on the shores of Lantau Island!