Land reclamation

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Reclaiming in Mounts Bay, Perth, Australia 1964 Perth1964.jpg
Reclaiming in Mounts Bay, Perth, Australia 1964
The former airport of Hong Kong (pictured) and the current airport of Hong Kong were built on reclaimed land. Boeing 747-467, Cathay Pacific Airways JP10362.jpg
The former airport of Hong Kong (pictured) and the current airport of Hong Kong were built on reclaimed land.
The largest city square in the world, the Xinghai Square of Dalian, China, was created entirely through land reclamation. Xinghai Square .jpg
The largest city square in the world, the Xinghai Square of Dalian, China, was created entirely through land reclamation.

Land reclamation, usually known as reclamation, and also known as land fill (not to be confused with a waste landfill), is the process of creating new land from oceans, seas, riverbeds or lake beds. The land reclaimed is known as reclamation ground, reclaimed land, or land fill.


In some jurisdictions, including parts of the United States, [1] the term "reclamation" can refer to returning disturbed lands to an improved state. In Alberta, Canada, for example, reclamation is defined by the provincial government as "The process of reconverting disturbed land to its former or other productive uses." [2] In Oceania, it is frequently referred to as land rehabilitation.


One of the earliest large-scale projects was the Beemster Polder in the Netherlands, realized in 1612 adding 70 square kilometres (27 sq mi) of land. In Hong Kong the Praya Reclamation Scheme added 20 to 24 hectares (50 to 60 acres) 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. [3] Some 20% of land in the Tokyo Bay area has been reclaimed, [4] most notably Odaiba artificial island. Le Portier, Monaco and 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..


Land reclamation can be achieved by a number of different methods. The simplest method involves filling the area with large amounts of heavy rock and/or cement, then filling with clay and dirt until the desired height is reached. The process is called "infilling" [5] and the material used to fill the space is generally called "infill". [6] [7] Draining of submerged wetlands is often used to reclaim land for agricultural use. Deep cement mixing is used typically in situations in which the material displaced by either dredging or draining may be contaminated and hence needs to be contained. Land dredging is also another method of land reclamation. It is the removal of sediments and debris from the bottom of a body of water. It is commonly used for maintaining reclaimed land masses as sedimentation, a natural process, fills channels and harbors. [8]

Notable instances

East Coast Park in Singapore was built on reclaimed land with a human-made beach. East Coast Park Panorama, Mar 06.jpg
East Coast Park in Singapore was built on reclaimed land with a human-made beach.
The Flevopolder in the Netherlands, reclaimed from the IJsselmeer, is the largest reclaimed artificial island in the world. Satellite image of Flevopolder, Netherlands (5.48E 52.43N).png
The Flevopolder in the Netherlands, reclaimed from the IJsselmeer, is the largest reclaimed artificial island in the world.
Land Reclamation in the Beirut Central District View from Nokia Beirut.jpg
Land Reclamation in the Beirut Central District
The whole district of Fontvieille, Monaco was reclaimed from the sea Fontvieille harbour.JPG
The whole district of Fontvieille, Monaco was reclaimed from the sea


Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco

Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria

Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa

Flag of Tanzania.svg  Tanzania


Flag of Bahrain.svg  Bahrain

Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China

Flag of India.svg  India

Flag of Indonesia.svg  Indonesia

Flag of Japan.svg  Japan

Flag of Lebanon.svg  Lebanon

Flag of Maldives.svg  Maldives

Flag of Malaysia 23px.svg  Malaysia

Flag of Pakistan.svg  Pakistan

Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines

Flag of Qatar.svg  Qatar

Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore

Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea

Flag of Sri Lanka.svg  Sri Lanka

Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates


Flag of Belarus.svg  Belarus

Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium

Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark

Flag of Finland.svg  Finland

Flag of France.svg  France

Flag of Greece.svg  Greece

Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland

Flag of Italy.svg  Italy

Flag of Monaco.svg  Monaco

Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands

Flag of Norway.svg  Norway

Flag of Russia.svg  Russia

Flag of Spain.svg  Spain

Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom

Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine

North America

Flag of the Bahamas.svg  Bahamas

Flag of Bermuda.svg  Bermuda

Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada

Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico

Flag of the United States (23px).png  United States


Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia

Flag of Fiji.svg  Fiji

Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand

South America

Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina

Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil

Flag of Chile.svg  Chile

Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia

Flag of Panama.svg  Panama

Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay

Flag of Venezuela.svg  Venezuela


Land reclamation in progress in Bingzhou (Bing Zhou ) Peninsula (formerly, island) of the Dongzui Bay (Dong Ju Gang ). Tong'an District, Xiamen, China Bingzhou Peninsula area - land reclamation - DSCF9204.JPG
Land reclamation in progress in Bingzhou (丙州) Peninsula (formerly, island) of the Dongzui Bay (东咀港). Tong'an District, Xiamen, China

Agriculture was a driver of land reclamation before industrialisation. [27] In South China, farmers reclaimed paddy fields by enclosing an area with a stone wall on the sea shore near a river mouth or river delta. The species of rice that are grown on these grounds are more salt tolerant. Another use of such enclosed land is the creation of fish ponds. It is commonly seen on the Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong. These reclaimed areas also attract 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.

Even in the post-industrial age, there have been land reclamation projects intended for increasing available agricultural land. For example, the village of Ogata in Akita, Japan, was established on land reclaimed from Lake Hachirōgata (Japan's second largest lake at the time) starting in 1957. By 1977, the amount of land reclaimed totalled 172.03 square kilometres (66.42 sq mi). [28]

Artificial islands

Artificial islands are an example of land reclamation. Creating an artificial island is an expensive and risky undertaking. It is often considered in places with high population density and a scarcity of flat land. 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 (although there is yet no real "scarcity of land" in Dubai), as well as the Flevopolder in the Netherlands which is the largest artificial island in the world.

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. An example of this is the city of Mumbai. [11]


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. [29]

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 was proposed to be used at a facility in St. Lucie County, Florida. [30] The planned facility in Florida was later canceled. [31]

Environmental impact

Parts (highlighted in brown) of the San Francisco Bay were reclaimed from wetlands for urban use. Bay area fill.jpg
Parts (highlighted in brown) of the San Francisco Bay were reclaimed from wetlands for urban use.

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. Reclamation projects have strong negative impacts on coastal populations, although some species can take advantage of the newly created area. [32] A 2022 global analysis estimated that 39% of losses (approximately 5,300 km2 or 2,000 sq mi) and 14% of gains (approximately 1,300 km2 or 500 sq mi) of tidal wetlands (mangroves, tidal flats, and tidal marshes) between 1999-2019 were due to direct human activities, including conversion to aquaculture, agriculture, plantations, coastal developments and other physical structures. [33]

Environmental legislation

A map of reclaimed land (grey area) in Hong Kong. Many of the urban areas of Hong Kong are on reclaimed land. Hong Kong Reclamation Map.png
A map of reclaimed land (grey area) in Hong Kong. Many of the urban areas of Hong Kong are on reclaimed land.

The State of California created a state commission, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, in 1965 to protect San Francisco Bay and regulate development near its shores. The commission was created in response to growing concern over the shrinking size of the bay.

Hong Kong legislators passed the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance, proposed by the Society for Protection of the Harbour, in 1997 in an effort to safeguard the increasingly threatened Victoria Harbour against encroaching land development. [34] Several large reclamation schemes at Green Island, West Kowloon, and Kowloon Bay were subsequently shelved, and others reduced in size.


Reclaimed land is highly susceptible to soil liquefaction during earthquakes, [35] which can amplify the amount of damage that occurs to buildings and infrastructure. Subsidence is another issue, both from soil compaction on filled land, and also when wetlands are enclosed by levees and drained to create Polders. Drained marshes will eventually sink below the surrounding water level, increasing the danger from flooding.

Land amounts added


Country or territoryNotes
Flag of Bahrain.svg  Bahrain 76.3% of original size of 410 km2 (160 sq mi) (1931–2007). [ citation needed ] [36]
Flag of Bangladesh.svg  Bangladesh About 110 km2 (42 sq mi) in total and has 12,000 square kilometres (4,600 sq mi) potential (8% of total area) up to 12 metres (39 ft) depth in the territorial sea area. [37]
Flag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong

67 km2 (26 sq mi) of land was reclaimed up to 2013. Praya Reclamation Scheme began in the late 1860s and consisted of two stages totaling 20 to 24 hectares (50 to 60 acres). [3] 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, [38] as well as the collusion of the Hong Kong Government with the real estate developers in the territory. [39] [40]

In addition, as the city expanded, new towns in different decades were mostly built on reclaimed land, such as Kwun Tong, Sha Tin-Ma On Shan, Tai Po, Tseung Kwan O, Tuen Mun, and West Kowloon.

Flag of India.svg  India Mumbai – An archipelago of originally seven separate islands were joined by land reclamation over a span of five centuries. This was done to develop Mumbai as a harbour city.
Flag of Indonesia.svg  Indonesia JakartaGiant Sea Wall Jakarta is part of a massive coastal development project at Jakarta Bay.
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan
  • Tokyo Bay249 km2 (96 sq mi) [41] including the entirety of Odaiba artificial island.
  • Kobe23 km2 (8.9 sq mi) (1995).
Flag of Macau.svg  Macao 170% of the original size or 17 km2 (6.6 sq mi) [42]
Flag of North Korea.svg  North Korea In the 1980s, North Korea commenced a "find new land" program to reclaim 300,000 hectares of land (3,000 km2 or 1,160 mi2) in order to expand the country's supply of arable land. The project was unsuccessful and only reclaimed 20,000 hectares (200 km2 or 70 mi2) by the time it was cancelled after the death of Kim Il-sung in 1994. It also contributed to the collapse of the North Korean economy and the subsequent famine in the 1990s. Land reclamation efforts resumed in the 2010s under Kim Jong-un with more success. North Korea constructed artificial islands in the Yellow Sea containing Korean People's Army bases, possibly inspired by Chinese artificial islands in the South China Sea and possibly as bases for long-range ballistic missiles. [43] [44] [45]
Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines
Additional 626 hectares along the eastern coast of Manila Bay created in the 1990s [46] to the 88-hectare Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex. The shore road of Manila (Roxas Boulevard) is actually reclaimed land, as well as its extension road to Cavite (Manila-Cavite Expressway / Aguinaldo Boulevard).
Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore

20 percent of the original size or 135 km2 (52 sq mi). As of 2003, plans for 99 km2 (38 sq mi) more are to go ahead, [47] even though disputes persist with Malaysia over Singapore's extensive land reclamation works. [48] Parts of Changi Airport are also on reclaimed land.

Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea As of 2006, 38 percent or 1,550 km2 (600 sq mi) of coastal wetlands reclaimed, including 400 km2 (150 sq mi) at Saemangeum. Songdo International Business district, the largest private development in history, is a large-scale reclamation project built entirely on tidal mudflats.
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates

Dubai has a total of four reclaimed islands (the Palm Jumeirah, Jebal Ali, The Burj al Arab Island, and The World Islands), with a fifth under construction (the Palm Deira). There are several human-made islands in Abu Dhabi, such as Yas Island and Al Lulu Island.


Flag of Monaco.svg  Monaco

0.41 km2 (0.16 sq mi) out of 2.05 km2 (0.79 sq mi), or one fifth of Monaco comes from land taken from the sea, mainly in the neighborhoods of Fontvieille, La Condamine, and Larvotto/Bas Moulins.

Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands

About 1/6 (almost 17%) of the entire country, or about 7,000 km2 (2,700 sq mi) in total, has been reclaimed from the sea, lakes, marshes and swamps. The province of Flevoland has almost completely been reclaimed from the Zuiderzee.

Other countries

Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand Significant areas of land totalling several hundred hectares have been reclaimed along the harbourfronts of Auckland, Dunedin, and Wellington. In Dunedin – which in its early days was nicknamed "Mudedin" – around 2.5 km2 (0.97 sq mi), 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. The international airports serving Auckland and Wellington have had significant reclamation for runway use. [49] [50]
Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria Eko Atlantic, [51] Lagos – 25 square kilometers

List of reclaimed land by country and territory

Country or territoryReclaimed land (km2)Notes
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 13,500+ km2 Land reclamation in China
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 7,000 km2 Flevoland, de Beemster, Afsluitdijk
Land reclamation in the Netherlands
Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea 1,550 km2
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 1,000+ km2 Artificial islands of the United States
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan 500+ km2
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates 470 km2 Land reclamation in the United Arab Emirates
Flag of Bahrain.svg  Bahrain 410 km2
Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore 135 km2 Land reclamation in Singapore
Flag of Bangladesh.svg  Bangladesh 110 km2
Flag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong 67 km2 Land reclamation in Hong Kong
Flag of Qatar.svg  Qatar 35 km2
Flag of Macau.svg  Macao 17 km2
Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines 9.26 km2 Cebu South Road Properties Central Business District and
Land reclamation in Metro Manila
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 3.3 km2 Reclamation of Wellington Harbour [52]
Flag of Sri Lanka.svg  Sri Lanka 2.33 km2 Colombo International Financial City [53] [ circular reference ]
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 1.94 km2 Cape Town Foreshore [54]
Flag of Maldives.svg  Maldives 0.62 km2 Velana International Airport [55]
Flag of Monaco.svg  Monaco 0.41 km2 Land reclamation in Monaco

See also


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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kowloon Bay</span> Neighbourhood in Kowloon, Hong Kong

Kowloon Bay is a bay within Victoria Harbour and an neighbourhood within Kowloon, Hong Kong.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dredging</span> Excavation of sediment, usually under water

Dredging is the excavation of material from a water environment. Possible reasons for dredging include improving existing water features; reshaping land and water features to alter drainage, navigability, and commercial use; constructing dams, dikes, and other controls for streams and shorelines; and recovering valuable mineral deposits or marine life having commercial value. In all but a few situations the excavation is undertaken by a specialist floating plant, known as a dredger.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kau Yi Chau</span> Uninhabited island in Hong Kong

Kau Yi Chau, also known as Tai Kau Yi Chau, is an uninhabited island located west of Victoria Harbour, between Peng Chau and Green Island in Hong Kong. It is located on the crossroad of sea routes, east to west and north to south. The ferry between Central and Mui Wo sails close to the south of the island. Administratively it is part of Islands District.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Serangoon Harbour</span>

Serangoon Harbour is a harbour in Singapore located between the mainland island of Singapore and Pulau Ubin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Central and Wan Chai Reclamation</span>

Central and Wan Chai Reclamation is a project launched by the government of Hong Kong since the 1990s to reclaim land for different purposes. This includes transportation improvements such as the Hong Kong MTR station, Airport Express Railway & Central-Wan Chai Bypass, as well as public recreation space such as the Central Harbourfront Event Space, Tamar Park and the Hong Kong Observation Wheel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Penta-Ocean</span> Japanese construction firm

Goyo Corporation is a major Japanese construction firm. It specializes in marine works and land reclamation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Land reclamation in China</span>

Since 1949, China has carried out extensive land reclamation projects. It is among the countries which have built the most artificial land; from 1949 to 1990s, the total area of land reclaimed from the sea of China was about 13,000 km2.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Land reclamation in Hong Kong</span> Reclamation of land

The reclamation of land from the ocean has long been used in mountainous Hong Kong to expand the limited supply of usable land with a total of around 60 square kilometres of land created by 1996. The first reclamations can be traced back to the early Western Han dynasty, when beaches were turned into fields for salt production. Major land reclamation projects have been conducted since the mid-19th century.

Dredging, Environmental and Marine Engineering NV (DEME) is an international group of specialised companies in the field of capital and maintenance dredging, land reclamation, port infrastructure development, offshore related services for the oil & gas industry, offshore windfarm installation, environmental remediation a.o. The group is based in Zwijndrecht, Belgium, and has current operations on the five continents.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Land reclamation in the United Arab Emirates</span>

Major land reclamation in the United Arab Emirates, though a relatively recent phenomenon, has significantly changed the geography of some parts of the country. Multiple land reclamation projects, both completed, under construction, and planned, have changed the appearance of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and other emirates.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Las Piñas–Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area</span> Protected coastal area in Metro Manila, Philippines

The Las Piñas–Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), also known as the Las Piñas–Parañaque Wetland Park, is a protected area at the coasts of the cities of Las Piñas and Parañaque in Metro Manila, Philippines. The entire wetland is a declared Ramsar site under the Ramsar Convention of UNESCO.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gurney Bay</span> Urban park in George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Gurney Bay, formerly known as Gurney Wharf, is a seafront park within George Town in the Malaysian state of Penang. Intended as a "new iconic waterfront destination for Penang", the first phase of this public space off Gurney Drive was opened to public in 2024.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Land reclamation in Singapore</span>

The reclamation of land from surrounding waters is used in Singapore to expand the city-state's limited area of usable, natural land. Land reclamation is most simply done by adding material such as rocks, soil and cement to an area of water; alternatively submerged wetlands or similar biomes can be drained.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lantau Tomorrow Vision</span>

Lantau Tomorrow Vision, also known as the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands, is a postponed development project in Hong Kong proposed by the previous two Chief Executives of Hong Kong. The previous Chief Executive Carrie Lam proposed in her 2018 policy address which includes the creation of a third core business district by constructing artificial islands with a total area of about 1,700 hectares through massive land reclamation near Kau Yi Chau and Hei Ling Chau of the eastern waters of Lantau Island. The project has met with controversy and opposition for its high cost of estimated HK$580 billion – amounting to half of the city's fiscal reserves, as well as environmental concerns. In February 2024 the financial secretary said the project would be postponed after looking at its finances, but insisted it would not be cancelled.