Shenzhen Land Reclamation

Today I was looking for my apartment on Google Maps (like you do) since hearing that they recently did a massive imagery update and noticed something curious about the images for Shenzhen at different magnifications:

12x Zoom:

13x Zoom:

You’ll notice that the images have some striking differences, especially in the highlighted areas which show massive land reclamation (the creation of new land where there was once water) and the addition of a bridge linking Shenzhen Bay to Hong Kong. Clearly, the higher magnification imagery is newer but what’s more interesting is the massive rate at which the landmass is being expanded.

This sort of environmental engineering has a huge impact on the social, economic, and physical environment with one of the most visible casualties being a  mangrove forest in Shenzhen Bay which is vanishing rapidly due to excessive land reclamation, pollution and property development since the 1980s. Over 147 hectares have already been lost, around 50% of the total thus drastically decreasing the biodiversity are the area (report). A state-funded project began last year to try and save the remaining forest.

Ironically China already has plenty of land but not in the right places and cities like Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macau are all building outwards while real estate remains hugely expensive (propped up by corruption). Even more ironically the sea level here is rising three to five centimetres annually meaning that much of the peninsula may be submerged in 60 to 100 years!

David avatar

6 responses

  1. yaoyao avatar

    Chinese do blindly seek economic profit in the past.
    And unfortunately now also.
    But we do realize our faults at present.
    Just like Rome was not built in a day.
    The changes normally take time.
    We all hope things will get better.
    And we are gald that more and more foreigners like china than before.
    Thanks a lot for coming to china and let us know about our faults clearly.
    Really like ur article,Thank you.

  2. Thanks Yaoyao, yes Rome wasn’t built in a day 🙂

    In some respects you could compare China to Europe during the industrial revolution when we also made sacrifices in the pursuit of development and money/power.

    Some parts of China’s environment are already damaged beyond repair but hopefully people will realise what they are loosing before its too late…

  3. Russell avatar

    Surely this land building can’t be very safe especially as the area is prone to being hit by typhoons, and buildings built on reclaimed land are often some of the worst to be affected by disasters like that, as the land is not as stable. Can the Chinese government really sanction such risky builidings?

  4. Marc avatar

    Do you know the big parking area close to Sea World? Back in 2003 it was water… I was quite amazed to see it again in 2008… 🙂

  5. Definitely a risky business, especially if sea levels continue to rise and with natural disasters / climate change even more so.

    Funnily the place I live is called “Coastal City” but there isn’t a coast any more since an extra 1.5km of land has been reclaimed (third red box from left) 😀

  6. […] Shenzhen is a region that has been extremely busy reclaiming land from the sea since 1990. Surrounded by islands, it has been quite easy to "fill in the gaps". Unfortunately, with tremendous negative impacts on the environment. […]


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *