Land reclamation

Reclaiming in Perth, Australia 1964
Hong Kong's old airport (pictured) and new airport were built on reclaimed land.

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 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.


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"[3] and the material used to fill the space is generally called "infill".[4][5] 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.[6]

Some notable instances where new land was created to be used for human activities

East Coast Park in Singapore was built on reclaimed land with a man-made beach.
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
The whole district of Fontvieille, Monaco was reclaimed from the sea


  • The whole 3 km2 business district of Cebu South Road Properties in Cebu City, Philippines
  • Some of the coastline of Saadiyat Island, in the UAE. Used for commercial purposes.[7]
  • Much of the coastline of Mumbai, India. It took over 150 years to join the original Seven Islands of Bombay. These seven islands were lush, green, thickly wooded, and dotted with 22 hills, with the Arabian Sea washing through them at high tide. The original Isle of Bombay was only 24 km long and 4 km wide from Dongri to Malabar Hill (at its broadest point) and the other six were Colaba, Old Woman's Island, Mahim, Parel, Worli and Mazgaon. (See also Hornby Vellard).[8]
  • Much of the coastlines of Mainland China, Hong Kong, North Korea and South Korea. It is estimated that nearly 65% of tidal flats around the Yellow Sea have been reclaimed.[9]
  • Inland lowlands in the Yangtze valley, China, including the areas of important cities like Shanghai and Wuhan.[10]
  • Much of the coastline of Karachi, Pakistan.
  • The shore of Jakarta Bay. Land is usually reclaimed to create new housing areas and real estate properties, for the rapidly expanding city of Jakarta. So far, the largest reclamation project in the city is the creation of "Golf Island", which is still ongoing.[11]
  • A part of the Hamad International Airport in Qatar, around 36 square kilometres (14 sq mi).
  • The entire island of The Pearl-Qatar situated in West Bay (Doha), Qatar.
  • Haikou Bay, Hainan Province, China, where the west side of Haidian Island is being extended, and off the coast of Haikou City, where new land for a marina is being created.
  • The Cotai area of Macau, where many casinos are located
  • Nagoya Centrair Airport, Japan
  • Incheon International Airport, South Korea
  • Beirut Central District, Lebanon
  • The southern Chinese city of Shenzhen
  • The shore of Manila Bay in the Philippines, especially along Metro Manila, has attracted major developments such as the Mall of Asia Complex, Entertainment City and the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex.
  • The city-state of Singapore, where land is in short supply, is also famous for its efforts on land reclamation.[12]
  • The Palm Islands, The World and hotel Burj al-Arab off Dubai in the United Arab Emirates
  • The Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
  • Hulhumalé Island, Maldives. It is one of the six divisions of Malé City.
  • Giant Sea Wall Jakarta
  • Colombo International Financial City, Sri Lanka
  • Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Japan
  • Forest City, an integrated residential and tourism district in Johor, Malaysia
  • My Suva park (Fiji), a recreation park for the Greater Suva area




North America

  • The Potter's Cay in Nassau, The Bahamas was connected to the island of New Providence
  • The shore of Nassau, The Bahamas especially along East Bay street.
  • Parts of New Orleans (which is partially built on land that was once swamp)
  • Much of the urbanized area adjacent to San Francisco Bay, including most of San Francisco's waterfront and Financial District, San Francisco International Airport, the Port of Oakland, and large portions of the city of Alameda has been reclaimed from the bay.
  • Large hills in Seattle were removed and used to create Harbor Island and reclaim land along Elliott Bay. In particular, the neighborhoods of SoDo, Seattle and Interbay are largely built on filled wetlands.
  • Mexico City (which is situated at the former site of Lake Texcoco); the chinampas are a famous example.

South America

  • Parts of Panama City urban and street development are based on reclaimed land, using material extracted from Panama Canal excavations.
  • The entire riverfront of Buenos Aires, Argentina including the port and the airport
  • Large parts of Rio de Janeiro, most notably several blocks in the new docks area, the entire Flamengo Park and the neighborhood of Urca
  • Parts of Florianópolis.[15]
  • Parts of the Historic District of Porto Alegre, including the docks of Port of Porto Alegre and the Beira-Rio Stadium, were built on reclaimed lands of Lake Guaíba between the end of the 19th century and the 1970s.[16]
  • Santa Cruz del Islote,[17] in the Caribbean Sea of Colombia, is one of the most densely populated islands in the world,[17] was built in an artificial way gaining land from the sea.
  • Parts of the Vargas State[18] in the north of Venezuela, parts of Los Monjes Archipelago, the Isla Paraíso[19] (paradise island) in the Anzoátegui State and the La Salina island in the Zulia State, were built with land reclaimed from the sea.
  • Parts of Montevideo, Uruguay, Rambla Sur and several projects still going on in Montevideo's Bay.
  • Parts of Valparaíso, Chile.


  • Most of Barangaroo, a current commercial and residential suburb in the central business district of Sydney, Australia.
  • Parts of Darling Harbour, a locality west of the Sydney central business district.
  • A large portion of the southern suburb of Sylvania Waters in Sydney, Australia.
  • The southernmost portions of runways at Sydney Airport.
  • Large portions of Port Botany in metropolitan Sydney.
  • Large amounts of the Melbourne Docklands.
  • Portions of the foreshore adjoining the Perth central business district in Australia.

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.[20] Some 20% of land in the Tokyo Bay area has been reclaimed,[21] 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.

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.


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.[22] 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 grow 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).[23]

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.[8]


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.[24]

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.[25]

Environmental impact

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.[26]

Environmental legislation

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.[27] 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,[28] 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


Bahrain76.3% of original size of 410 km2 (160 sq mi) (1931–2007).[29]
BangladeshAbout 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.[30]
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).[20] 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,[31] as well as the collusion of the Hong Kong Government with the real estate developers in the territory.[32][33]

In addition, as the city expands, new towns in different decades were mostly built on reclaimed land, such as Tuen Mun, Tai Po, Sha Tin-Ma On Shan, West Kowloon, Kwun Tong and Tseung Kwan O.
Macau170% of the original size or 17 km2 (6.6 sq mi)[34]
IndiaMumbai – An archipelago of originally seven separate islands were joined together by land reclamation over a span of five centuries. This was done to develop Mumbai as a harbour city.
IndonesiaJakartaGiant Sea Wall Jakarta is part of a massive coastal development project at Jakarta Bay.
  • Tokyo Bay – 249 km2 (96 sq mi)[35] including the entirety of Odaiba artificial island.
  • Kobe – 23 km2 (8.9 sq mi) (1995).
  • Manila Bay:additional 626 hectares along the eastern coast of Manila Bay created in the 1990s[36] 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).
  • Cebu South Road Properties, Cebu City, Philippines - Artificial island which is 300 hectares was built along the sea between Mainland Cebu and Kawit Island. This was done to address the increasing need of urban and residential development in Cebu City due to its very progressive economy.

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,[37] even though disputes persist with Malaysia over Singapore's extensive land reclamation works.[38] Parts of Singapore Airport are also on reclaimed land.

South KoreaAs 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.
United Arab EmiratesDubai 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 man-made islands in Abu Dhabi, such as Yas Island and Al Lulu Island.


  • 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.
  • 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.


  • Eko Atlantic,[39] Lagos, Nigeria—25 square kilometers
  • New Zealand – significant areas of land totalling several hundred hectares have been reclaimed along the harbourfronts of Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. 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.[40][41]
CountryReclaimed land (km2)Note
 China13,500+ km2Land reclamation in China
 Netherlands7,000 km2Flevoland, de Beemster, Afsluitdijk
Land reclamation in the Netherlands
 South Korea1,550 km2
 United States1,000+ km2Artificial islands of the United States
 Japan500+ km2
 UAE470 km2Land reclamation in the UAE
 Bahrain410 km2
 Singapore135 km2Land reclamation in Singapore
 Bangladesh110 km2
 Hong Kong67 km2Land reclamation in Hong Kong
 Qatar35 km2
 Macau17 km2
 Philippines9.26 km2Cebu South Road Properties Central Business District and
Land reclamation in Metro Manila
 New Zealand3.3 km2Reclamation of Wellington Harbour[42]
 Sri Lanka2.33 km2Colombo International Financial City[43]
South Africa South Africa1.94 km2Cape Town Foreshore[44]
 Maldives0.62 km2[45]
 Monaco0.41 km2Land reclamation in Monaco

See also

  • Great wall of sand
  • Marine regression – the formation of new land by reductions in sea level
  • Drainage system (agriculture)drainage for land reclamation
  • Land improvement
  • Land recycling
    • Hong Kong Society for Protection of the Harbour
  • Mine reclamation
  • Polder – low-lying land reclaimed from a lake or sea
  • Reclamation of Wellington Harbour, New Zealand
  • River reclamation
  • Water reclamation


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External links

Media files used on this page

Flag of the United States.svg
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Flag of Japan.svg
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Flag of New Zealand.svg
Flag of New Zealand. Specification: , quoting New Zealand Gazette, 27 June 1902.
Flag of Maldives.svg
Flag of Maldives. The colours used are Pantone 186 C for red and Pantone 348 C for green.
Core sample.svg
The symbol of rock core sampling, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Cone penetration test.svg
The symbol of the cone penetration test method, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Geo-electrical sounding.svg
The symbol of the geo-electrical sounding method, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
In situ permeameter test.svg
The symbol of in situ permeameter tests, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Load test.svg
The symbol of load tests, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Pore pressure measurement.svg
The symbol of pore pressure measurements, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Ram sounding.svg
The symbol of ram soundings, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Rock control drilling.svg
The symbol of rock control drillings, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Rotary pressure sounding.svg
The symbol of the rotary pressure sounding method, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Rotary weight sounding.svg
The symbol of the rotary weight sounding method, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Sample series.svg
The symbol of soil sample series, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Screw plate test.svg
The symbol of the screw plate test method, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
The symbol of inclinometers, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Settlement recordings.svg
The symbol of settlement recordings, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Shear vane test.svg
The symbol of the shear vane test method, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Simple sounding.svg
The symbol of the simple sounding method, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Standard penetration test.svg
The symbol of the standard penetration test method, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Total sounding.svg
The symbol of the total sounding method, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Trial pit.svg
The symbol of trial pits, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Visible rock.svg
The symbol of visible rock, shown in planar drawings relating to geotechnical investigations.
Bay area fill.jpg
Map of reclaimed land in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reclaimed land is colored brown. Composite image of File:Sf Estuary Historical.gif and USGS stock photo, both public domain.
Fontvieille harbour.JPG
View on the Fontvieille harbour in Monaco
(c) Gazjo, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Perth from Kings Park in 1964
View from Nokia Beirut.jpg
Author/Creator: James Whatley from London, United Kingdom, Licence: CC BY 2.0
View from Nokia Beirut
Satellite image of Flevopolder, Netherlands (5.48E 52.43N).png
Satellite image of the Flevopolder in the Netherlands. Technically, the Flevopolder consists of Zuidelijk Flevoland (Southern Flevoland), Oostelijk Flevoland (Eastern Flevoland) and the Noordoostpolder (North Eastern Polder). This image shows Southern and Eastern Flevoland.
Boeing 747-467, Cathay Pacific Airways JP10362.jpg
christian hanuise
, Licence: GFDL 1.2
Hong Kong Reclamation Map.png
Author/Creator: Timothy135, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
The reclamation status of Hong Kong since 1842, the gray areas are the existing or pending reclamation.
Bingzhou Peninsula area - land reclamation - DSCF9204.JPG
Author/Creator: User:Vmenkov, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
The area around the western end of the Tong'an Bridge, in Xiamen's Tong'an District. (The northwestern shore of Dongzui Bay, including Bingzhou Peninsula) It appears that land reclamation goes on full-speed here. the city creating solid land out a tidal plain!