The spatial and temporal significance of land reclamation from the sea in relation to the development of the three SE Asian small coastal territories of Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau are examined and compared. In all three territories the rate of reclamation has been an index of the rate of economic development. Four phases of land reclamation are identified: (1) pre-1900: involved relatively unplanned and uncostly projects in shallow water and swamplands around the main focus of settlement; (2) 1900–1945: involved military projects outside the main settlement core; (3) 1945–1980: this phase of large-scale projects unconstrained by natural conditions because of advances in technology and high rate of reclamation was driven by rapid industrial and population growth; (4) 1980 to date: a period marked by large infrastructure projects designed to maintain and extend the status of the territories as world economic and commercial centres. Currently 10%, 5% and 33% of the total land surfaces of Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau respectively comprise land reclaimed from the sea and these proportions will continue to rise.
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