If the Macau Government Tourism Office predicts the arrival of 40 million visitors in 2025 – an increase of 29 per cent over the latest figures – it is more than obvious that the Region will need more space: for residents to live in but also to attract these tourists: from monuments to hotels, from theme parks to gardens, to commercial ventures and restaurants.
It is in this context that the idea arises of creating a fourth space, beyond the city and the islands of Taipa and Coloane.
Although Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang heard of this when he visited Macau in October 2016, Macau’s public first heard of this project three months later, when the MSAR Government introduced a new Urban Development Strategy Plan (2016-2030) to the city’s Urban Planning Committee.
This new strategic plan addresses the future orientation of Macau’s urban development, highlighting its goals and basic strategies, but also its transportation strategies, marine strategies and functional zoning for the future direction of the city’s development.
It is in this context that the plan proposes the construction of a fourth space, utilising the city’s new maritime territory. “This fourth space is what the Central Government wants Macau to develop by using the sea areas in Macau as a medium and long-term plan from 2016 to 2036,” Professor Mi Jian, the Chief Advisor to the Governmental Policy Research Office, said originally.
The problems begin, however, when the location of that fourth space is discussed.
In fact, at the same time that Macau was informing Beijing of its intentions, Professor Mi stated that there was not a definitive location, but that “Macau can use Coloane as a starting point to develop with the nearby west Mainland islands to form a golden sea triangle.”
However, according to a dispatch from Radio Macau’s Chinese-speaking channel, two weeks later the same Mi Jian said South Coloane was no good at all and that the location will be excluded because a landfill of at least 20 square kilometres would be very close to the islands under Chinese jurisdiction that lie off the largest of the island’s territory. The construction of the landfill, he also argued, would call into question water quality and marine ecology.
Really? Already last year, the same senior consultant from the Government Policy Study Office revealed: “In principle [the fourth space] will be in southern Coloane because then there will be room for expansion to the East, taking into account the tides and their impact.”
“We are going to have a fourth space, a new concept that we have developed” (Mi Jian)
In fact, the idea of building the fourth space in south Coloane triggered several immediate criticisms. Leong Chong In, president of the Architects Association of Macau, was one who argued that Coloane should not be used for reclamation for the development of the fourth space, asking: “Do we want to see the sea in front of us or buildings? That will be decisive for Macau’s future, and I do not think this would be the right place,” suggesting that the big landfill “should instead be developed in areas near the Airport and Zone A.”
More recent news says location-related difficulties continue. The suggestion that it could be built between Coloane and Huangmao Island presents another problem: part of the landfill would be outside the area’s 85 square kilometres of maritime jurisdiction. Thus, when the idea was presented to the Central Government it was received with much reticence. Still, “the project can still be realised,” claims Mi Jian.
The main question concerns location, although this is one of many issues.
Probably the only certainty is that Macau will have a fourth space.
It is said it will comprise 20 square kilometres, roughly equivalent to the total area of the MSAR at the time of the handover.
To be ready when?
Probably in 20 years. But it is quite possible that this fourth space is ready in half that time (five years to make all the decisions, conduct the projects and obtain Beijing’s authorisation) and five years to build.
With what facilities?
The usual, of course – from housing to commercial ventures.
But it will be a waste of space if it is not used to endow the MSAR with what it does not have now: for example, a deep water port or a marina compatible with the territory’s widely declared ambition to be a World Centre of Tourism and Leisure.