What is Land Reclamation?

Land reclamation means creating land either by removing water from muddy areas or raising the level of the land. With an increasing demand for land, it can be a good solution for creating areas for building, agriculture and other uses, but there are lots of things to think about before going ahead.

How can you reclaim land?

There are two main ways to reclaim land – drying it out, or adding layers to it. The most suitable method will depend on what the original land is like and what the final use of the land will be.

To increase the level of the land, earth can be taken from one place and moved to another, known as dry earth movement. Earth can also be dredged from ‘borrow areas’ above or below the water level and moved to the site in a process called hydraulic fill reclamation.

Another method is poldering, in which land is drained and surrounded by dikes to keep the water out. Sometimes, the level of the land can be raised too, using one or both of the above methods.

What can you do with reclaimed land?

Reclaiming land can be a complicated and involved process, so it isn’t normally done without an end goal in mind. However, that end goal can take a huge number of forms including:

  • Artificial islands for migratory birds and marine life
  • Gas and oil installations
  • Housing and infrastructure
  • Port construction or extension
  • Repairing beaches and islands damaged by extreme weather conditions

As climate change contributes to rising sea levels, and the population continues to increase, it looks likely that land reclamation will be used more often as a way to get the land people need to live.

What are the problems with land reclamation?

Land reclamation needs to be done carefully. If projects aren’t managed diligently, the result could be long-term problems such as building subsidence and greater flood risks. Land reclamation projects also need to take into account any impact on the local and wider environment.

The processes of land reclamation can cause long and short-term problems which are harmful to habitats. There is an obvious change where the land is created, but habitats can be disturbed or destroyed in the process of gathering the earth or dredging for materials to add to the land.

Construction work causes short-term disruptions, but the mud it causes can affect water clarity, making it difficult for plants and creatures to survive. The machinery used to carry out the work can also introduce pollutants to the area.

The work can also change the shape of the seabed and wave patterns, in turn changing tidal patterns, leading to changes in the ecosystem.

Depending on the intended use of the land, it may also be necessary to factor in the impact that increased human activity will have on the surrounding area.

Is land reclamation worth it?

While the impact of land reclamation may make it seem like an activity to avoid, creating land for specific purposes means that other protected areas can be left untouched.

The more research is done into land reclamation, the more we’re learning about how to reduce the environmental impact of any work, and how to monitor the area to ensure any disruption is mitigated both in the short term and the longer term.

The importance of working with environmental experts on these projects is becoming increasingly obvious, due to their knowledge of local laws and how to keep any negative consequences to a minimum.

Land reclamation is not always done for the benefit of humans. Beaches can be restored with land reclamation, protecting an ecosystem which may have otherwise been lost. An environmental consultant will make sure this is done to the highest possible level, sourcing filling material from the most suitable place and of the most suitable type. By taking extra measures like this, the likelihood of both the reclaimed land and the source of the ‘borrowed’ land continuing to thrive is greatly increased.

In some circumstances, land reclamation has even had a positive impact on local wildlife. Habitats can be tailormade to suit particular species, helping struggling species to survive and thrive, and even becoming protected areas in their own right.

By involving an environmental consultant from the very start of the process will make sure the relevant research will be done, so you can choose the most suitable processes at all stages of reclamation. You can be assured that the land is suitable for its intended purpose, local habitats are protected and enhanced as much as possible and that all the relevant legislation and regulations are adhered to.

If you’re considering a land reclamation project and would like to discuss the options, get in touch with us  on 01225 459564 or email

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