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The region is bordered by Guangdong province to the north and the South China Sea to the east, south, and west. It consists of Hong Kong Island , originally ceded by China to Great Britain in , the southern part of the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Ngong Shuen Island now ed to the mainland , ceded in , and the New Territories , which include the mainland area lying largely to the north, together with large and small offshore islands—all of which were leased from China for 99 years from to The Chinese-British t declaration ed on December 19, , paved the way for the entire territory to be returned to China, which occurred July 1, The area of Hong Kong Pinyin: Xianggang; Wade-Giles: Hsiang-kang has expanded over the years, and it has continued to grow as more land has been reclaimed from the surrounding sea.
Hong Kong Island and its adjacent islets have an area of only about 31 square miles 81 square km , while urban Kowloon, which includes the Kowloon Peninsula south of Boundary Street, and Stonecutters Island measure about 18 square miles 47 square km. The New Territories for the rest of the area—more than 90 percent of the total.
The Victoria urban district located on the barren rocks of the northwestern coast of Hong Kong Island is the place where the British first landed in , and it has since been the centre of administrative and economic activities. The community remains limited in space and natural resources, and it faces persistent problems of overcrowding, trade fluctuations, and social and political unrest.
Hong Kong has rugged relief and marked variations in topography , which is in sharp contrast to the low-lying areas of the Pearl River Delta region but conforms geologically and structurally to the well-eroded upland region of the great South China massif. Structurally, the area is an upfold, running northeast-southwest, that was formed about million years ago toward the latter part of the Jurassic Period.
Lava poured into this structure and formed volcanic rocks that were later intruded by an extensive granitic dome. The harbour of Hong Kong was formed by the drowning of the denuded centre of the dome. The surrounding hills on the mainland and on Hong Kong Island are partly capped by volcanic rocks, and steep, scarplike concave slopes lead to the inner harbour. The area is a partially submerged, dissected upland terrain that rises abruptly to heights above 2, feet metres ; its backbone is made up of a series of ridges, running northeast to southwest, that tie in closely with the structural trend in South China.
This trend is clearly observable from the alignment of Lantau Island and the Tolo Channel. From Mount Tai Mo—at 3, feet metres the highest peak in the territory—the series of ridges extends southwestward to Lantau Island , where the terrain rises to 3, feet metres on Lantau Peak and 2, feet metres on Sunset Peak. Victoria Hong Kong Harbour is well protected by mountains on Hong Kong Island that include Victoria Peak in the west, which rises to 1, feet metres , and Mount Parker in the east, which reaches a height of about 1, feet metres. Lowlands of the Hong Kong region, including floodplains, river valleys, and reclaimed land, occupy less than one-fifth of the land.
The urban area that spans the two sides of the harbour, with ongoing reclamation, takes up only about one-tenth of the level area. Hong Kong lacks a river system of any scope, the only exception being in the north where the Sham Chun Shenzhen River, which forms the boundary between Guangdong and Hong Kong, flows into Deep Bay after collecting a of small tributaries. Most of the streams are small, and they generally run perpendicular to the northeast-southwest trend of the terrain.
The construction of reservoirs and their catchment systems has reduced the amount of fresh water available downstream. An exception is the alluvial soils, which are found mainly in the Deep Bay area, where the sediment-laden waters of the Pearl River estuary meet saline waters at high tide and slow down to deposit their sediments to form mudflats.
Paddy rice farming and, more recently, intensive vegetable cultivation have modified the alluvial soils. Elsewhere, hill soils, classified as red-yellow podzolic and krasnozem, abound. Under forest, these hill soils have a well-developed profile, with rich topsoil, but, when they are exposed, as is mostly the case, they tend to be thin and lacking in nutrients. Under tropical conditions, sheet and gully erosion is extensive and drastic.
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