Part of the dam construction at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is using the traditional rock filling method, instead of the more environment-friendly plan approved for the project, the Highways Department has revealed.
The revelation came during a media conference held on Thursday to address inquiries relating to the shifting of an artificial island that is part of the project.
The highways department said the movement was only up to seven meters, which is within its expectations and poses no danger to the project.
However, the disclosure on the construction method for a section of dam that measures 2.5 kilometers in length on the south side of the artificial island has sparked a new controversy, Ming Pao Daily reported.
Director of Highways Lau Ka-keung explained that the change in construction method was dictated by height restrictions as the section of the dam in question is near the airport.
Lau said using rows of cylindrical tanks is not compliant with the requirements of the Civil Aviation Department.
He stressed that the rock filling method will not have a big impact on the cost of construction.
But in a corporate publication published in October 2013, China Harbour Engineering Co. Ltd.(CHEC), the project contractor, said it was capable of installing the circular steel units despite the height restrictions. This was contrary to what Lau said.
However, CHEC had proposed to the highways department that the traditional rock filling method be used to speed up the construction.
Man Chi Sum, a former member of the Environmental Protection Department’s Advisory Council on the Environment, said the highways department had proposed the use of cylindrical tanks in 2009 as a means to alleviate the impact of the project on water quality and the Chinese white dolphins that inhabit the area.
“It was because of the more environment-friendly method that the council recommended a seal of approval to the director of the environmental protection,” Man said.
Man said he is shocked that the traditional rock filling method is now being used, which means that the environmental impact will be much greater.
He also asked why the highways department implemented such a major change without telling the Environmental Protection Department (EPD).
An EPD spokesperson said they would need to obtain more information from the highways department before making any comments.
Raymond Chan Kin-sek, former president of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, said the contractor was apparently trying to catch up on the construction schedule as the cylindrical tanks are long and require more time to be put in place.
Lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai, who sits on the Legislative Council’s traffic and transport committee, said he would write to the highways department to seek an official explanation.
Fan said he suspects that the government is hiding the truth from the public, noting that the department’s explanation about height restrictions is far from convincing.
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