Villagers seek halt to rail line works

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 10:43pm


Villagers living near the route of the cross-border express railway want its construction halted. They say it has dried up their wells and damaged houses.

About 20 residents of century-old Ngau Tam Mei village held a demonstration yesterday calling for the work to stop until safety measures had been introduced to protect them.

The residents said they held the protest after hearing on Monday that blasting work was expected to resume soon on the underground express line. Work on the HK$66.9 billion railway from West Kowloon to Shenzhen started in 2010, and blasting in their area had been due to finish this month.

The MTR Corporation said blasting started on May 2 and there were some preliminary works at the site before that. Tunnelling work will start when blasting ends this month.

Villagers said more than 200 wells had gone dry because of the work, which blocked some water sources.

An MTR Corp spokeswoman said it had been monitoring nine wells and set up 20 other meters to check the underground water levels. When tunnelling started, it would lay down concrete lining at the same time to protect the underground water and soil structure, she said.

San Tin Rural Committee chairman Man Chi-sheung, who is supporting the villagers, said he hoped the government would listen.

'They are not seeking financial compensation,' he said. 'They just want their water back.'

Chow Ngun-ying, 62, said the strawberries and jackfruit she planted had died because of a lack of underground water. Her 10-metre-deep well had a little water in it yesterday afternoon and she said it was sometimes completely dry, a situation not seen before the work.

She said three long cracks appeared on walls of her 50-year-old house a month after the blasting started in April. 'I can nearly insert two HK$5 coins in one of them,' she said. 'When the typhoon struck last week, it was quite scary.' Although MTR staff visited her every week to monitor the cracks, she said they denied the dried-up well and the cracks were linked to the construction work.

Chau Kwei-yin, a 61-year-old organic farmer who has lived in the village since birth, said his house had tilted 2.5cm to 5cm after the construction started.

A villager had expressed concerns about cracks in a slope retaining wall in March, the MTR spokeswoman said, but stressed the blasting had not started at that time. The MTR had been monitoring the situation.