Delta bridge can go ahead as legal challenge ends
The legal challenge to construction of a bridge across the Pearl River estuary to Macau and Zhuhai is over.
Yesterday's deadline for the plaintiff, 66-year-old Tung Chung resident Chu Yee-wah, to take the case to the city's top court passed without her lawyers receiving any instruction to do so.
Chu, a public housing tenant, secured a judicial review of the Hong Kong- Zhuhai-Macau bridge, arguing that the government's environmental impact assessment of the project failed to meet its own standards for gauging the likely effect on local pollution levels. Her lawyers said the assessment should have included a study of the estuary environment's condition if the HK$83 billion bridge was not built. The bridge will start from a point on Lantau island near Tung Chung.
The case was upheld in the Court of First Instance but overturned on appeal by the government in September. It cost the Legal Aid department HK$1.4 million and added an estimated HK$6.5 billion to the cost of building the bridge, according to the Transport and Housing Bureau.
Alan Wong Hok-ming, a lawyer for Chu, said he had heard nothing from her before yesterday's deadline. 'We have told her the legal considerations in the case and it was up to her to decide,' he said.
Chu had been quoted as saying that she regretted launching the challenge.
The government will now be able to press ahead with the project.
An environmentalist said the case had raised public awareness of the complex assessment process and opened an avenue for a review of the law. 'The judicial review arose from some grey areas in the law that have to be looked at from a bigger perspective, given that the impact assessment law has been in operation for more than 13 years,' Edwin Lau Che-feng, a member of the Advisory Council on the Environment, said.
The council wants a meeting of experts in the field to identify areas for improvement, in particular how to increase transparency and public participation in assessments.
Lawmakers will now discuss a request from the government for funding to build the bridge and related works. Officials have put the cost of a border post, to be built on 130 hectares reclaimed from the sea, at HK$33 billion and say a link road will cost HK$16 billion.
The bridge was not the only project affected by April's ruling in favour of Chu. Environmental impact assessment reports on a planned waste incinerator and the Sha Tin-Central rail link have been submitted to the environment chief for reconsideration.