RESIDENTS on both banks of the Shenzhen River have been promised their homes will be safe from floods. The pledge is due to new methods of filling up fishponds alongside the river. When the fishponds are full a wider, straighter cement channel can be built in less time. China's Shenzhen River Regulation Office director, Lin Wanquan, yesterday said residents could expect many 'good nights' sleep' during the coming wet season because anti-flood work was now ahead of schedule. The $300 million first phase of the Shenzhen River anti-flood project, which was set to take two years, would be completed three months early, he said. The first phase at Liu Pok and Lok Ma Chau is half completed. Work started in May to fill in the ponds. 'We are determined to finish the task as soon as possible to relieve the hardship faced by residents on both banks of the river,' said Mr Lin, who met Hong Kong drainage officials to inspect sites yesterday. Mr Lin said they had abandoned reclamation of the fishponds and, instead, were drying them up by pumping water and air out of the soil. Engineers said the soil at the bottom of the ponds was so soft dredging was almost impossible. Engineers covered the ponds with a layer of sand and then inserted a framework of pipes. Water and air in the soil was then pumped out through the pipes, which in turn hardened the soil. Mr Lin said the new method was more cost-effective and quicker. Mr Lin said he was confident border residents could expect relief as early as the coming wet season. North District Board member Hau Kam-lam said villagers were glad to hear of the potential early completion of the anti-flood work and hoped that officials could keep their word. Shenzhen River, which runs from Shataukok to Deep Bay, attracts water from most streams in the northern New Territories and Shenzhen. The river is badly silted by pollution and causes severe floods during heavy rain or typhoons. Hong Kong Drainage Services Department chief engineer (land drainage), Raymond Cheung Tat-kwing, said the next phase of the project, which widens and deepens the bend near Liu Pok, was expected to start late this year.