AN environmentally friendly method of laying electricity cables will be used for the first time to supply power to Ma Wan and Sham Tseng as part of a $350 million development of the area. It is part of the controversial $30 billion spending plan approved by the Government earlier this month for the 1999-2004 development of CLP Power. The Government has forecast the population of Ma Wan will increase to 44,000 in 2003 and to 70,000 in 2010. The Sun Hung Kai group is also planning to build a theme park in the area. The method CLP Power will use involves drilling a series of tunnels in the seabed. Two tunnels, each 1,300 metres long, will run from Sham Tseng to Ma Wan. Four other tunnels, 800 metres long, will be drilled from Ma Wan to Lantau. Cables will then be laid in the tunnels. 'The method causes less disturbance to the marine ecology because it does not require digging up the seabed before laying the cables,' said Paul Poon Wai-yin, CLP Power's chief engineer (asset management power systems). Mr Poon said the method was also quicker as no environmental impact assessment, which might take more than 20 months, would be required because it did not involve digging up the seabed. It does not cause any disturbance to marine transport and the maintenance cost is kept to a minimum. The traditional method is to dig up mud from the sea bed, lay the cable and cover it with mud again. This can disturb the marine ecology.