Island residents are dismayed, saying the project will destroy scenic country areas The construction of a contentious Lantau road project will begin this year after the Legislative Council's Finance Committee yesterday approved $630 million in funding. The decision has disappointed angry Lantau residents, who say the realignment and widening of Tung Chung Road will cut through some of the island's most scenic country park areas. The committee's approval means government-contracted builders will start work on the 6.2km project by the end of this year. Completion is scheduled for September 2006. Highways Department officials said the work, which will widen the road to two lanes, was necessary because the one-lane, two-way traffic on Tung Chung Road was unsafe. Lantau residents - many from Cheung Sha in the south who are represented by the Green Lantau Association - did not object to road-widening or the need to improve traffic safety. But they argued the scale of the widening amounted to building a new road that would cut through Sunset Peak, one of the most scenic places on the island, as well as affecting other scenic areas along Tung Chung Road and the Lantau Trail. 'I think that this weekend we will have to work through the implications of the Legco decision, but I expect a lot of angry reactions,'' association member Nick Shaw said. 'The construction will create a lot of noise, air and dust pollution. People who hike on the Lantau Trail will not be happy, people will be angry about disturbances to the hillsides up Sunset Peak. The draining will cause pollution at Pui O, so people there will be upset.' An application for 24-hour construction work on some sections is pending at the Environmental Protection Department. Cheung Sha resident Robin Hughes said at the very least, neighbours must now insist that appropriate greening and environmental mitigation measures were adhered to by builders. 'It's a prime eco-resource and we have to make sure any damage they do will not be irreversible,' he said. Some residents suspect the road is being upgraded to meet traffic requirements stemming from a government plan to build a superjail at nearby Hei Ling Chau that could hold 12,000 prisoners. Mr Hughes acknowledged that the road plan pre-dated the superjail idea but said the misunderstanding was the government's fault as it had failed to consult locals properly. A spokesman for the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau said a wider road was needed for the increasing traffic on Lantau. The existing one-lane road was unsafe, the spokesman said. Frontier legislator and Finance Committee member Cyd Ho Sau-lan said she supported the government road project but urged the Highways Department officials to work closely with residents to address their concerns.