In June last year heavy rains loosened the ground on the slopes above Tai O. A vast amount of soil began moving and could have slid onto the houses below. As the residents were evacuated, government engineers were brought in to devise solutions to deal with this unstable slope. This kind of landslide prevention is just one of a number of tasks handled by Hong Kong's Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD). An expanding list of projects means the 1,723-person department is frequently looking to hire new employees. 'To cope with the additional workload of various infrastructure projects, the CEDD has strengthened its resources through recruitment of professional and technical staff,' said Robert Tsoi Cheung-hoi, a CEDD engineer for more than 20 years, who works in the department's communication unit. To prevent landslides and other problems, Tsoi said the department had developed a slope safety system that was recognised across the world. Other large projects carried out included site formation and reclamation of land to provide new space for development. 'We have already developed nine new towns to cater for the needs of Hong Kong,' Tsoi said. The CEDD is managing a large reclamation project in Central which will create more than 18 hectares of land for harbourfront enhancement and a bypass. Perhaps less well known is the department's work maintaining sea walls and shipping navigation channels. Tsoi said its engineers had also helped to construct greener public spaces in Central and build cycle routes in the New Territories. 'The department's work is often closely related to the daily lives of Hong Kong citizens,' he said. 'And we play a major role in its infrastructure development.' Sun Chung-leung, a civil engineer with the CEDD, said that the most satisfying part of his role was the way he could make a difference to the lives of people. 'We can make different developments,' he said. 'For example we might solve some traffic conditions. These projects give me a great sense of satisfaction.' Sun said this interaction with the public was one of the main challenges of his job. Government engineers frequently have to consult the public to find solutions. 'Engineering works sometimes unavoidably cause inconvenience,' Sun said. 'We have to try to minimise the impact on the public.' Since joining the government eight years ago, Sun has had the opportunity to work on a range of projects. These have included land reclamation work and transport projects, such as the construction of a new flyover, and the development of a new Tseung Kwan O tunnel. He also worked on a project to repair the Wong Shek pier. 'Working in marine conditions was something very different,' he said. 'You get different kinds of work all the time ... totally different jobs.' He said another benefit was that he frequently got to leave the office and take a more active role. Particularly for in-house projects, he has to make regular site visits to oversee the work. 'I have the opportunity to go outside,' he said. 'I get to see big projects go from zero to a completed structure.' Tsoi said the work's diversity was not limited to the range of projects the engineers dealt with but extended to issues that a specific project might touch upon. 'Our engineers not only have to think about the technical and quality aspects,' he said. 'They also need to take into account public concerns, environmental concerns, safety and health issues, and cultural and heritage aspects.' Sun said the department's engineers needed a thorough grasp of the technical knowledge that their job required and an ability to independently solve the problems that different projects presented. He said that because engineers must work closely with the public, the most important skill was the ability to communicate effectively. 'They have to have an open mind and be willing to speak with the public,' he said.