Seven-metre drift on Hong Kong artificial island reclaimed for bridge project is normal, say officials

Officials insist such movement is normal and dismiss reportof a 20-metre shift

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 September, 2015, 5:27am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 September, 2015, 5:27am

Parts of a multibillion-dollar artificial island that is a crucial element of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge have moved by up to seven metres.

The Highways Department rejected media reports of a 20-metre drift and said such movements were normal in large-scale reclamation projects.

But it did not state clearly which parts of the construction had moved, nor did it specify whether work would be significantly affected. The department said it would monitor the project and ensure reclamation work, which started in 2011, was carried out safely.

At the centre of the controversy is the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities project, which will provide clearance for goods and passengers. The facilities will be located on an artificial island of about 150 hectares in waters northeast of the airport.

In an article on his website, journalist Howard Winn quoted civil engineers familiar with the matter as saying that a part of the reclamation had moved 20 metres and there had been other movements in various parts of the island of up to seven metres.

The movements were due to a non-dredging seawall construction method being used in Hong Kong for the first time, the department said. It was unlikely that the reclamation would be completed by the end of next year as originally scheduled, it added.

Raymond Chan Kin-sek, a former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers, said it would be "a big issue" if the entire artificial island moved, but in small parts it was "normal".

"It's like when you step onto the mud after the rain - the mud slides to the sides," Chan said.

Non-dredging is more environmentally friendly as it does not require the dredging and dumping of marine mud.

Allen Ha Wing-on, a member of the Lantau Development Advisory Committee, expressed concern at possible further delays.

"All stakeholders would agree that the bridge project needs to be completed as soon as possible," he said after a forum yesterday, adding that Lantau's development was crucial to the city's future economic growth.

Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po refused to answer questions after attending the same forum.

Lawmakers approved HK$30.4 billion for the project in 2011, about HK$7 billion of which was for the artificial island.

But last year the government asked for an extra HK$5 billion due to rising wages of construction workers and costs of materials and machinery. This request has not yet been approved.