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Chinese white dolphin

White dolphins under further threat ... now from green energy project

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 February, 2016, 10:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2016, 3:22pm

First it was the airport, then the bridge linking Hong Kong to Zhuhai and Macau. Following that, a third runway for the airport. And now, the Chinese white dolphin could be facing a new threat: a massive, state-owned windfarm project just a few kilometres away from Hong Kong waters.

Conservationists have raised “deep concerns” that Guangdong’s proposed Zhuhai Guishan Offshore Wind Farm around the Sanjiao Mountain Islands will cause further harm to the marine mammals, being just 2.5km from the Pearl River Estuary Chinese White Dolphin Nature Reserve, and near a planned marine park near south Lantau Island.

Dolphin Conservation Society chairman Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu said the project “would affect the viability of the reserve as a safe refuge for the dolphins” and it would add to mounting impacts from construction projects already underway nearby.

In a submission to the state-owned project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA), Hung highlighted the potential impacts of construction, including noisy piling of wind turbines deep into the seabed that would cause major acoustic disturbance to the sound-sensitive animals.

After the 37 turbines were erected, their noise would still be carried underwater by their metal columns, said Hung.

Also opposing the project is the Cross-border Environment Concern Association (CECA), which monitors the EIAs of governments and businesses, which has called for the project to be “suspended and relocated”.

The group pointed to a joint 2011 mandate by the national oceanic and energy administrations on the development and construction of offshore wind farms, barring them from being built in protected areas.

The project’s proponents, Guangdong Electric Power and China Southern Power Grid, argue they have already reduced the site by 349 hectares and downsized about half of the turbines.

The report said noise from piling works would be kept at a “safe threshold” of 160dB and would not cause dolphins in the protected areas much harm.

When complete, the 4.2 billion yuan (HK$4.9 billion) windfarm will be able to generate 26,664 kilowatt hours of power every year. Works will commence once the EIA is approved.

Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department said since the wind farm was eight kilometres away from the territory's waters, the chance of the project affecting the ecological environment of Hong Kong waters, including impacts to Chinese white dolphin habitat, would be very slim.