China has started construction of the world's longest sea bridge as part of a
multi-billion plan to rejuvenate the Pearl River Delta.
From the UK Telegraph; By Peter Foster in Beijing; 15 Dec 2009
A blueprint for the region by Beijing's leading economic planning agency recently criticised the Delta's low overall level of competitiveness, but committed the region to becoming a world leader again by 2020.|
"Through a more convenient and fast transport network, Hong Kong's financial, tourism, trade and logistics and professional services can become better integrated with the Pearl River Delta and the surrounding areas," said Donald Tsang, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, at a ceremony launching the project.
In a sign of the importance Beijing has attached to the project, the Chinese vice-premier Li Keqiang, the man widely tipped to succeed the prime minister Wen Jiabao in 2012, was on hand to inaugurate construction.
When completed, the six-lane expressway will link Hong Kong to Macau and the Pearl River Delta city of Zhuhai, cutting current road and ferry journey times from four-and-a-half hours to just 40 minutes.
According to projections more than 200 million vehicles a year will be using the bridge by 2020, carrying 170-220 million tons of freight.
The plan has faced objections from environmental groups, including the World Wide Fund for Nature, who say that it will further diminish the Delta's already battered marine ecosystems, imperilling endangered species including the crested kingfisher, mangrove water snake and rough-skinned floating frog.
Of particular concern is the effect on the Chinese white dolphin whose breeding patterns could be disturbed by the noise of the construction and dredging needed to sink the bridge's massive piles into the seabed.
Officials, however, have pledged to protect ocean ecology and fishery resources. "We will control the construction noises and turbidity of seawater, and prevent oil pollution," Zhu Yongling, an official in charge of construction, told China's state-run Xinhua news agency.