Enormous New Bridge In China Helping Macau’s Bottom Line
China is currently in the middle of a few huge projects that will bring significant transformation to its cities.
Over the next ten years, China has plans to promote the country in a way that will hopefully convince 250 million people to move to the country’s megacities. This amount is 29 times more than the entire population of New York City. To brace for what will be a monumental migration, China has invested tens of billions of dollars in several infrastructure projects.
This summer, China will open its biggest megaproject to date. The project is a bridge that connects Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai, which is a southern city on China’s mainland. The bridge will be 34 miles, and is the longest cross-sea bridge in the world, according to the AFP.
Economic Benefits and National Concerns
Since Macau is the world’s gambling hub, it is no secret that executives hope that the bridge will bring more gamblers to Macau. The bridge will also make businesses close to the casinos more accessible, which will boost the economy overall.
However, there are conservative activists who are not in favor of the bridge. These activists assert that the rare Chinese white dolphin population in the waters of Hong Kong has dropped drastically because of the bridge construction.
Reduction of the White Dolphin Population
The activist opposition comes due to reports that the bridge, also named the “bridge of death” by some Chinese media workers has also caused the lives of 20 workers. Over 500 people were also injured during the construction of the bridge.
The bridge is a $20 billion project and took nearly ten years to build. Xi Jinping, the president of China, officially opened the bridge to the public in October 2018. The structure has provided travel convenience, but there are still residents who are not happy with the bridge or the negative impact it has had on the country.
Chair of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society Taison Chang Ka-tai told ABC that the population of dolphins in Hong Kong had gone down by more than 40 percent. There were about 80 dolphin sightings in 2012 and only 47 in 2017. Chang stated that the impact of construction on the white dolphin population was apparent in the dolphin distribution near the bridge area. Chang states, “During the construction of the bridge, we can see the dolphins in north Lantau [Island] almost all disappeared from that area, which is the closest area to the construction.”
Even though the number of dolphins in the region has dropped, CCTV (Chinese state media) reported that protecting the white dolphins was a high priority. The dolphins have been nicknamed “China’s marine panda.”
The Hong Kong Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Authority issued a statement on its website confirming that $68 million had been set aside for dolphin protection.
Chang said that measures for mitigation were established Hong Kong Government’s Environmental Protection Department. They included pausing work for half an hour after a dolphin was sighted, but these measures were not completely effective. Once the organization saw that the measures were not working, the protection department did not adopt a plan of action to revive the dolphin population. Construction was not halted once it was clear that the dolphins were in danger.
Xinhua state media commented on its Weibo account that the dolphins were seen “dancing around the bridge” on the day the bridge opened. The media describes the dolphins swimming as though the animals were “congratulating” the bridge “on its birthday.” Chang said that the media’s comments were “ridiculous,” since dolphins naturally poke their heads out the water for air.
Chan Kam-hong, the chief executive of the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims, recently spoke with Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). He confirmed that the bridge construction also caused a “very critical” number of casualties. Kam states “what we know so far is that there were 11 workers who died on the construction site in Hong Kong part [of the bridge], and nine workers who died on the mainland part. It’s very difficult for us to compile the exact number of casualties because the Government didn’t give us any means to obtain it.”
The Public’s Reaction
Even though the bridge construction has been dangerous, state media in China and social media posts have been positive for the most part. A Weibo user even commented, “No other country in the whole world is capable of [building this bridge].” Construction was delayed after Chu Yee-wah, 66 applied or judicial review of the building project’s environmental assessment report in 2011. This caused the building to be delayed for 18 months; the bridge was originally supposed to be completed in 2016.
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