While it is inevitable that mega construction projects such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) generate concerns from different sections of the community, challenging infrastructure projects also push engineering skills to a new level, according to industry experts.
Josiah K. Y Leung, chairman of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Hong Kong Association (ICE HKA), says one of the major requirements in the civil engineering industry is designing projects that take into account any impact on the environment.
"Each of the transport infrastructure projects currently taking place, creates its own unique challenges. Projects like the [HZMB] are particularly challenging because of the scale and location of the project. Constructing the bridge, which includes sections outside of Hong Kong waters, involves using new design techniques and technology never used in Hong Kong before to address environment issues. One of the key elements emerging across construction projects is the way that civil engineering can contribute to sustainable development," says Leung.
The design of the HZMB includes two artificial islands - each one-kilometre long - to join the two ends of the tunnel with the bridge segments of six traffic lanes designed for a driving speed of 100 kilometres per hour.
Earlier this year, citing aspects of the project's environmental-impact assessment, Hong Kong's Court of the First Instance overturned a decision by the city's environmental department to green-light key parts of the Hong Kong section of the HZMB.
In recent years, the Hong Kong community has been diligent in exchanging views with the government, ranging from the harbour reclamation debate to the way transport links to the mainland are constructed. Concerns have also been raised that dredging for the 35km HZMB may dislocate the Pearl River Delta's rare pink dolphins from their natural habitat.
Leung says the government's commitment to public expenditure on infrastructure projects could ensure widespread opportunities for the construction and engineering professions for the next five to 10 years.
ICE HKA, with over 4,500 members, highlights the importance of civil engineering to the city's development. It is part of a global organisation, one of the largest civil engineering professional bodies outside Britain. Through its international network, ICE HKA encourages knowledge transfer and supports young engineers through continuous professional development programmes.
To promote the importance of civil engineering to the community, ICE HKA has organised "Beyond Rhetoric - Delivering a Low Carbon Society" lecture at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Keith Clarke, CBE, who has given the lecture in several major cities around the world, will present the public talk on August 1.