Although landslides can never be eliminated, the government is committed to training and recruiting geotechnical engineers to ensure slope safety.
The Geotechnical Engineering Office (GEO) of the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) specialises in slope safety, sets standards, develops new technology, exercises geotechnical control, upgrades substandard slopes and promotes their maintenance.
"Geotechnical engineering is about the knowledge of soil and rock," says GEO assistant geotechnical engineer Raymond Law. "For most building and construction projects, we will need to deal with soil and rock at the foundation level. Unlike concrete, soil and rock are natural materials and may undergo rapid weathering."
GEO's work includes assessing slope safety before construction. "We need to make sure the slope is up to standard and doesn't pose a landslide risk," says Law. "Another important aspect of our work is that we develop design guidance for local practitioners on how to do a geotechnical design properly."
A geotechnical engineer works to determine the qualities of the soil prior to any building or construction on the site, adds Law, who graduated with a master's degree in engineering from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2008.
Issues with soil or ground quality may also crop up during road building, the installation of power lines, drilling and mining.
"Other government agencies - such as the Buildings Department, Highways Department and Water Supplies Department - also hire their own geotechnical engineers," says Law, adding that generally, GEO has the most crucial role in regulating slope works.
Aspiring young engineers who are interested in the study of soil and rock science may be attracted to CEDD's geotechnical engineer graduate programme, as it provides a rare opportunity to work in key projects.<