Green dragon bridge

The 55km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, seen here in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, in China.
The 55km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, seen here in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, in China.PHOTO: REUTERS

ZHUHAI (China) • A bridge too far? Not for Mr Su Quanke.

When he looks at the 55km-long Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, he sees not only steel pillars, asphalt and cables, but also a long dragon.

The mythical creature is an auspicious symbol for the Chinese and, in the case of this bridge, marks another leap forward in the country's engineering prowess.

As the project's chief engineer, Mr Su is familiar with every centimetre of the vast crossing, which opens next year after the construction of 22.9km of bridge, four tunnels and four artificial islands.

The 55km structure is the longest of its kind in the world, with its use of steel adequate to build 60 Eiffel Towers. "Yet to me, it is like a huge dragon that is about to take off. I particularly like the high bridge towers, which are like Chinese knots, because they combine both high technology and traditional Chinese style," said Mr Su.

The bridge is designed to last 120 years - longer than any other bridge on the Chinese mainland, he added.

It has been built above Lingdingyang at the Pearl River estuary, which has complicated geological and hydrodynamic conditions.

It has to be able to resist super typhoons every year too.

The tunnel section is located in one of the busiest deep-water passageways for ships, the Lingding West Channel, as well as waters that are home to Chinese white dolphins, which are under the state's protection.

The bridge's design also had to factor in the safety of planes using Hong Kong International Airport, one of the busiest in the world, Mr Su said.

The bridge is environment-friendly, with special filter screens installed in every drain to prevent rubbish and oil leaked from vehicles from being directly discharged into the sea, he added.

Mr Yu Lie, deputy director of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Authority, said the number of wild Chinese white dolphins has risen over recent years to more than 1,800.

A total of 258 Chinese white dolphin groups - with 1,890 individual mammals - were counted at the mouth of the Pearl River, according to a report last year.

There were about 1,400 Chinese white dolphins when construction of the bridge began in 2009.

The builders were able to reduce the number of piles driven into the seabed to avoid too much negative impact on the nautical environment.

Mr Yu said: "None of the Chinese white dolphins under the state's strict protection has been found dead while construction of the bridge was going on."

The Y-shaped bridge is expected to begin operations early next year, cutting the land travel time between Hong Kong and Zhuhai from three hours to just 30 minutes.

CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2017, with the headline 'Green dragon bridge'. Print Edition | Subscribe