China opens world’s longest sea bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai

China inaugurated Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, world’s longest sea bridge with total length of 55 km. The new sea bridge will connect the east and west sides of Pearl River Delta of the South China Sea, connecting two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau with Zhuhai i.e. mainland China.

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge

It includes dual three-lane, oversea stretch (22.9 km) and undersea tunnel (6.7 km) which reaches depth of 44 m. The rest 25.4 km of the bridge runs over land. The two ends of tunnel of bridge are connected to two artificial islands, each million sq ft, constructed in shallow areas of Pearl River Estuary to allow transit between bridge and tunnel sections.

The 6.7 km undersea tunnel is made of chain of 33 submerged hollow blocks, each 38 m wide, 11.4 m high and weighing 80,000 tonnes. The bridge contains 400,000 tonnes of steel. It is designed to withstand magnitude-8 earthquake and strikes by super-sized cargo ships.

The project was initially conceived in 2003, and construction began on December 2009. Its total cost was 120 billion yuan ($17.3 billion). This has been shared in different proportions by Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai governments. It is estimated that 29,000 vehicles would cross the bridge every day.

Significance

China considers this mega structure as key component of its plans to develop Greater Bay Area. This area will be business hub comprising Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities of Guangdong province (mainland China). This bay area is being developed with aim to rival New York (US) and Tokyo (Japan) in terms of technological innovation and economic success. This bridge will play vital role in facilitating creation of a single market by connecting.

The bridge will put three cities within hour’s commute of each other and is expected to boost economic development. It will cut travel time from Hong Kong International Airport to Zhuhai from 4 hours to 45 minutes. It will also bring down trip between Kwai Chung Container Port (Hong Kong) and Zhuhai to 1 hour and 15 minutes from existing 3½ hours.

Criticisms

This bridge is considered is another move of China to assert more control over Hong Kong and Macau special administrative regions. Both provinces are former European colonies (Hong Kong was under British control and Macau was under Portuguese control), handed back to China in late 1990 and are run under “one country, two systems” principle, which allows them to retain their economic and democratic systems of government (multi-party system) independent of China for 50 years. Concerns of affecting ecology of area especially to White Chinese dolphin also have been raised. Safety concerns of bridge also have been raised after reports that artificial islands has drifted.

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