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Unmuddied waters at Hong Kong's airport

Planning a third runway on land reclaimed from the sea required careful planning to minimize environmental impact.

Opportunity

Hong Kong International Airport is often voted one of the world’s best airports by international travelers, and it’s vital to the city’s ongoing success as a global economic powerhouse.

The HKIA Master Plan 2030 revealed the airport would reach saturation point sometime between 2019 and 2022. A third runway was deemed essential, to be built on land reclaimed from the sea.

The project prompted calls from local green groups and residents to mitigate potential effects on marine wildlife — particularly the Chinese white dolphin — and noise impacts. About 40% of the area earmarked for the extension was previously a disposal site for contaminated mud, which also raised concerns about dredging.

Solution

We carried out the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and provided options that would allow the best balance to be struck between environmental protection, technical feasibility, cost and operational performance.

Our EIA work benefited from the fact that we were also producing design for the third runway. This enabled these two elements of our work to be carried out hand in hand and saw environmental mitigation built in from the early design stage. This included minimizing the land reclamation footprint, enhancing the eco-friendliness of seawalls and using non-dredge ground improvement to stabilize the sea bed.

Strong engagement with multiple stakeholders kept them updated on EIA progress and proposals. Public forums were set up when the EIA was published to clearly explain its findings and mitigation measures.

Outcome

Reclamation will be reduced by more than 20%, from 2,044 to 1,600 acres (827 hectares to 650 hectares.) Micro habitats will be built into the seawall to provide shelter for fish, encourage coral growth, and stimulate species diversity. Using non-dredge ground improvement methods will prevent seawater contamination. Flights will approach and depart the airport over water whenever practicable to minimize noise impacts.

A Marine Ecology Enhancement Fund and a Fisheries Enhancement Fund, proposed in our EIA, have been established to provide funding for research into further improvement of local waters.

Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department approved our EIA and granted the Environmental Permit in November 2014. Reclamation work started in August 2016.

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