Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dangers from the new Runway at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)

In May of of 2011 the Hong Kong International Airport released the "Hong Kong International Airport Master Plan 2030" which suggested that a new runway should be built onto the existing facility by extending the artificial island that is the airport's home.   There's been a lot of media lately about the dangers at the from the new runway project.  Since Minxi and I are kind of fond of HKG (It's where we met in February.) we thought we'd take a look at what's going on.

The first thing you need to understand is that Hong Kong International "Chek Lap Kok" is built entirely on a man made island off the side of Lantau island.

Hong Kong International Airport, HKG

In it's current state, with two functioning runways, it's capable of handling one take off or landing about every 56 seconds according to CNN.  The plan is to build a third runway, about the size of 5000 Olympic swimming pools.  With the third runway, the airport is expected to be able to handle a take off or landing about every 30 seconds.  At 300 passengers a flight, this works out to thousands people and millions of dollars a day.

Current growth estimates, again from CNN suggest that by 2030 Hong Kong's air traffic will increase from fifty million annually to nearly one hundred million annually with a matching increase in air freight.  The airport pretty much has to have the runway to meet the need.

If you're looking for ground transportation info. on the airport, try here.

So what's the problem?

Chinese Pink Dolphins in Hong Kong Harbor

Adorable Pink Dolphins that's what!   Well, a whole lot of environmental concerns actually but cuddly pink dolphins top the list.  There's only about a hundred of the dolphins left in the waters around Hong Kong and any invasion into the sea is a cause for concern.  But is the runway dangerous to them and the rest of the environment?   That's a difficult question to answer.

Being a city of seven million people on a landmass of only 426 square miles, Hong Kong places tremendous pressure on the ocean around it.  There, water pollution, noise pollution, habitat destruction and a host of other issues.  Put into the context of the overall human impact on the ocean around Hong Kong, the new runway doesn't seem as big a deal.

Physically, while 5000 Olympic swimming pools seems very large, compared to the size of the ocean, or even just the waters around Hong Kong, it's not much space, less that 1/2% of the total Pearl River estuary.   The real questions have to do with water pollution and noise pollution and these questions remain largely unanswered at this point.

Fortunately, Hong Kong is a world leader in Environmental initiatives.  Fully 40% of Hong Kong's landmass is dedicated to parks and wildlife preserves.  (Maybe that's why Nathan Lane always seems so crowded.)  They have a strong environmental lobby and a track record of balancing human needs with the need to preserve their beautiful heritage.

The staff of HKG recently put out the "Hong Kong International Airport Master Plan 2030" out lining their plans.  You can see the video they put out on the subject here:

Can a third runway be put in at Hong Kong International Airport without sever environmental impact?  That has yet to be seen, but if any city in Asia has the power and smarts to grow and grow green at the same time, it's Hong Kong.  Good luck little pink dolphins!  Good luck HKG!

For more information on the Hong Kong International Airport click here.

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