By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The construction of the main body of the University of Macau (UM) Hengqin campus including the library and central teaching buildings began yesterday.
Work on the first phase of the seabed tunnel connecting Macau and the campus also began with the construction of a cofferdam getting underway. The cofferdam will provide a watertight enclosure within the river that will be pumped dry to provide a dry work environment below the waterline.
A construction commencement ceremony was held on Hengqin Island and presided over by Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si Io and vice-governor of Guangdong Province Liu Kun.
The first phase of the construction, which consists of a seven-storey library, eight three- to five-storey central teaching towers and a two-storey school history exhibition gallery, covers a total construction area of some 100,000 square metres and is located just on the other side of the Cross Gate waterway overlooking Coloane.
According to the Infrastructure Development Office (GDI) vice director Chau Vai Man, the budget for the first phase construction is MOP 700 million. Yet he said the cost of the tunnel is not yet certain.
The library, central teaching buildings and the exhibition gallery are the “iconic structures” of the UM new campus, which costs about MOP 6 billion in total and is expected to be fully constructed by the end of 2012.
The site covers nearly 1.09 square kilometres, with a building area of around 800,000 square metres, about 20 times larger than the present campus in Taipa.
Preliminary design and environment assessment concerning the seabed tunnel have already been completed and the project has also passed the experts’ examination.
Nevertheless, GDI director Chan Hon Kit said a string of measures have been suggested to minimise the impact on the ecological conservation area, such as to build an artificial island using gravel for migrating birds.
After the cofferdam and other necessary preliminary works are done, construction of the Hengqin entrance and the middle part of the tunnel is due to begin before the end of this year, while the Macau entrance section is expected to commence in the second quarter of 2011.
During this period the Cross Gate river channel will need to be completely closed to navigation, Chan said.
With regard to other land transportation arrangements, the GDI chief said some bus routes will take passengers to inside of the campus in the future, and added that having buses available for UM students only is also one of the options.
The Secretary for Transport and Public Works said in his speech that the campus construction is progressing on schedule.
He said to complete all the construction within three years is a “big challenge”, but he believed that it can be achieved with the cooperation and support from Guangdong and Zhuhai.