Construction on a mega-bridge to link Hong Kong with Zhuhai and Macao is set to begin by the end of this year.
It is part of plans to form closer social and economic ties from the western Pearl River Delta area to the two special administrative regions.
The building of the proposed US$4 billion structure, which will be 30 kilometres long, should take around five years to complete.
It was revealed at the first Hong Kong, Macao and the Western Pearl River Delta Region Development Forum which opened on Tuesday.
The three-day forum, featuring topics on how to boost social and economic co-operation between Hong Kong, Macao and the western Pearl River Delta region, concludes today in Zhuhai, a coastal city of south China's Guangdong Province.
Zhuhai is bordered with Macao to the south and neighboured with Hong Kong across south China Sea to the east.
According to Ma Xiaohong, an official from the Hong Kong and Guangdong Co-operation and Co-ordination Department, a complete proposal for the bridge was submitted to the central government for approval early in December last year.
"The multi-billion-dollar bridge will spearhead a joint infrastructure drive by Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao," Ma said.
It will shorten the distance from Hong Kong to Macao and Zhuhai to 30 kilometres, and reduce the journey time to well within 30 minutes. People currently travelling to Hong Kong from Zhuhai or Macao have to journey for at least six hours by car, passing by Guangzhou.
"The bridge will mean social and economic ties between Hong Kong, Macao and the western Pearl River Delta region will be further enhanced," Ma said.
The western Pearl River Delta region, which includes six cities in Guangdong Province, has seen lower economic development over the last two decades, compared with the eastern area, which includes Shenzhen and Dongguan.
Zhuhai totalled only 54.6 billion yuan (US$6.7 billion) of GDP in 2004, while Shenzhen topped 342.3 billion yuan (US$42.2 billion) in the same year.
Geologically, the western part of the delta region is further away from Hong Kong.
"Most investment from Hong Kong was introduced to the eastern area over the last two decades, which has helped boost economic development there," said Jin Fanfeng, Party secretary of the Yunan County in the western Guangdong.
He said the county only saw investment of 3.3 million yuan (US$406,900) from Hong Kong last year.
Jin believed that co-operation in terms of economic and social development with Hong Kong and Macao would be enhanced following a series of infrastructure projects, including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.
The western area enjoys advantages in terms of land resources and labour force, which favours investors from Hong Kong and Macao, Jin said.
(China Daily January 12, 2006)