China opens world's longest sea-crossing bridge and it looks incredible
The world's longest sea-crossing bridge has been opened in China by President Xi Jinping, nine years after construction first began.
Spanning 55km (34 miles), the bridge, which cost about $20 billion (£15.3 billion), connects Hong Kong to Macau and the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai.
Designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoons, it was built using 400,000 tonnes of steel, enough to build 60 Eiffel Towers.
President Xi attended the opening ceremony in Zhuhai, along with the leaders of Hong Kong and Macau, including Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam, on Tuesday.
However, despite excitement over its opening, the project remains controversial and is the subject of a great deal of criticism due to restricted access to the elite, cost, environmental concerns and unusual monitoring cameras.
It has reportedly been plagued by safety issues and was dubbed the 'bridge of death' by some local media after at least 18 people died working on it. Hundreds more have also been allegedly injured during the construction.
As drivers cross the bridge, their heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored and the information will then be forwarded to a control centre. In addition, there have also been reports in Hong Kong that there will be cameras monitoring drivers as drivers go across: if a driver yawns more than three times in 20 seconds, an alert will be raised.
Although it will open to regular traffic on Wednesday, not anyone can drive over the bridge.
People who wish to cross it must pay tolls and obtain special permits, reportedly allocated by a quota system, and it has been said that long-term permits to cross from Hong Kong to Zhuhai will only be given to those who meet strict criteria.
This apparently includes paying significant taxes in China, donating large amounts of money to charities in Guangdong, or being a member of one of several political organisations. Others can take a private shuttle bus, but there is no public transport on the bridge.
Many online commenters in Hong Kong are unhappy about the bridge’s restricted access, with one comment on the South China Morning Post website reading: "Such a huge investment using the Hong Kong taxpayer’s money... yet basically it is not open to us at all".
Furthermore, there have been concerns about the extraordinary cost; according to an estimate by BBC Chinese, the bridge will only earn around $86m in tolls per year and maintenance costs would take away a third of this.
Others have spoken out about the environmental impact, with some groups claiming the project may have caused serious harm to marine life in the area, including the beloved and critically rare Chinese white dolphin.
According to the Hong Kong branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the number seen in Hong Kong waters has decreased from 148 to 47 in the past decade, and they are nowhere to be found in the waters near the bridge now.
Samantha Lee, Assistant Director of Ocean Conservation at the WWF reportedly claimed: "The project has made irreversible damage to the sea. I am worried that the number will never rise again."