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Hong Kong quake aid money to help pandas


Almost half of Hong Kong's aid package to help China's quake-stricken Sichuan will be used to restore a giant panda reserve, the government said Sunday.

Hong Kong's government said it would spend 863 million of its 2 billion Hong Kong dollar (256 million US) commitment on a 4.5 kilometre road leading to Wolong Nature Reserve in the country's southwest province, which was devastated by a 8.00-magnitude quake in May.

Another 22.7 million dollars would be devoted to studying the 200,000-hectare (490,000-acre) park, a government spokesman told AFP.

The reserve was the top priority among the first 20 Hong Kong-funded reconstruction projects, officials said after signing an agreement with mainland officials in Sichuan on Saturday.

"We now need to climb two large mountains and cross 350 kilometres before arriving at the reserve," Carrie Lam, secretary for development and a member of the delegation to Sichuan, said in a statement.

"This has largely affected the restoration work for the reserve. The importance and urgency of the construction of a new road is unquestionable," she said.

Lam said the work in Wolong would involve about 1.7 billion dollars, and the government would seek more funding from the legislature.

The reserve was established in 1963 in Wenchuan county, the epicentre of the quake that left nearly 88,000 people dead or missing.