Fishermen work near China’s Xisha Islands in the South China Sea in May 2012. (Hou Jishen / Xinhua)
Sansha authorities vowed to accelerate the construction of infrastructure and a series of projects that were expected to be finished this year.
"Within the year, we will finish the operation of the first phase of the new port of Yongxing Island, a seawater desalination plant, a sewage treatment plant and a garbage collection and transfer system," Xiao Jie, mayor of Sansha, said at the annual session of the Hainan provincial people’s congress on Sunday.
The desalination plant, approved by the provincial development and reform commission, will process 1,000 cubic meters of seawater a day, supplying fresh water to nearby islets, reefs and ships.
A new supply ship, the Sansha No 1, will be completed in early 2014 to help transport much-needed materials to the island, Xiao added.
The ship will be 120 meters from bow to stern, 20 meters wide, and have a displacement of 8,100 metric tons.
The projects will benefit the city’s environment and help maintain sustainable development, Xiao said.
Xiao declined to disclose the total investment in Sansha’s construction in 2013, but the city’s first 28 infrastructure projects cost nearly 24 billion yuan ($3.81 billion), the Sansha government said in September.
"Sansha is entering a period of booming development that is being closely followed by the country and the Hainan government," said Wu Shicun, director of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.
Xiao said Sansha authorities will try to get maximum support from the central government in policy and finance for its development.
Xiao and other officials in Sansha are busy drawing up development and environmental protection plans for the city.
Besides infrastructure construction, local authorities will further develop the marine economy in the South China Sea this year.
According to the report released by the provincial development and reform commission on Monday, a South China Sea fishing fleet will be established with 200 fishing boats to fish in the waters surrounding Sansha.
For Lu Zhiyuan, director of the provincial tourism administration, tourism in Sansha is crucial in the province’s economy growth.
"We are busy preparing to open tourism in Sansha, and cruise tours are likely to be the main choice," Lu said, adding the cruise routes have been mapped out.
Cruises can minimize visitors’ damage to the environment, which is important for Sansha, he added.
Hainan welcomed more than 33 million visitors who stayed for at least one night in 2012.
In addition to tourism, the city also plans to develop oil and gas industries to drive its economy.
Sansha was established in late July to administer more than 200 islets, sandbanks and reefs in the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and the 2 million sq km of surrounding waters.

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