Locals witness great changes and new development in Sansha Hainan
Sansha has 80 percent of China’s underwater oil and gas resources, while 30 percent of the country’s imports and exports travel through its waters, according to the Hainan Provincial Fishery Research Institute.
However, tapping its potential while protecting its fragile eco-system will be a delicate dance.
During the initial infrastructure boom, deputy mayor Zhang Jun insisted environmental protection is being put ahead of economic development.
Groundwater exploration will be suspended by 2015 to protect Yongxing Island, he said, while the city will develop solar and marine power plants to ease pollution.
Environmental monitoring and law enforcement systems will also be established to deal with illegal fishing and dumping, Zhang added.
Some companies have already stepped in to help authorities start the city on a sustainable path, too.
In April, Yingli New Energy, one of about 21 companies registered in Sansha, fitted 120 islet homes with free photovoltaic systems, each worth 5 million and able to generate nearly 70,000 kWh a year.
General manager Wang Qin said his company will design products specially for the market, which he said has huge potential.
China Southern Power Grid also promised to spend at least 300 million yuan over the next five years to turn Sansha into a model of low-carbon consumption, although the grid will only cover Yongxing and Zhaoshu islands.
To further develop in a scientific way, authorities drafted in 13 scholars in the fields of marine biology, environmental protection and land planning to help draw a roadmap for the future.
Among them was Liu Feng, a senior researcher at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, who predicted: "Major industries in Sansha will be tourism and fisheries".
Plenty of fish
The Sansha Deepwater Farming Plan, released in February, states that by 2015 the city aims to have fish kept in about 3,000 netted cages.
Nansha Islands and the surrounding 820,000 sq km of water are a prime fishery resource, with the potential for producing an estimated 1.8 million tons of more than 20 species of fish a year, according to the Hainan Provincial Fishery Research Institute.
In the past year, fisheries in Hainan have received government approval to build deep-sea fish farms in islets and reefs in the Xisha and Nansha island groups.
However, Ji Guobiao, a researcher with the State Oceanic Administration’s Third Institute of Oceanography, urged authorities to carry out a comprehensive investigation into resources in the South China Sea to better develop the industry.
"The Sansha bio-system is very simple compared with the Chinese mainland and needs special care," he said, and warned: "Once the balance is broken, recovery may be impossible".
Authorities say they are working on a special coral reef preservation zone to protect the diverse eco-system off Zhaoshu Island, which could be finished this year.
In December, the city launched a tree-planting program on four islets and reefs to curb soil erosion, with 500 trees planted on Yagong Islet in Xisha Islands in March.
"We’re planning the second round of tree planting now," mayor Xiao said. "Sansha will become greener."
June 21, 2012
The State Council approves establishing Sansha as a prefecture-level city to administer the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha island groups and surrounding waters.
• July 19
The People’s Liberation Army Guangzhou Military Command says the Central Military Commission has authorized forming a garrison on Sansha.
• July 24
China officially establishes the city of Sansha on Yongxing Island, with Xiao Jie elected as its first mayor.
• Aug 25
The city’s first infrastructure projects get underway, including a sewage disposal factory and sewage pipe network and a waste transfer station on Xisha Islands.
The Sansha government signs a strategic cooperation agreement with the China Shipbuilding Industry to help Sansha boost development of its marine industry.
• Nov 28
The city authority issues its first environmental protection declaration, stating groundwater exploration will be suspended before 2015.
• February 2013
The Sansha’s city plan is submitted to the State Council for approval.
Hainan provincial government says South China Sea Satellite TV and the Sansha Daily newspaper will be established within the year to report on construction, economic development and environmental protection.
• April 28
About 100 Chinese tourists embark on a four-day voyage to Xisha Islands on the Coconut Princess, the only cruise ship allowed to sail to Sansha.
• July 17
The first batch of 10 ID cards and 68 residential permits are issued to Sansha residents.
• July 19
Phase 1 of a port for civil use on Yongxing Island is completed. It has nine berths and cost about 340 million yuan ($56 million).
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