China / Society

Young city thrives in South China Sea

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-07-23 08:14

SANSHA, Hainan - The young city of Sansha, encompassing a number of South China Sea islands, will soon put its waste treatment facilities into use for the first time, marking a step closer to its transformation to a modern city.

The project is aimed at addressing mounting sewage and trash generated by habitants and the flux of tourists and business people in Sansha, which will see its third birthday on Friday.

Since the city was established to administer about two million square kilometers of islands and territorial waters, it has become an increasingly comfortable home for hundreds of fishermen, government employees and troops.

However, landfills and discharge of untreated water have affected the fragile environment, said Chen Rufeng, an official of Yongxing Island, Sansha's government seat.

"The new facilities are being tested and are expected to start operation before long," he said.

Located on Yongxing Island, the wastewater treatment plant is designed with a daily capacity of 1,800 tonnes, equal to the amount of wastewater generated by about 6,000 people. It will also produce reclaimed water for cleaning roads and landscaping.

The garbage treatment project consists of a number of collection stations built on scattered islands, including a large collection and treatment plant on Yongxing Island, with a daily handling capacity of two tonnes. In addition, a vessel was manufactured to transport the garbage gathered on smaller islands to Yongxing.

Life on Sansha's islands has become more pleasant over the past three years, mainly due to improved infrastructure. In 2014, the local government managed to provide access to desalinated water and electricity, generated by solar power and gasoline, on all inhabited islands.

Currently, a government-led housing project is helping accommodate fishermen who live in cabins that are vulnerable to storms.

Construction of villas have started on Yongxing and Zhaoshu islands which are expected to house more than 100 families. An official with the city government told Xinhua that they might move in for free or only need to pay a small amount of rent.

Since January this year, a large supply ship with a displacement of about 8,000 tonnes began a route carrying daily necessities and food to the islets from the island province of Hainan, which is hundreds of kilometers away, up to twice a week, greatly relieving supply shortages on the islets.

Prior to that, a ship with a displacement of 2,500 tonnes would run the route once or twice a month.

"In the past, all my diet consisted of potato, onion, seafood and pork. But now I can find all kinds of vegetables and fruits, although they are more expensive here," said a man surnamed Wang, who frequently visits Sansha for business.

The new supply ship also helps Sansha's deep-sea fish reach more buyers in inland markets, sometimes as far as Beijing. Fisherman Fu Zaichou said fresh seafood can be rapidly shipped to Hainan and then sent to Beijing after two days on the road. "If Beijing customers like our fish, we will surely make much more money in the future."

Though fishing remains a traditional pillar of local economy, the local government is encouraging more residents to switch to the tourism service sector, catering for the buoyant cruise industry that has seen nearly 10,000 tourists since the service was launched in April, 2013.

This year, 10 million yuan (1.6 million U.S. dollars) was earmarked by the city government as financial support to those who want to start their own business, such as restaurants, at scenic spots.

A snack chain store serving stewed duck neck along Beijing Road on Yongxing Island, has proven a big hit, with long queues seen nearly every night. "We made 5,000 yuan a day, and we run out of stock very often," said Wang Sisi, manager of the store.

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