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Development plan for China's Xisha Islands

By Guo Kai (Global Times)

08:11, May 10, 2012

Fishing families that live and fish around the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea are likely to be direct beneficiaries of a planned tourism development in the archipelago, the Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.

"The Hainan Provincial Government is making a thorough development plan based on the Xisha Islands' limited ecological capacity," said Feng Wenhai, director of the Hainan Provincial Administration Office for Xisha Islands, Zhongsha Islands and Nansha Islands. Feng said that the provincial government is also planning to build affordable housing for the fisher families along with sewage treatment plants on islands that have village committees within two or three years.

Five village committees govern more than 600 fishers who live and fish around the Xisha Islands, an archipelago consisting of around 40 islets, sandbanks and reefs.

Most fisher families live in shanties with no electricity nor mobile phone service on some of the islands, said Xinhua.

Xisha Islands are about 400 kilometers from the coast of Vietnam. China and Vietnam are working out their differences over the sovereignty of over 20 islets in the Nansha Islands, which are about 500 kilometers south of the Xisha Islands.

Fu Zaichou, director of Yongxing Island village committee, said that many fisher families believe the development proposals could improve their living standards. "They expect to set up fishing companies that will help end the vicious competition between them," said Fu.

Zhao Zhangyuan, with the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, told the Global Times that a thorough environmental assessment is needed before development projects begin.

"When it comes to developing tourism, we have to protect the environment, but we can't stop development only for the sake of protection," Zhao said.

"However, large-scale development should be avoided as many problems would emerge, such as species extinction,"

In early April, Yexiang Princess, the first cruise ship with official approval, sailed between Hainan Province's Sanya and the Xisha Islands.

Tan Li, vice governor of Hainan Province, said at a conference on April 24 that "Xisha must be opened to tourists within this year."

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