Island project suspended after protest in Hainan

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, January 18, 2011
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Construction at a government project to build an artificial island in south China's Hainan Province has been suspended for nearly one week after thousands of villagers protested, fearing the island might cause a decrease in fishing near the port and disturb the nearby natural environment.

The government in Wenchang City in the southernmost island province of Hainan planned to reclaim land and build a 225,800-square-meter artificial island to develop tourism near the entrance to Qingnan port, a spokesman with the city government said on Monday.

Construction started last Tuesday but was forced to stop after angry villagers came to the site. The incident escalated on Wednesday when thousands of villagers gathered at the site and smashed government vehicles and clashed with construction workers. They also blocked a road to prevent trucks from delivering building materials to the site.

Local residents contend that there would be fewer fish near the gulf after the island is built and that the port would become narrower with less space for ships to seek harbor, especially during typhoon season, said villager Huang Shoujun.

Also, villagers believe the artificial island would disturb the nearby environment.

However, Lin Zhitie, head of the provincial marine and fishery bureau, said that the reclamation would help ease erosion at the shore and promote tourism, therefore accelerating local economic development.

The 2-billion-yuan (300 million U.S. dollars) project is part of the city's project to promote tourism, which is also the target of Hainan Province, as China announced a plan in January 2010 to build the tropical island into a top international tourism destination by 2020.

Also, Lin said the project is legal and has received all required documents.

Though the developer tried several times to resume construction, villagers have stopped all attempts.

According to Lin, the government is still trying to talk villagers out of blocking construction work and he was unsure when construction could begin again.

He also said the government would regularly release more fish into area waters to ensure a stable fish population.

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