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October 15, 2009

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Islands free of weather restraint

FOR many people, the opening of Shanghai Changjiang tunnel-bridge on October 31 is great news as it will enable travel in all weather.

Ji Yuchen, a 23-year-old worker from the Administrative Service Center of Chongming County, is just one of those.

He is delighted he will be able to meet his girlfriend in Fengxian District without a long wait for a ferry - and at the mercy of the weather.

"I've long been a commuter between the city's downtown and the island," said Ji. "In bad weather, including storms and fog, the ferry usually gets canceled.

"After this opening I can drive or take a bus to visit my girlfriend."

Travelers to the island will also benefit with the added convenience.

During the latest National Day holiday period, Chongming attracted 73,730 visitors, increasing by 12.62 percent compared with the previous year, while tourism income reached 2.72 million yuan (US$398,442), an increase of 15.21 percent.

Mao Meili, who has been organizing nongjiale, or rural tourism, at Qianwei Village for 10 years, is confident the tunnel-bridge heralds boom times.

"Everybody in the county believes it will make rural tourism more popular," Mao said. "We are prepared for an increase in visitors."

Mao mainly provides services such as accommodation, dining and bulk sales of agricultural products.

She said one of the main hurdles had been the waiting period for cars to get back onto ferries especially during peak seasons.

"People don't want to wait," Mao said. "As soon as they arrive on the island, they start to worry about whether they can get back to the ferry on time."

The tunnel-bridge would negate this problem, Mao said.

The high season for tourism in Chongming has traditionally been from March to December, but as Mao said: "Now it can be year round."

The tunnel-bridge will also open major business opportunities.

Sources at the Shanghai Chunrun Seafood Breeding Cooperative said orders for island specialties, such as sweet corn, taro and yam, were already increasing.

Zhao Qi, the Chongming County governor, said Chenjia Town on Chongming Island at the end of the tunnel-bridge would be developed to host green industries as well as future leisure, entertainment and international forum centers specializing in ecological topics.

He said the government had distributed 8.5 billion yuan in enhancing environmental projection since 2003 on the island. By the end of this year, 5.5 billion yuan worth of projects are due for completion.


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