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November 14, 2009

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Visitor limits planned for Chongming

THE Chongming County government is planning to restrict daily tourist numbers and charge admission fares at nature reserves to ease negative environmental effects as the visitor stampede continues.

Since the opening of the Changjiang tunnel-bridge on October 31, visitors to the island reached 480,000 from just November 1 to 11, which is almost half of the number for the entire year in 2008.

A reservation scheme is expected to be introduced for scenic spots which have become overcrowded, county officials said yesterday.

"We have had too many lessons that show ecological systems can be damaged by a flood of tourists," said Yu Weidong, deputy dean of Shanghai Normal University's school of life and environmental sciences.

"Now it is the same on Chongming, especially the preserved wetlands. We should limit visitor volume and mustn't let the same tragedy happen to birds at Dongtan."

Chongming officials said one of the plans was to charge fares at scenic spots which are now free.

Almost all visitors now crowd into the free-admission Xisha and Dongtan wetlands.

Due to the free wetlands admission, some city tourist agencies have attracted people with a one-day package for only 45 yuan (US$6.60).

But few of them go to the Dongping National Forest Park, which has raised its entrance price to 70 yuan.

To protect the eco-system of the island, the government is also considering limits on vehicles and making visitors walk to the spots to reduce pollution and protect birds.

"In order to keep the migratory birds, which are well protected on the islands, the key area for birds on the Dongtan wetland should be strictly forbidden to tourists," said Yang Lei, an official of the Chongming County government.

"All travelers should be kept 4.5 kilometers away from the area."

Although these are "just rough ideas without detailed plans," the government has taken a series of quick initiatives to meet the needs of the tourist peak today and tomorrow, the third weekend after the opening of the tunnel-bridge.

A 6,000-square-meter parking area which can accommodate 80 buses has been built near the Xisha wetland.

Several toilets blocks have been expanded and more staff will be on duty at scenic spots to maintain order and clean the areas.

Fast food services will also be provided at the spots.

More toilets and restaurants are still under construction and expected to be finished by the end of this year, according to officials.

"We are also suggesting tourists visit the island in a few months to avoid the current boom," said Shen Yongping, director of the Chongming Tourism Bureau.


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