Last month, while we were still looking forward to the October 31st opening of the bridge and tunnel linking Pudong and Chongming, we professed excitement at the prospect of easier access to the island’s famous rice wine and hairy crabs, but we also worried about the environmental effects of this increased tourism, and whether Chongming has the capacity to handle an influx of visitors.
It looks like our fears have come true. During the opening of the Changjiang Tunnel-Bridge Expressway, it was reported that crowds mobbed buses for access to the island. More than 100,000 visitors have been rushing into Chongming each weekend of this month, which is more than what the island can handle.
The Shanghai government has responded by setting a limit for the number of visitors allowed on to Chongming’s scenic wetlands. The Xisha wetland will be limited to 10,000 visitors, while Dongtan wetland will be largely off-limits until a parking lot is built.
Limits on visitor numbers as well as current crackdowns on illegal tour agencies operating on the island are definitely right steps in the direction of environmental protection – after all, interest in heading to Chongming doesn’t seem to be waning despite Shanghai’s current chill. But we still don’t know exactly how these limits, which could go into effect next week, will be implemented. Perhaps we’ll check out the island soon to see for ourselves just how bad the situation has become, although we’ll feel bad adding to the number of visitors present.