HANGZHOU, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Chen Shifu was thrilled when an embankment road went operational 14 years ago, becoming the first and only land route connecting his hometown islet with the mainland in east China at the time. The laver farmer is even more thrilled now, as part of the dike is being dismantled to restore the marine ecology.
"At long last, I won't have to relocate my seaweed to help it survive," said Chen, 58.
Via a dike-breaking project that started in late December, the 14.5-km-long Lingni Embankment linking Dongtou District and the coastal city of Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, will be left with a 247-meter gap, said Zheng Jinmao, a vice manager of project planning with the transportation development company of the district.
The gap will allow seawater to flow and marine life to migrate, said Zheng.
Consisting of some 300 islets, including 14 inhabited ones, Dongtou is home to more than 100,000 people. For many years, residents had to rely on boats to reach the outside world.
Chen said it used to take him eight hours to make the round-trip journey between his home and downtown Wenzhou.
"Only one vessel shuttled once a day, and we had to wait for days when the weather was bad," he recalled.
In 2003, construction began on the Lingni Embankment linking a major islet of Dongtou and the mainland, as a key transportation project in the area.
After it was completed and opened to traffic in April 2006, farmers like Chen were able to transport their aquatic products more timely and efficiently. Improved transportation also brought tourists, boosting the district's pillar tourism industry.
According to the district government, local GDP expanded threefold to 6.15 billion yuan (about 950 million U.S. dollars) within 10 years of the embankment opening, with the annual growth reaching 13.8 percent on average.
However, Chen soon found that his laver seedlings often became rotten and even died each September, because the dike had divided the aquaculture area into two parts, blocking seawater flow.
"During the annual flood season, fresh water from the estuary would reduce the salinity at the northern side of the dike, leading to the death of seedlings," said Chen.
To save the seedlings, he had to move them to the southern side of the dike before transferring them back later to grow, which added more than 10,000 yuan to his annual costs.
The dike also blocked the route of many migratory marine animals, such as basses and eels, forcing them to take a detour of some 30 nautical miles.
Now that residents have a second land route to reach the mainland since the Dongtou section of National Highway 330 opened to traffic in 2018, the district government decided to break the dike and boost the local ecology.
Li Changda, an official in charge of the marine environment restoration of Dongtou District, said breaking the dike was just the first step.
"A bridge will be built to connect the rest of the embankment, which is expected to resume its function as a transportation route," Li said, adding that an ecological oceanic trench with a width of more than 200 meters will also be dug to facilitate the migration of marine animals.
The entire project is expected to be completed in the third quarter, according to Li. Enditem