Govt offers rights to 176 islands for development work

Updated: 2011-04-13 16:09

By Wang Qian (China Daily)

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BEIJING - China's ocean watchdog is speeding up its work to protect and develop islands in response to the priority placed on the oceanic economy by the country's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015).

On Tuesday, the State Oceanic Administration released a list of the first 176 desert islands the public will be allowed to develop and said more islands will be added to the list later.

After an auction, the right to use the islands up to 50 years can be sold to domestic and foreign companies, organizations and persons that meet certain qualifications, according to Lu Caixia, director of the Island Management Office of the State Oceanic Administration.

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Applicants must hand in plans showing how much of the land that they want rights to is to be covered with plants, how they plan to dispose of garbage and treat sewage and how far any buildings they put up will be from the coastline. Environmental experts will be asked to gauge whether the plans do enough to protect the environment.

Officials would like to see the small islands undergo development similar to what has occurred in Maldives.

To prevent speculation, officials have decided not to allow the islands to be transferred.

China has tens of thousands of islands, more than 90 percent of which are uninhabited and should be protected, Lu said.

According to the country's only island resource survey, conducted in 1988, China has 6,961 islands that are each larger than 500 square meters. It also has tens of thousands of islands that are each smaller than 500 square meters. Meanwhile, about 806 islands have disappeared in recent years as a result of human deeds and natural erosion, Xinhua News Agency reported in March.

"The second nationwide island resource survey is likely to start late this year, helping us to learn about the country's island resources," Lu said.

China will know exactly how many islands it has by the end of 2011, she added.

Xia Xiaoming, researcher of the Second Institute of Oceanography, told People's Daily in February the main causes of the island disappearances are the reclamation of land from the sea, which is sometimes done by filling in the water between the mainland and islands, and by construction projects in which rocks from the islands are used.

Lu said islands help to expand the space people have for economic development, to protect the marine environment, to maintain a balance among species of underwater life and to guarantee the country's security.

Starting on March 1, 2010, a law on island protection went into effect. The law gives China ownership of all uninhabited islands off its coast and calls for a supervision and protection system to be built.

By the end of 2010, the country's surveillance fleet had stopped about 30 instances of illegal development on islands. One case led to the demolition of 15 unauthorized villas in Hongcheng Garden in Ersha Island, South China's Guangdong province, in June 2010.



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