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China to Restrict Sea Filling, Enclosure Activities

Chinese officials have announced rigorous measures to control projects aiming at reclaiming land, as economic development drives up demand for land in its coastal provinces.

"Projects concerning infilling and sea enclosures will not be approved unless hearings are held and the projects thoroughly discussed," Lin Shanqing, a senior official with the State Oceanic Administration, said here on Sunday.

Infilling would be strictly banned at the natural habitats of marine animals and birds, Lin said, citing a regulation published on Friday by the government on protecting oceanic environments from construction pollution.

Lin said rapid economic growth in coastal areas had inevitably brought about land shortages, which consequently prompted the demand for reclaiming land. "Such activities have caused great damage to the ocean environment."

Early reports said sea enclosures and infill projects since the1960s had destroyed almost 70 percent of the country's mangrove forests, tropical evergreen shrubs which work as buffer against tsunamis and storm surges.

Lin cited a dam project in the Jiaodong Peninsula in east China, saying the project had resulted in the extinction of sea cucumbers in a bay of the peninsula, which used to be the animal's natural habitat.

He said violators of the new regulation would face punishment, restoration orders and a minimum fine of 50,000 yuan (US$6,300).

The regulation will take effect on Dec. 1 this year.

An annual report on the ocean environment issued by the State Oceanic Administration early this year said that nearly 50 percent of China's territorial sea were polluted.

(Xinhua News Agency October 9, 2006)

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