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China to Restrict Sea Reclamation Activities
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As economic development drives up demand for land in coastal provinces Chinese officials have announced rigorous measures to control projects which involve land reclamation.

"Projects involving 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 in Beijing on Sunday.

Infilling would be strictly banned in the natural habitats of marine life and birds, Lin said and cited 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 reclamation. "Such activities have caused great damage to the ocean environment."

Early reports said sea enclosures and infill projects since the 1960s had destroyed almost 70 percent of the country's mangrove forests -- the tropical evergreen shrub which acts as a buffer against tsunamis and storm surges.

Lin cited a dam development 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 was 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 December 1.

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

(Xinhua News Agency October 9, 2006)

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