The State Oceanic Administration of China has published a guideline aimed at regulating land reclamation and protecting the environment of uninhabited islands.
"Connecting uninhabited islands to mainland by reclaiming land must be strictly restricted. The islands must be protected, and they should be prevented from disappearing," says the document published on the administration's official website.
According to the document, the original land forms of any uninhabited island should be protected, and any project that requires digging more than 30 percent of an uninhabited island should first gain unanimous approval by an expert panel.
Also, islands with "aesthetic landscapes or geological features that are valuable for scientific research" should be regarded as reserve areas.
In April, a total of 176 uninhabited islands in seven coastal provinces and one autonomous region were given the green light for the public to develop them. Any corporation and individual can apply to tap these islands as long as they have appropriate development plans and use the islands for the stipulated purposes, according to the administration.
Enterprises or individuals whose plans are approved could get a maximum of 50 years of development and utilization rights on an island.