News Update

State-owned companies and some government bodies are to blame for many illegal sea reclamation projects, a senior official from the State Oceanic Administration has said.   

"Sixty-one of the 62 illegal cases last year were conducted by governments and port holdings," said Liu Xincheng, vice-director of North China Sea Branch of the administration.   

"Economic interests" were the direct cause for the reclamation, including the establishment of offshore drilling projects, he said.   

Sea reclamation is a process in which natural and manmade materials, such as rocks , sand and tarps, are added to coastal areas and waterfronts in an attempt to make them more solid - essentially creating new land surfaces.   

Generally, the cost per square meter for sea reclamation projects ranges from 220 yuan ($32) to 520 yuan. The cost to build on land is thousands of yuan per square meter, so projects on reclaimed land are much less expensive.   

"Increasing demand for coastal areas and strict land control have caused some governments to approve illegal projects in coastal reclamation and enclosure," Liu said on Thursday.   Environmentalists say that sea reclamation projects hurt marine ecosystems and may affect drainage and water flows.   

According to the law, any person involved in illegal sea reclamation projects will be fined five to 15 times of what he pays for the project. The administration handed out fines totaling 27 million yuan for illegal sea reclamation last year.   From 2006 to 2007, the illegally reclaimed sea area reached 189 sq km with a fine of less than 5 billion yuan, Liu said.   

He said that in addition to illegal coastal reclamation, oil spills also had a serious effect on the marine environment.   

Last year, 12 accidents, each involving spillage of less than 10 tons of oil off China's coast, polluted the waterways.   

To tackle the problem, the administration established an oil "fingerprinting" database in May to help authorities identify vessels through the unique characteristics of the oil that was dumped.   

On Sep 3 last year, 29 vessels from China and South Korea participated in a clean-up campaign for ocean oil spills.   

So far, 17 offshore oil exploration firms, 36 exploratory drillings, 155 marine oil platforms and 1,187 oil wells operate in BohaiSea, administration figures showed.

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