Regulations set for marine exploration

By Wang Qian (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-14 08:01
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BEIJING - Instead of letting cranes and trucks swarm blindly into China's booming marine economic zones, the country's sea watchdog is requiring the development be sustainable.

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In an exclusive interview, State Oceanic Administration head Liu Cigui said the country's sea areas will be categorized into four levels, based on the marine environment's capacity to support exploration and development.

"The seas will be classified into areas of significant, good, limited and banned for development," Liu, also an NPC deputy, said at the sidelines of the NPC annual session that ends on Monday.

He added the sea classification system will provide a guideline for offshore exploration and development and coordinate the industrial structures between coastal areas and the sea.

Undoubtedly, the marine sector has become an important engine for China's economy, with total marine product value reaching nearly 4 trillion yuan ($608 billion) in 2010, accounting for about 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product, official statistics show.

Liu is optimistic for China's marine economy and foresees a "bright future ahead".

He estimated the country's marine economy will grow at more than 13 percent a year in the coming five years, according to Xinhua News Agency.

It is the first time that the draft of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) includes promoting marine economy as a separate chapter, emphasizing the capacity enhancement of the marine development, control and management.

Premier Wen Jiabao also said in the government work report that China will boost the marine economy and coordinate the relation between offshore and coastal development.

The country's coastal provinces and municipalities - Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Shandong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan - have their own offshore development plans.

The regional plans of Zhejiang, Guangdong and Shandong provinces have been approved by the State Council as pilot provinces for developing the marine economy.

But Liu said current offshore development and protection are far from scientific and reasonable due to lack of an overall planning.

Problems including excessive land reclamation from the sea and overdeveloping ocean resources exist in many coastal areas, he added.

Many environmentalists said the sea classification will better protect the marine environment and guarantee reasonable offshore exploration and development.

Bao Jingling, an NPC deputy and chief engineer of the Tianjin bureau of environmental protection, said the marine classification is the same as the land classification.

"According to our research, the offshore environment is currently fragile and weak, with parts of Bohai Bay and Laizhou Bay suffering from pollutants up to their environment load capacity," Bao said.

China has 3 million square kilometers of offshore marine area and 32,000 kilometers of coastline.

The area has a proven oil reserve of 24.6 billion tons - about 23 percent of the country's total - and natural gas reserves of 1.6 trillion cubic meters, making up 30 percent of the total, according to statistics from the administration.

In 2010, the output of marine oil reached 50 million tons. The output of natural gas was more than 10 billion cubic meters with a year-on-year growth of 27.4 percent, the statistics show.

China Daily

(China Daily 03/14/2011 page3)