China and South-China Sea Reclamation Issue

2019 ias preliminary exam test series

China has imposed strict controls on the scale of sea reclamation. China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) set eight indexes on sea development, including the rate of sea utilisation, rate of coastal utilisation, investment intensity and ratio of sea reclamation.

Any application that does not conform to the requirement of the eight indexes will be sent back for re-examination.

The restrictions are aimed to improve the efficiency of sea utilisation, achieve sustainable development with the minimum use of oceanic space and promote intensive exploitation of coastal resources.

As the cost for sea utilisation is far lower than land utilisation, Chinese companies have developed a craze for investment on sea reclamation, driven by huge profits.

Land reclamation, usually known as reclamation, and also known as land fill, is the process of creating new land from ocean, riverbeds, or lake beds. The land reclaimed is known as reclamation ground or land fill.

This issue has been in news when last year satellite imagery confirmed that China was constructing artificial islands in the South China Sea. According to Chian, there is no prohibition in international law about land reclamation.

Artificial islands have a distinct meaning in international law. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) sovereignty over artificial islands can only be exercised by a coastal state in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Article 56 states, “In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has jurisdiction with regard to: (i) the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures…” Article 60 gives the coastal state “exclusive right to construct artificial islands.” And Article 80 extends this provision to artificial islands on a coastal state’s continental shelf.

The issue of China’s construction of artificial islands is being seen as an attempt to enforce its jurisdiction over twelve nautical miles of water surrounding these artificial islands. In this way China is trying to increase its legal control in South-China sea.

Other issue is of concern is with similar efforts by Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines in South-China sea.

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