Before the Island Protection Law was launched in 2010, some investors had already turned their eyes on uninhabited islands.
Zhao Sheng, a professor with Zhejiang Ocean University, said that there were two peaks in the leasing of uninhabited islands in China. One was in the late 1990s, and one was around 2003.
"Both investment peaks did not benefit the islands. On the contrary, overdevelopment destroyed many precious island resources," he said.
Zhu Renmin leased the 40 years' rights to this island in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province in 1996 and later spent more than 50 million yuan to develop the property. Provided to China Daily
Due to a lack of laws, regulations and environmental protection, the overdevelopment of these islands led to severe consequences.
"By 2012, at least 806 islands disappeared in China due to irresponsible development, including reclamation, land clearing and quarrying," Zhao said.
Zhao said he had witnessed the destruction of the islands due to excessive quarrying.
"There was an island in Xiapu county of Fujian province, which I noticed in 2004. However, when I revisited the place in 2008, it no longer existed. Developers blew out the island's mountains, and the local government did nothing to stop it.
"More islands will be at risk of such destruction if governments and developers do not take measures," he said.
It is important that responsible developers are approved for the leasing of the islands, Zhao said.
Zhu Renmin leased the 40-year rights to an island in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province, in 1996. He spent more than 50 million yuan ($8.14 million) to develop the island from scratch.
"I designed every part of the island, including freshwater pipes, electricity lines and telecommunication cables. I did not allow workers to destroy a single blade of grass on the island since I want to maintain its original environment," he said.
As an artist, Zhu created 500 statues on the island and opened it for free public viewing. Zhu said Chinese people still lack awareness of island protection.
"Not just anyone with money can develop an island," he said.
"Without a sense of ecological and environmental protection, they will destroy an island the moment they step on it." (Chinadaily.com.cn)