More than 100 uninhabited islands off the coast of Zhuhai will be available for lease early next year, Xinhua reported yesterday. The announcement came after the mainland introduced a law in July allowing individuals and firms to lease uninhabited islands for 50 years. Successful applicants can name and develop the islands for commercial use. The development has triggered great interest and Guangdong authorities say they have received many inquires from firms and individuals. Zhuhai has been chosen as a testing ground for the new law. Li Zhujiang, head of the State Oceanic Administration in Guangdong, hoped the experience gained in Zhuhai could be used for future leasing elsewhere, Xinhua said. The leases of 135 uninhabited islands off the Zhuhai coast will be auctioned next year. The Xinhua report, which did not mention the situation in other provinces, said Zhuhai was chosen because it was known as 'the city of islands', having 147 registered isles, 135 of them undeveloped. Mr Li said the Guangdong government would draw up a comprehensive plan to develop its marine resources. He hoped the marine industry could contribute as much as 10 per cent of Guangdong's economy by 2010. To achieve this goal, the government would seek help from private business to develop its vast marine resources, Mr Li said. He added that the government would focus on building infrastructure, developing new technology and establishing marine protection and management systems. The law on the protection and use of uninhabited islands was introduced on July 1. Central government officials have said that Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan residents are also welcome to bid. The mainland has more than 6,000 islands larger than 500 square metres off its coast. Only 6 per cent are inhabited and there are also about 10,000 smaller islands.