China reported a year-on-year rise of 4.1 percent in cases of illegal land seizure that occurred in the first nine months of this year, the Ministry of Land and Resources said on Tuesday.
The ministry uncovered 37,000 cases of illegal land use involving 246,000 mu (16,400 hectares) of land in the first three quarters, up 10.8 percent year-on-year, the ministry said in a statement on its website. The amount included 90,000 mu of arable land, up 6.7 percent, it said.
The extensive use of resources led to the increased amount of illegal land use cases, said Wang Ling, an official from the ministry's inspection department. She said that local governments have funded some of the projects that were built using illegally seized land.
The area of misused land in the less-developed central and western regions of the country accounted for 81.1 percent of the total amount, she said.
China has been striving to crack down on illegal land grabs to ensure sufficient arable land to feed its 1.3 billion people and protect farmers. However, local governments heavily rely on land sales for revenue and have been known to give preferential treatment to property developers
In the first nine months, authorities recovered 45,000 mu of land, including 9,436.3 mu of arable land and recovered 1.97 billion yuan (US$309.6 million) in fines, the report said. A total of 1,964 people were punished for their involvement in the cases, it added.