The Ministry of Land and Resources on Sunday issued a warning about the nation's dramatic loss of agricultural land and pledged to take all necessary measures to protect the remaining cultivated land.
A ministry press release revealed the country had lost nearly 1 million hectares of cropland last year mostly to construction and plantations.
The country has 128.2 million hectares of cultivated land, about 13.4 percent of its total territory. There are 0.1 hectares of cultivated land per capita, which is less than half the world's average.
Last year, land authorities nationwide looked into 170,000 cases of land use irregularities, involving 8,600 hectares of cropland. The investigations led to 348 officials being punished. They also handed over 107 cases involving serious violations to judicial departments, leading to 49 individuals facing legal punishment.
The ministry has placed the protection of cultivated land high on its list of priorities.
In its recently-issued work programme for the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-05), the ministry vowed to stop the loss of the country's cultivated land.
According to its plan, the total amount of cultivated land should be no less than 128 million hectares by the end of 2005.
Protecting cultivated land from human activities, such as construction, and natural forces, such as flooding and erosion, have become the ministry's main tasks.
The ministry said it had investigated the country's land resources, established protection zones for cultivated land, and submitted land utilization plans for the country's 66 largest cities.
Its next step is to supervise the protection of cultivated land and ensure no more land is unnecessarily used for construction.
The ministry's efforts have so far achieved initial success as land lost to construction has slowed over the last four years.
Another aim of the ministry is to improve the environment of mines.
"All mines should take effective measures to recycle waste, retain soil, clean water, and return as much land as possible to agricultural use," according to the ministry's plan.
Mine environments have greatly improved over the past five years, with 97.8 percent of all mines operating under the supervision of the ministry.
The ministry has stipulated that no mines will have their licenses renewed if they fail to meet environmental requirements.
The ministry's plans also seek to enhance mechanisms to prevent geological disasters, investigate the utilization of underground water, develop 50 national geological parks, improve the marine environment, and build a comprehensive marine monitoring system.