China's reserves of strategic resources suggest a falling ability to back up the country's rapid economic development, according to China's top resource official.
Tian Fengshan, minister of land and natural resources, told a meeting in Beijing Sunday on resources management that China's resources situation is becoming serious, and the trend will continue for the next few decades.
China's population and economic growth will intensify the pressure on the supply of resources, especially arable land, petroleum and fresh water.
He called for highlighting resource efficiency as the No. 1 task of China's resources administration work.
"The economic exploitation of natural resources is not merely an economic matter, but also a political and social issue," he emphasized.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, China's per-capita arable land occupation is 0.1 ha., which is expected to follow a slowdown curve along with population growth and the shrinking acreage of arable land in the next dozen years.
The exploration and exploitation of mineral resources lags behind their consumption. Although China has various kinds of mineral reserves, Tian pointed out, the country's comprehensive exploitation ability of minerals is still low by international standards. The complex structure and distribution of the reserves also bring difficulties for exploitation.
China also faces a serious fresh water problem. In some cities, excessive use of underground water has caused the sinking of the ground level, Tian added.
Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji touched upon the resources problem at the ongoing Ninth National People's Congress, urging the establishment of strategic mineral storage and supply systems to ensure a more efficient use of valuable resources.
Tian said domestic and foreign practices suggest that the phenomena of squandering and irrationally exploiting natural resources have their roots in irrational prices for resources. A market-oriented system may be the solution to the problem.
He said that China will continue to resort to strict resources administration methods to ensure the country's rational resources exploitation.