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Conference Seeks Better Uses for Land

“The Ministry of Land and Resources is willing to draw on related international experiences to better tackle the issues in its coming revision of land programs at all levels,” said Lu Xinshe, vice minister of land and resources.


Lu was speaking at a three-day international conference that began Monday. More than 200 foreign and domestic experts are attending the event, which is being held to help China find ways to make sustainable use of its land in economically dynamic and densely populated areas.


Joerg Kretzschmar, from Germany’s oiko-M--an environmental management, coaching and consulting firm--said that integrated land use plans have come into effect across China, fulfilling a goal to help solve employment and housing problems and expanding infrastructure while protecting and restoring the environment for future generations.


But it is time for more creative solutions combining ecological, social and economic concerns, he said.


China will finish a third revision of its overall land use plan before the end of 2006, said Pan Wencan, director of the Planning Department of the Ministry of Land and Resources.


Although maintaining arable land will still be a top priority, the revised plan will beef up efforts to ensure quality instead of simply maintaining acreage quotas, Pan said.


China’s total area of cultivated land dropped to 123.5 million hectares by the end of last year, down from 130.1 million hectares in 1996. Its current per capita cultivated land is just 43 percent of the world’s average.


According to Pan, the cause of this new round of revisions, which began early this year, is the continued problems of misappropriated lands and secret adjustments of plans by local governments. Earlier revisions were made in the 1980s and at the end of the 1990s.


In February 2001, the State Council endorsed all 112 regional land-use programs on the basis of the national plan, signaling the start of their implementation. That put an end to many regions’ use of land without proper plans.


Local governments’ pursuit of short-term economic benefits is usually behind poor implementation of land use plans. However, Pan said, the intrinsic defects of such plans cannot be overlooked.


Such plans do not strike a balance between rapid economic development and sustainable land use, he said.


For the first time, in this round of revisions, the ministry is ready to turn an attentive ear to the suggestions of experts and the public.


Attending the conference are representatives from such developed countries as Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Australia, France, Canada and Britain, as well as those from developing countries like India, Myanmar and Slovakia.


The former group has ready information to offer from past direct experience and studies on land use processes in highly populated areas of rapidly developing economies. The latter group, most of whom are also experiencing rapid economic development, can add depth to the discussions from multiple perspectives.


The conference is co-sponsored by the Ministry of Land and Resources, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany.


(China Daily May 11, 2004)

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