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Nation Takes Firm Stance to Protect Arable Land

Even with its large rural population, China is still losing 1 million hectares of arable land every year.

To curb the problem, the Chinese Government is determined to take a firmer stance on land management, as the State Council introduces a new resolution to protect arable land, particularly basic cultivated land, CCTV reported.

Premier Wen Jiabao called on local governments to complete land management system reform below provincial level by the end of the year at a nationwide teleconference yesterday.

Wen said there is no excuse for reducing the total current amount of basic cultivated land, to change its use or degrade its quality.

He urged local governments to closely abide by land management regulations and impose serious punishments for the illegal occupation of farmland.

Land planning was highlighted in Wen's talks, which encouraged the use of every available means to limit the transferring of arable land to other uses.

Wen stressed the application of a price system to regulate land use.

Local governments should standardize land prices and negotiate the lowest price possible in accordance with market demand and the country's current land reserves, he said.

Wen said in addition to appropriately relocating farmers who lose their land, local governments should also pay them requisition compensation efficiently.

Local governments should continue their efforts to use land in an economical and intensive manner to prevent existing land being left unused, he said.

He added that new projects should first be constructed on unused land that has been previously requisitioned, and local governments should set new land use quota standards on such land.

The premier said excessive land use in development zones and illegal land occupation should be reined in.

According to the Ministry of Land and Resources, the total cultivated land area dropped to 123.5 million hectares at the end of last year from 130.1 million hectares in 1996.

A large proportion of that arable land was used in some 6,015 development zones and industrial parks. Only 1,251 had been properly approved.

The shrinkage of farmland has affected the economy and food security of the country, experts say.

Also, the abuse of farmland has triggered a number of social problems. In some areas, farmers get no compensation for lost land and therefore protest against local governments. Additionally, blind investment is encouraged by the misuse of land.

Since the second half of last year, the central government has adopted a series of strict land management measures.

(China Daily October 29, 2004)

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