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Authority Pledges to Protect Arable Land

The country's top land and resource authority pledged on Thursday to support key projects while cutting down on illegal land acquisitions.

Major projects focused on energy, communications, water conservation, urban infrastructure, education and national defense will be given the green light, a senior official from the Ministry of Land and Resources said.

The ministry will also back projects to develop western regions and rejuvenate the old industrial bases of northeast China, said Land and Resources Vice-Minister Li Yuan.

Li made the remarks at the ministry's national work conference in Beijing on Thursday.

At the same time, the ministry has taken tough measures to regulate the land market by cracking down on illegal development zones.

By the end of November, the nation had cut more than 4,800 development zones from a total of 6,866, 70 per cent of the total, according to the ministry's figures. Most of them were on illegally acquired land or unused.

The ministry will continue to tighten control of land use approvals next year, Li said, and projects that break industrial policies or fail to meet market access requirements will be banned.

These projects cover such sectors as iron and steel, cement, golf courts and villa building, he said.

In April, Li's ministry launched a nationwide campaign to examine the 81,962 projects already under construction on 792,600 hectares of land.

Of those, 7,184 were being built illegally on 36,500 hectares. More than 7,000 projects were suspended or cancelled. The goal of the crackdown was to protect arable land.

At the same time, the ministry has urged government departments to pay delayed compensation packages to farmers for land acquisition.

By the end of November, around 16 billion yuan (US$1.9 billion) was paid to farmers across the country, the vice-minister said.

He said problems still exist in the land and resources sector, such as the disorderly exploration of mining resources, illegal use of land resources as well as violations of farmers' interests.

China will set up a national land supervisory system and designate a superintendent general to ensure rational use of the country's land, according to the vice-minister.

The ministry is organizing experts and government officials to develop a comprehensive national plan on land use for the 15 years to come, Li said.

The plan is expected to be submitted to the State Council for approval early next year, he added.

As a part of the nation's efforts to improve the efficiency of energy use, his ministry will also strengthen the supervision of the exploration and development of mining resources, Li said.

"Additional efforts are still needed to establish a competitive, open and orderly mining market," he said.

Meanwhile, policies will be improved to create a stable, transparent and attractive environment to absorb more social capital, including foreign funds, into commercialized mining exploration, Li said.

(China Daily December 24, 2004)


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Gov't Tightens Arable Land Management
4,800 Development Zones Axed
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