While China concentrates most of its development efforts on the country's urban centres the Ministry of Land and Resources is concentrating on rural areas with plans to reclaim 1.3 million hectares of potentially arable land by 2005.
Construction projects are currently eating up much of China's arable land, but if the ministry is successful in this effort, the country will end up with a total of 600,000 new hectares of arable land after five years.
The ministry said the country needs to have at least 128 million hectares of arable land and 108 million hectares of active farmland by the year 2005. The country currently has 130 million hectares of arable land feeding a population of around 1.3 billion.
"Land development efforts must give consideration to grain production, construction and environmental protection all at the same time," Minister of Land and Resources Tian Fengshan said Monday at a national conference on farmland protection in Zhengzhou, Henan Province.
Tian claimed it will be hard to accomplish the 1.3 million hectare target because a lot of China's cultivated land will likely be ruined by construction and natural disasters or protected by environmental restrictions in the coming years.
A lack of funding makes it difficult to reclaim farmland despite the fact that China has about 6.7 million hectares of potentially arable land.
The ministry plans to improve measures to protect basic farmland, Tian said.
A number of local governments have been asked to strictly monitor land-use in their areas and people have been forbidden to use cultivated land for construction projects without official approval.
Land-use priority will be reserved for key projects such as South-North Water Diversion Project and Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Tian said.
He added that more attention will be given to protecting high-quality farmland and farmland in major grain producing regions.
The ministry also called for greater efforts to improve the quality of the country's already existent farmland.
(China Daily 06/19/2001)