The central government will improve management over land use in the coming years in order to guarantee the preservation of enough arable land to feed the nation's people at the same time as it pursues further economic and social development.
According to Tian Fengshan, minister of land and resources, the ministry will tighten control on resource use to avoid waste, and will require that people pay for the resources they use.
Speaking at a national meeting on Saturday, Tian said that China suffers from a serious resource insufficiency, and has to import some badly needed mineral resources such as oil and copper each year. However, many local governments, economic units and individuals are squandering resources carelessly.
The ministry must set strict controls on the use of cultivated land for construction, must develop land reserves, and should develop comprehensive rules to ensure that resources consumed are properly paid for, the minister said.
These tasks will not be easily accomplished.
Between 1997 and 2000, China saw about 167,500 hectares of cultivated land taken over for non-agricultural purposes each year on average. However the country's general programme only allows an annual quota of 127,300 hectares of agricultural land to be used for non-agricultural purposes for the next 10 years.
Land supply will be much less, if we take into consideration the need to improve the biological environment, which requires that some cultivated land be given over to afforestation or grazing land, said Tian.
And the outlook for mineral resources is similarly not too optimistic.
Of the country's 45 major mineral resources, only 24, based on known reserves, can sustain production until 2010, and only six will last until 2020.
China has no choice but to cut down on inefficiency and emphasize technical innovation, said Tian.
Tian said the government will make every effort to maintain about 128.6 million hectares of cultivated lands during the country's 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-05), while improving the present utilization rate of mineral resources by 5 percentage points.
(China Daily 12/25/2000)