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Rules Enforced to Protect Arable Land
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Construction of villas, golf courses and race tracks will be strictly banned as two catalogues of projects that will be either restricted or prohibited were revealed yesterday.

The catalogues, which were jointly issued by the Ministry of Land and Resources and the National Development and Reform Commission, aim to "strengthen macro-controls, promote conservative land use, and facilitate industrial structure adjustment", the ministry said on its website.

Details of the two catalogues, which were said to come into effective on December 12, were only revealed yesterday.

Construction of large commercial and entertainment facilities, building material markets, and theme parks are now restricted or prohibited from using arable land.

Race tracks, cemeteries and real estate projects with low density (construction area of a single house exceeding 144 square meters) are also forbidden to use arable land.

The catalogues also ruled out small-scale industrial projects involving coal mines, power, oil petrification and steel plants.

Luxury homes, golf courses, and training centers for government and State-owned enterprises, are listed as an extravagance of the country's diminishing arable land.

The catalogues were enacted according to the country's industrial policy and will be revised from time to time as the policy is adjusted, an anonymous official was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying.

Rampant illegal land expropriation has prompted the promulgation of the catalogues, the official said.

"Despite a double-digit economic increase since 2003, some overheated investments, and excessive loans have emerged," the official was quoted as saying, "blind investments, and low-level repetitive construction are prevalent in some places.

"The two catalogues will become an important measure for the country to strengthen and improve its macro-controls," he said.

The catalogues replace two similar ones that were issued in 1999.

A series of measures have been taken this year to cool down overheated investments in fixed-assets and the rampant expropriation of arable land by local governments.

In May, the central government issued a ban on the use of new land for luxury villas. This was coupled by repeated orders from the ministry to supply more land for smaller, affordable housing, to cool the overheated property market.

Earlier last month, a regulation issued by the ministry, which will be effective next year, doubles the land-use fee of arable land for new construction, a move many believe will tighten the protection of arable land.

A number of illegal land acquisition cases have been brought to the attention of the State Council this year.

In September, the State Council issued a serious administrative warning to two deputy-ministry level officials in central China's Henan Province for illegally expropriating nearly 1,000 hectares of land for the construction of a college park.

(China Daily December 19, 2006)

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