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Ministry Adopts Guidelines to Guarantee Recovery of Wasteland
A new set of guidelines covering land reclamation projects have been drafted by the Ministry of Land and Resources to meet the goal of recovering 2.74 million hectares of cultivated land by 2010.

The measures require all State-invested land reorganization and reclamation projects to be conducted through public bidding. Pieces of land earmarked for reorganization and reclamation should be publicly defined in order to avoid illegal land seizures that encroach upon the rights of farmers.

Land reorganization and reclamation have become an important way for China to attain its ambitious goal of recovering 2.74 million hectares of cultivated land by year 2010. The country will invest 330 billion yuan (US$ 40.3 billion) to achieve this.

All bidders should enjoy equal access to information before the contest with the results published. There is also a defined period for objections to be made.

Independent supervising organizations should be hired by local governments to oversee the progress of designing and engineering work.

The ministry should examine completed projects to ensure engineering quality. Any company found to have appropriated the investment or in charge of projects with low engineering quality will be severely punished, said the document.

Cultivated land in the country totaled 126 million hectares at the end of last year.

Most of China's degraded land is located in inhospitable areas so the ministry plans to improve poor utilization efficiency of existent cultivated land through "land reorganization and reclamation."

According to a national program announced last month, the country can secure 6 million more hectares of cultivated land through integrating idle plots of land in rural China. They also want to condense a number of villages in northern and southern China.

The amount of cultivated land that can be transformed from waste plots is estimated to be only 5.9 million hectares. And 4 million hectares of land remain uncultivated following the cessation of mining and construction activities. Only 38 percent of this can be effectively transformed into arable land through reclamation.

But an anonymous source with the ministry said the lack of standard operation rules and proper supervision has raised the prospect of corruption, which puts the quality of the projects in doubt.

(People's Daily May 19, 2003)

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