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Circular Puts Stop to Misuse of Farmland

The use of farmland for non-agriculture purposes has been temporarily given a red light by the country's land and resources authorities.


As of April 29, land and resources authorities at the provincial and municipal levels should have stopped approving uses of farmland for non-agriculture purposes as part of a national campaign that will last until October.


That was the message from a circular jointly issued on Tuesday by the Ministry of Land and Resources and the National Development and Reform Commission to make approvals of land use for project construction more difficult.


The use of farmland for industrial development in China has been rampant and millions of Chinese farmers were victimized by illegal land development projects, officials said.


According to the circular, applications for land use can still go through approval procedures if farmland is not involved.


Construction projects that are urgently needed, such as energy, transport and urban infrastructure projects that involve the use of farmland, must receive approval from the ministry and the commission.


The circular was issued in support of the national campaign, launched after the State Council issued an urgent notice on regulating the land market and strengthening the management of land on April 29.


The campaign targets problems concerning the use of land and official approval of land use, protection of basic farmland resources, the acquisition of farmland and efforts by local governments to make up for the loss of farmland used for non-agricultural projects through land development projects.


Also high on the agenda are inspections of the collection and use of compensation fees for farmers involved in land development deals, as well as resettlements. Officials also wish to crack down on irregularities in public bidding and the auctioning of land-use rights for commercial purposes.


Officials and developers who are found to continue to ignore the laws and policies on land-use deals and acquisition will be severely punished, according to law.


The Ministry of Land and Resources said earlier this month it has conducted probes into 9,900 illegal land requisition cases during the first quarter of this year.


The land earmarked for construction projects as approved by the State Council in urban areas during the first quarter was down by 46 per cent over the average quarterly figure for last year.


China has reduced its planned development zones by 17,000 square kilometers from 35,400 square kilometers, and 1,100 square kilometers of farmland has been re-cultivated.


Of the country's several thousand development zones and industrial parks, only 1,251 were approved by the State Council and provincial governments, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Land and Resources.


The ministry and local government departments in charge of the sector will also improve the way land use rights are transferred by increasing transparency and competition, including public bidding.


(China Daily June 11, 2004)


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