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Crackdown on illegal land use
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Government agencies will forge closer links to stop illegal land acquisition and provide better protection for the country's depleting arable land banks, a top official said yesterday.

"We are exploring new ways to involve other departments to go after those found acquiring land illegally," Gan Zangchun, deputy State land inspector-general of the Ministry of Land and Resources said.

The scheme will see violators being denied registration with industrial administrations and bank loans in related transactions, Gan said at a press conference.

The Ministry of Land and Resources is currently working with the Ministry of Supervision to tackle corruption and rule violations in land-leasing cases, he said.

Illegal land acquisition involves the unauthorized expansion of construction and the use of farmland for non-agricultural use.

The practice has become rampant with the country's smoldering industrial and housing sector, and a strict arable land protection policy.

The government has set a minimum of 120 million hectares for arable land but there are only about 121.8 million hectares now, making it a "very demanding task to achieve the goal", Gan said.

Welcoming the new cooperation, experts said fundamental reform on the evaluation system of local leaders and the country's development model are needed to weed out irregular land use and protect farmland.

"Under a system that overemphasizes economic growth, it is inevitable that localities will pursue industrial projects and that leads to irregular land use," Kong Xiangbin, an associate professor with the China Agriculture University, said.

"While it is difficult to get bank loans and attract human capital, land is one avenue available for local governments to manage and facilitate development," he told China Daily.

Gan also said yesterday that the ministry is collaborating with the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the country's top cadre management organ, to hold local officials accountable for protecting farmland.

The top leadership had proposed such an accountability system in 2004.

Gan yesterday presented major rule violations from a 100-day campaign, which is set to end on December 25, targeted at irregular land acquisition.

Among those violators, major leaders of two terms of the Kaiping county government in Guangdong were stripped of their Party and government posts as they illegally approved about 2,000 hectares of farmland for industrial uses.

More than 22,000 cases of illegal land use covering more than 328,72 hectares were reported between January 2005 and September 2006.

(China Daily December 11, 2007)

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