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New Land Rules System to Be Enforced

The Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) is to introduce a nationwide land regulatory system a move expected to safeguard arable land and curb overheated investments in fixed assets.

A total of nine regional bureaux directly answering to the MRL central office will begin work shortly, according to sources.

The bureaux will be located in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Nanjing, Jinan, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu and Xi'an.

The Shanghai and Beijing bureaux have already been set up, the rest are in various stages of being organized.

Each bureau will be responsible for land use within its jurisdiction. For example, the Beijing bureau covers the capital city, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Li Yuan, deputy minister of the MLR, said yesterday inspectors will oversee land protection in the provinces or municipalities, ensuring that local policies and measures conform with national laws and regulations.

If a case of illegal land use is uncovered, the inspectors must immediately inform the local government concerned, and report to the central authorities if the problem is not rectified.

The amount of farmland designated for new construction projects next year will remain the same as this year, Li said.

In fact, the amount of land for construction projects during the first 11 months of this year is only half compared with the same period last year.

By imposing tough controls on farmland use, Li stressed that developers should make efficient re-use of the present occupied land.

Prior to these two moves, the ministry last month ordered the doubling of the land-use fee for new construction projects next year.

Last week, it also ordered a ban on the construction of large commercial and entertainment facilities, small industrial projects and residential buildings with low density, from using arable land next year.

"The country will continue to implement the strictest land policy in the world," Li said.

He said that the 1.8 billion mu (120 million hectares) of arable land should be the bottom line to ensure food security for the country.

China's arable land has been reduced from 1.95 billion mu (130 million hectares) in 1996 to 1.83 billion mu (122 million hectares) this year; and per capita arable land is 1.41 mu (0.09 hectare), only one-third of the global average, according to MLR figures.

Rampant illegal land acquisition and use is widespread in the country, often with the connivance of local officials.

This has resulted in 40 million farmers losing their land in the last 10 years and further 15 million farmers are expected to lose their land in the next five years, the nation's social security authority said.

While strengthening efforts to curb the loss of farmland, the central government has also mapped out policies to provide farmers with compensation, re-employment training and other social security guarantees.

According to Li, about 100 billion yuan (US$12.5 billion) of land acquisition fees will be allocated to countryside development next year.

(China Daily December 22, 2006)

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