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China Reiterates Stiff Controls Over Land Use

China will continue to ban land expropriation for the purpose of building villas, golf courses and training centers for government departments and institutions, sources with the Ministry of Land and Resources said on Wednesday.

This echoes the 2007 land use plan recently released by the ministry.

According to the plan, the area of farmland that can be used for new construction projects should be roughly the same as last year. In 2006, new construction projects devoured 288,000 hectares of Chinese farmland.

The ministry requires local governments to stick to the annual plan to regulate land use and strictly control farmland transfers and land use for construction purposes.

Land that requires people for their livelihood should be guaranteed, and infrastructure construction projects for rural transport, water conservancy, compulsory education and medical care should be encouraged.

China has seen a continuous shrinkage in farmland. At the end of 2006, its arable land declined by 306,000 hectares to 121.8 million hectares from the year-earlier level of 122 million hectares. The nation has set a bottom line for arable land security at 120 million hectares.

In the latest move to protect farmland, China's top legislature on Tuesday began deliberating a draft law on urban and rural planning that will ban "vanity projects" or unnecessarily ostentatious real estate projects.

The 73-clause draft law said urban and rural development plans should be drawn up in line with the principles of conserving land resources, environmental protection, cultural heritage protection, disaster prevention and relief, public health and public security. A plan should be effective for around 20 years.

"Land resources have been wasted in rural areas as rural planning is quite inadequate and fails to meet the needs of farmers," said Minister of Construction Wang Guangtao.

"Some local governments have blindly pursued urban development without considering local environmental and economic capacity factors and have built too many 'vanity projects'," said Wang.

The draft law said a rural area development plan should define how land is allocated for residential purposes, roads, water supply and discharge, rubbish collection and livestock raising and take into account farmers' point of view.

The draft law said illegal buildings not included in city and countryside development plans must be torn down and individuals or organizations responsible will be fined up to 10 percent of the buildings' total value. If they refuse to tear down the unlawful buildings, the buildings will be confiscated.

(Xinhua News Agency April 26, 2007)

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