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Unified catalog outlines possible uses of land, sea areas

By Li Lei | China Daily | Updated: 2020-12-11 09:05
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A view of Fengjiajiang River in Beihai, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on Nov 25, 2020. [Photo/]

The Ministry of Natural Resources unveiled a catalog of possible uses of China's land and marine areas in an attempt to create a unified system to regulate human activities in places ranging from farmlands to natural reserves and fisheries.

Previously, the classification of land varied across regions and government departments. Authorities overseeing urban planning, land use and oceans all have their own criteria in deciding which land will be used to build homes, commercial complexes and ports.

Vice-Minister Zhuang Shaoqin compared the new classification to "Mandarin" in the land-regulation sector, underscoring the importance of nationwide standardization.

While speaking at a news conference on Thursday in Beijing, he said the new rules will help bridge regional and cross-departmental differences.

The unified system will erase boundaries between land areas and marine spaces, cities and countryside and underground facilities and above-ground structures, he added.

Zhang Bing, head of the ministry's territory spatial planning division, said they have worked to merge with some of the appellations used on land and at sea.

"Some of the uninhabited islands are usually developed alongside surrounding sea areas and used for similar purposes," he said.

"As a result, the new rules treat them as a whole and put them in the same category."

He added that the rules will be applied in a broad range of scenarios, such as in conducting national land surveys and seeking approvals for land use.

The document will function as an essential and basic technical guideline that helps regulators better manage, utilize and protect the nation's natural resources, he noted.

For the first time, the document has clarified the types of marine spaces, including for fishing, sailing, mining and national defense purposes.

Based on previous practices in naming marine territories, the new rules have created a framework to manage seas and islands with a unified criterion, said Gao Zhongwen, head of the ministry's sea and island management division.

It also created categories such as wetland, land for agricultural infrastructure and logistics storage.

Zhuang, the vice-minister, said the new arrangement helps prevent the use of farmland for nonagricultural purposes and serves the development of emerging sectors.

The document also allowed local authorities to designate land resources for undecided purposes, providing flexibility for future planning, he added.

The document is part of a broader effort by the newly formed ministry to exercise its duty to regulate natural resources and repair damaged environments.

The ministry, created in 2018 following a government reshuffle, has taken over some of the duties by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, the State Oceanic Administration and others.

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