Minister warns of urgent need for land conservation

By Jin Zhu (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-09 07:51
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BEIJING - The national imbalance between land supply and demand for construction will increase over the next five years as China's industrialization and urbanization maintain rapid pace, Minister of Land and Resources Xu Shaoshi said.

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"The country's annual land supply for construction remained at about 4 billion square meters in the past five years, and this accounts for only 50 percent of annual demand," the minister said.

Xu published a signed article on China Land and Resources News on Monday, highlighting the need for China to increase its efforts to save resources during future development.

With a growing population, shortage of resources will be a long-term limitation for the country's economic and social development, the article said.

The per capita area of cultivated farmland in China is only 43 percent of the world average. Per capita fresh water and forestland are 25 percent and 14 percent of the world average, official figures showed.

Only about 20 percent of the country's total land area is suitable for living.

The country faces the major challenge of feeding one-fifth of the world's population on one-tenth of its arable land. And China's population is expected to peak at roughly 1.5 billion by 2030.

"The current extensive economic development has caused great consumption and wasteful use of resources," Xu said.

In 2008, rural residential area per capita reached 214 sq m, far exceeding the country's latest standard of 140 sq m, released in 2007.

Similarly low utilization of land also occurred in urban areas, such as in industrial and mining construction, the article said.

As well, decades of construction have caused great damage to the country's limited resources, Xu said, adding that nearly 17 percent of land has been polluted by heavy metals and 25 percent of surface water has been polluted.

"The government will implement a series of measures to control land use for urban expansion and encourage land conservation in future development," he said.

By 2015, the country's arable land will remain above 104 million hectares to ensure food safety, the ministry said on Dec 6.

Yan Jinming, a professor of land management at Renmin University of China, said at present most instances of wasteful use of land were caused by local governments, as they have not understood the importance of land conservation.

"For instance, many large squares and wide roads have been built in cities, which are beyond actual needs," he said.

"The central government needs to strengthen its supervision of land use and investigate officials for illegal use," he said.