China sets deadline for regulating excessive development zones
China has set a deadline, March 25, for provincial governments to finish regulating excessive industrial or economic development zones across the country, according to a circular issued by the Ministry of Land and Resources.
All provincial governments should end the checkup on industrial or development zones at all levels and hand in the list of retained and rescinded zones to the ministry before March 25, the circular noted. The ministry will organize groups of experts to appraise and examine the real situation in compliance with the lists in late March.
The checkup on illegal use of land is amid the final stage. Before the checkup is over, regional governments should stop approving new development zone projects and freeze land-use applications in all development zones, except for totally legal ones, said the circular issued on February 18.
In recent years, a large number of local governments have abused land-use rights on the excuse of economic growth, which has negatively affected the security of agriculture and grain production.
Excessive industrial or development zones are believed to be the major form of illegal land use around China. Local governments are making enormous profits by buying land from farmers at low prices, and selling it to developers at much higher prices. Such profits have become a "secondary source of revenue" in some localities.
In 2003, the central government beefed up its efforts to enforce the rules and regulations governing the land market, and has put a halt to the trend of abuse of land requisitioning in economic development zones.
According to the circular, issued jointly by four central departments last year, all industrial or development zones approved at the county level or below should be rescinded, and may not be combined with other authorized zones. Provincial governments should publicize concrete, detailed information on the canceled or downsized development zones after serious, meticulous checks have been made.
"To date, 2,046 out of the 5,658 economic development zones or industrial parks nationwide have been rescinded or merged with others," said Wang Shiyuan, a spokesman for the ministry, at a press conference last November.
Although many substantial efforts have been taken to curb the excessive and wasteful use of arable land since 2003, there are still some illegal practices engaged in by local governments. Many regional governments simply reduce the number of development zones while still maintaining the illegally occupied farm land and former administrations.
The latest circular orders the local governments to downsize the areas for development zones and trim the number of zones.
Any industrial or development zone not up to the regulation will not pass examination the ministry, the circular warns.