New national land plan seeks better use
China will finish a third revision of its overall land use plan before the end of 2006, Pan Wencan, director of the Planning Department of the Ministry of Land and Resources said Monday.
Although the revised plan will still maintain keeping arable land as a top priority, it will include beefed up efforts to ensure quality of such lands, instead of a simple emphasis on keeping areas within a pre-set range, Pan said.
China's total area of cultivated land has dropped to 123.5 million hectares at the end of last year from 130.1 million hectares in 1996. Its current per capita cultivated land reaches just 43 per cent of the world's average.
According to Pan, the cause of this new round of revisions, kicked off at the beginning of this year, is the existence of misappropriated lands and secret adjustments of local plans by local governments after previous revisions in 1980s and at the end of 1990s.
The State Council had endorsed all 112 regional land use programmes on the basis of the national plan in February 2001, signalling the start of their implementation. That put an end to many Chinese regions' using land without proper plans in place.
Although local governments' pursuit of short-term economic benefits is behind poor implementation of land use plans in most cases, Pan said the intrinsic defects of such plans cannot be overlooked.
Such plans are not good enough to help strike a balance between rapid economic development and sustainable land use, he said.
Different from how it handled previous revisions, the ministry is ready to turn an attentive ear to the suggestions of experts and the public this time.
More than 200 foreign and domestic experts started a three-day conference Monday to help the Chinese Government make "sustainable land use decisions in economically dynamic and densely populated areas.''
The ministry is willing to draw on related international experiences to better tackle the issue in its coming revision of land programmes at all levels, Lu Xinshe, vice-minister of land and resources.
Attending the conference are not only those from developed countries, including Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Australia, France, Canada and Britain, but those from such developing countries as India, Myanmar and Slovakia.
While the former group has ready knowledge to offer from their past direct experience and studies on land use processes in highly populated areas of rapidly developing economies, the latter group -- experiencing rapid development of national economies like China -- will help bring forth in-depth discussions from multi-perspectives.
Joerg Kretzschmar from Germany-based oiko-M, an environmental management, coaching and consulting firm, said integrated land use plans have come into effect across China, fulfilling a goal to help solve employment and housing problems and expanding infrastructure while protecting/restoring the environment for future generations.
But it is time for more creative solutions combining ecological, social and economic concerns, he said.
The current system focuses on spatial units and traditionally separates conflicting uses by sites, but it has become hard to implement in economic dynamic and highly populated areas, where land resources are becoming rare and expensive.
The conference is co-sponsored by the Ministry of Land and Resources, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany.