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Fight ongoing against random land uses
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-18 23:18

Instead of extravagant urban roads and squares, the Ministry of Construction Tuesday said more convenient sports facilities should be an integral part of cities and towns.

"The facilities are fundamental to build up bodies, improve quality of life and give people more leisure activities," vice-minister of construction Qiu Baoxing said during a State Council press conference held in Beijing.

Qiu said urban planning authorities should carefully consider the facilities, considering the central government's efforts to prevent seizures of farm land during the urbanization process.

But he stressed the State Council's determination to stop construction of extravagant urban roads and squares.

"During the construction of these (road and square) projects, other infrastructure is often demolished illegally and the workers undertaking the construction often do not get paid on time," Qiu said.

Since earlier this year, several cabinet departments have worked on a campaign to change this trend.

A nationwide audit has been conducted on wide road and square projects to check construction plans and on measures to ensure workers are paid on time.

The departments also capped the width of roads and the size of squares.

Experts say cities with more than 2 million people will be able to construct a public square of 5 hectares at most, while the sizes for small, medium and big cities are 1, 2 and 3 hectares.

Qiu said the majority of China's 660 cities and 2,200 county-level towns have or are planning to build wide roads and lavish squares.

"We have strict planning standards for various-scale cities but they have been ignored for long time," said Qiu.

One typical case occurred in Rongcheng, a county-level city in East China's Shandong Province, which has a huge square covering 10 hectares.

With China's rapid economic development, various economic development zones, real estate projects and urban projects are blossoming nationwide, Lin Yueqin, researcher with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told China Daily.

He said under the current land management system, local governments buy land from farmers or urban residents at very low prices. But some local governments then sell the land to real estate developers at much higher prices. "Money has pushed local governments to ignore planning standards," said Lin.

So far, nearly half of China's 6,000 economic zones are illegal.

The ministry has taken back the land used by more than 2,600 such zones this year. Most of those are still unused.

Despite the overall belief that China's real estate sector is developing in a healthy fashion, Qiu's ministry has decided to set up a nationwide information and warning network to prevent overheating in the housing industry within two years.

The warning system has already been put into operation in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province, where most house prices have exceeded 3,000 yuan (US$361) per square metre.

Qiu said: "The building of the warning network is one of the planned measures to oversee the real estate industry, which has gradually become market-oriented."

The national system will be based on data from various city-level systems and cover 35 major cities across the nation, including Hangzhou.

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