Defending China's arable land area from further shrinking is a war that
cannot be lost, and it can be won with tactics, a senior official said
"The red line of 120 million hectares of arable land cannot be crossed,"
Minister of Land and Resources Xu Shaoshi said.
The central authorities have pegged 120 million hectares as the official
minimum of arable land deemed necessary to feed the country's population, and
pledged to implement the "most rigid" measures to protect the land.
At the end of last year, arable land was 121.8 million hectares compared with
122 million hectares in 2005.
"Admittedly, it's rather difficult to protect arable land while at the same
time ensuring (the supply of land for) development we must find a solution to
the conundrum as soon as possible. "
Xu, who assumed his post nearly three months ago, conceded that infractions
such as illegal land seizures and arbitrary changing of farmland zoning, had
made land protection all the more urgent.
In the first five months of this year alone, China logged at least 24,200
illegal land-use cases involving 14,700 hectares, only slightly lower than the
same period last year, Xu told a press conference held by the State Council
About 80 percent of all cases of illegal use of land involve houses built in
The remaining 20 percent pertain to local governments approving land use
against the law. But the latter cases account for 80 percent of all illegal
land, he said.
This was partly why the central government put into place a "State land
inspection system" last year, according to the ministry.
"The national interest comes above all else," Xu said. "We will allow no
leeway in our fight to guard the 120 million hectare red line, and we most
Part of the confidence comes from the fact that there is potential to make
more land available for cultivation and development, according to the minister.
China has about 260 million hectares of unused land which could be utilized,
he said, without giving details.
Another 13.3 million hectares that had been abandoned for various reasons can
also be reclaimed, he said.
Over the five years since 2000, China added an average of 285,300 hectares of
arable land each year through various means, Xu said.
"What is crucial is that construction should, as much as possible, not be on
farmland, and if it must, it should use as little land as possible."
(China Daily 07/13/2007 page1)