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China urges further protection of arable land
Updated: 2004-03-23 15:10

China's central government pledged on Monday in an urgent circular to implement unswerving protection of the nation's rapidly decreasing basic cultivated land from conversion to non-agricultural purposes.

According to the circular issued by the State Council on Monday, all arable land should be absolutely protected from being converted to forests, fruit tree growing, fishery ponds or animal and fowl farm buildings, or being illegally reduced to roadside tree belts or forest belts in urban areas.

Efforts should be made to immediately rectify illegal conversion and the occupied basic arable land should be restored for farming purpose as soon as possible, it claimed.

Key state construction projects in accordance with laws are the only projects allowed land requisition after land use plans had been examined strictly and reported to the State Council.

In the future, the circular said, there would be no more new forests for which basic farmland could be seized, as in the past.

It orders that the width of roadside tree belts should be generally no more than five meters on each side, and for town roads no more than three meters.

It also prohibits any form of changing or readjusting the general planning of land in a bid to change the total amount or layout of basic arable land.

But the land restoring measures should not be harmful to farmers.

The circular requires all provincial-level governments to carry out an inspection of the protection situation of all basic arable land under their governance and report their results to the State Council.

It stresses that local management officials will also be hold liable together with those directly responsible for massive land losses.

The Ministry of Land and Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture are required to conduct a nationwide survey to find what the real land loss situation is and if the local governments have worked effectively, according to the circular.

Last year, China lost 2.53 million hectares of arable and, compared with 11.69-million-ha loss in the previous year, a loss rate as high as 50 percent, according to statistics provided by the Ministry of Land and Resources.

And this means China's arable land has been reduced to about 123 million hectares, or 12.8 percent of its total land area, according to the statistics.

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