Illegal land use sinks iron project
People responsible for an iron project in East China's Jiangsu Province that is illegally using 436 hectares of land and loans of billions of yuan will be punished, say the country's top officials.
During a meeting in Beijing Wednesday, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, the State Council's executive decided to send a special group to investigate the construction of an iron project in the cities of Changzhou and Yangzhong.
The project, with an expected production capacity of 8.4 million tons and total investment of 10.6 billion yuan (US$1.27 billion), was initiated by Jiangsu Tieben Iron Co Ltd in 2002. It began construction in June 2003.
Investigation to date showed that the project illegally occupies 6,541 mu (436 hectares), and began construction without approval from the local environmental protection department.
Some forged documents were used to secure large loans while some local officials were found to have had a hand in the illegal actions, according to an investigation report.
Following Wednesday's meeting, the Jiangsu provincial and financial supervision departments were called on to severely punish any local government department, officials or financial institutions involved.
Meanwhile, judicial departments are investigating illegal and criminal activities by the Tieben Iron Company.
The move was intended to underscore the strict supervision over the land market to use land resources reasonably and protect shrinking farmland.
Considering the rapid loss of its farmland, the Chinese Government has vowed to strengthen efforts to crack down on crimes involving land and resources, including officials' profiteering from illegal land projects and illegal projects that reducing cropland.
In 2003, China's land acreage used for industrial development increased by 427,800 hectares, indicating a rise of 80,000 hectares over the annual average in the past six years.
Of the total, 229,133 hectares were farmland, a rise of 17 per cent over the previous year.
Meanwhile, statistics from the Ministry of Land and Resources show that in 2003 alone, China's farmland acreage decreased by 2. 67 million hectares to 123.4 million hectares.