Ministry says land abuses to increase

Updated: 2011-04-13 16:19

By Jin Zhu (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The illegal use of land in China is likely to become more common this year since regional governments still encourage economic growth that relies heavily on the use of land for construction projects, the country's land watchdog and analysts said.

According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Land and Resources early this year, regional governments around the country plan to use 1.08 million hectares of land for the construction of roads, rails and similar projects in 2011.

That number greatly exceeds the 448,900 hectares of land that the State Council has said can be put to such purposes.

Of all the land wanted for construction projects, about 633,820 hectares have not been approved for such a use by the central government.

"(The land shortage) partly results from local governments' exaggerating their land needs, since officials have a great desire to invest in large construction projects," Dong Zuoji, director of the ministry's planning department told China Daily on Tuesday.

"They hope to show good progress in 2011, the first year of the country's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015)."

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Of the 1.08 million hectares sought for construction, Dong said he thinks 603,000 hectares to 737,000 hectares should actually go to that purpose.

He said the central government will guarantee that land will be supplied for the construction of subsidized apartments and other projects that are essential to people's livelihoods.

China's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) calls for the country's annual Gross Domestic Product to increase by 7 percent from 2011 to 2015. Premier Wen Jiabao has said the aim is to achieve a "high-quality and efficient annual growth rate".

But so far, most regional governments have set higher targets for GDP increases this year. The targets have been set at 11 percent in Liaoning province and at 12 percent in Heilongjiang province, official statistics showed.

Analysts said precious land resources may be lost to local government's ambitions to spur economic growth by relying heavily on construction projects.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Land and Resources, almost 9 million hectares in China had been destroyed by human deeds and natural disasters by 2009.

"At present, local governments undertake their city planning by themselves," Li Chang'an, a public policy professor at the Beijing-based University of International Business and Economics said on Tuesday.

"As a result, their land needs don't always coincide with the land use targets set by the central government. The central government needs to strengthen its supervision of local land use and hold top provincial leaders accountable for illegal land use."

From 1996 to 2008, China went from having 131 million hectares of agricultural land to having 122 million hectares, the ministry's statistics showed.



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