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Farmland disappearing more slowly: Ministry
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08:34, February 27, 2009

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The rate of reduction of arable land in the country has slowed down considerably, signaling that the government's strict measures to save farmland is "working well", an official of the Ministry of Land and Resources said yesterday.

"China's arable land decreased by 19,400 hectares last year, which is just a fraction of the annual reduction over the past decade," Zhang Pu, deputy director of the law enforcement and supervision bureau of the ministry, said at a press conference in Beijing.

He added that the ministry will continue with its measures to safeguard some 120 million hectares of the country's farmland.

Between 1997 and 2007, the annual average area of reduced arable land was 755,000 hectares.

By the end of last year, the total arable land amounted to 121.7 million hectares, figures from satellite images covering 86 Chinese cities showed.

The central government has said that the nation's arable land bank must not fall below 120 million hectares.

"With satellite supervision of land misuse and strict land management measures, we made great achievements last year, with cases involving land misuse reducing by 37 percent and the area by nearly half," Zhang said.

Strict control of land use, reduction of arable land converted to forest, and the effective management of unused land helped slow down the speed at which arable land was decreasing, said Wen Mingju, deputy director of the ministry's land ownership administration.

More than 60,000 cases, involving illegal land use totaling 47,000 hectares, of which 17,600 hectares is arable, were recorded last year, statistics showed.

The authorities also demolished illegal structures spread out on 26.5 million sq m of land, and meted out more than 2 billion yuan of fines, the ministry said.

"Illegal land use has been under control, but a sharp conflict between land supply and demand still exists due to the increasing demand of land triggered by the government's 4-trillion-yuan ($580 million) stimulus package," Zhang said.

"Besides the stringent land protection policy, satellite-imaging efforts to detect illegal land use will also be doubled to cover 172 cities this year," he said.

The ministry will also strengthen cooperation with other government departments to ensure the quality and quantity of arable land, Zhang said.

Source: China Daily

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