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Illegal land use in cross hairs of new nationwide scheme
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08:11, February 02, 2008

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Inspectors will be stationed in every province of the country as part of a pilot scheme launched by the land ministry to curb illegal land acquisitions involving local authorities.

Gan Zangchun, deputy minister and deputy State land inspector-general of the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR), told a conference on Friday the inspectors will be dispatched nationwide.

Their project is part of the ministry's efforts to improve the land regulatory inspection system established last year, which consists of nine regional bureaus that answer directly to the MLR.

Dong Zuoji, head of the Chengdu bureau, said: "The introduction of the provincial inspectors will provide a more solid grounding for the regulatory system, with deeper inspections made in every province."

The nine regional bureaus, which are responsible for all land use within their jurisdictions, are in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Nanjing, Jinan, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu and Xi'an.

Although the new inspectors will be under the supervision of the regional bureaus, they will also have independence and be accountable for their own efficiency, Dong said.

Officials at Friday's conference said the regional inspection system has proved its effectiveness over the past year, as the number of land violation cases had declined significantly.

Zhang Naigui, the Shanghai bureau chief, said the number of cases reported in the first half of last year was down 60 percent on the same period in 2006. Almost no cases were reported in the second half of last year, he said.

Operating independently of provincial land and resources authorities, the regional inspection bureaus are mostly concerned with the protection of land and ensuring local policies and measures conform with national laws and regulations.

They can also press provincial authorities to rectify any wrongdoings.

If any cases of illegal land use are uncovered, the inspectors must immediately inform the local government concerned, and if the problems are not rectified, they must then report to the central authorities.

Dong said despite progress being made to curb illegal land use, unauthorized acquisitions still occur because "the demand for land amid industrialization is in sharp contrast to the scarcity of resources".

He said until there is a change of mindset among local leaders, many of whom view land as an exploitable resource to fuel economic growth, illegal acquisitions will continue.

A scientific model for development is needed and the taxation system, as it applies to land, should be amended, he said.

MLR figures show that since 1996, China's arable land bank has dwindled from 1.95 billion mu (130 million hectares) to 1.83 billion mu. The per capita figure is just 1.41 mu, or about a third of the global average.

"We must remain high-handed in supervising and curbing land violations by local governments to safeguard the bottom line of arable land," Gan said.

Source: China Daily

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