Wealthy gobble up swaths of countryside

08:23, July 16, 2010      

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Luxury villas and golf courses, the symbol of wealth in China, are rapidly devouring the country's shrinking arable land, authorities said on Thursday.

The total area of illegally used land, from January to June this year, reached 7,800 hectares, a year-on-year increase of 35.5 percent, Li Jianqin, head of the law enforcement and supervision department of the Ministry of Land and Resources, said at a press conference on Thursday.

The area of illegally used arable land in the same period, was 2,933 hectares, a year-on-year increase of 11.1 percent, Li added.

In the first half of the year, the national and local land watchdogs removed illegal buildings of more than 7.3 million square meters, and recovered 733 hectares, including 292 hectares of arable land, according to statistics from the ministry.

"The construction of water-wasting golf courses and luxury villas has been increasing recently," he said.

In 2004, the central government imposed a moratorium on the construction of golf courses and in the same year the building of luxury villas was also banned by the State Council, in a bid to protect the land resources.

Despite these measures the construction of luxury villas and golf courses persists.

From 2004 to 2006, four plantation projects were started in Yangsong town of Beijing, occupying more than 19 hectares of land. Developers constructed villas and apartments in the plantations with the permission of the local authorities.

Last year, the capital's land watchdog detected 38 similar cases and all the 2,635 buildings in 35 cases, covering 276,600 sq m, were demolished, Li said.

The arable land in the country has been decreasing about 267,000 hectares to 333,000 hectares each year, Han Changbin, the minister of agriculture, told Study Times, a daily newspaper published by the Party School of the Central Committee of Communist Party of China, on July 5.

"If no effective land protection measures are taken, the bottom line of 120 million hectares of arable land necessary to guarantee the nation's population will not be kept in the coming four or five years," Han warned.

Source:China Daily


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