Golf course or teeing ground?

09:08, May 21, 2010      

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Two golf courses covering nearly 66 hectares are being built on protected wetland in Yangzhou city of East China's Jiangsu province, despite the central government's ban on using land for golf courses.

An 18-hole golf course named Sun Island, located in Runyang Wetland Park of Guazhou town, will open on May 28, the 21st Century Business Herald reported on Thursday.

An official with the Yangzhou tourism bureau reportedly told local media that Sun Island is a standard golf course.

In nearby Puxi town, the 3-sq-km Donggao golf course is under construction in Donggao Wetland Park on the banks of the Yangtze River, the report said.

Local authorities claimed the two courses are only golf teeing grounds, the newspaper said.

However, the summary of investment projects in 2007 issued by the Yangzhou municipal government indicates that Donggao is a golf course rather than a teeing ground, according to the report.

The Ministry of Land and Resources banned land use for golf courses in 2004 due to the country's limited land resources. But the regulation doesn't set limits on golf teeing grounds, which are better known as "practice courses" in China.

The Yangtze River water resources committee under the Ministry of Water Resources has given a green light to the local government only for establishing wetland tourism and sports recreational projects in Donggao Wetland Park and, at the same time, prohibited any permanent buildings to be constructed on the wetland.

Officials at the information service department of the Yangzhou municipal government said they are not aware of this issue. And officials for the governments of Guazhou town and Puxi town were not available for comment on Thursday.

The city's economic development has boosted the demand for golf. According to statistics, more than 500 people frequently played golf in Yangzhou in 2008 and many more potential customers are in nearby cities like Nanjing and Zhenjiang.

Currently the city has a standard golf course and a four-hole course.

Developers want to construct golf courses for economic benefits and tax reduction.

As of Jan 1, the business tax rate for golf courses in Jiangsu province had been reduced to 10 percent after it had been 20 percent for 10 years.

"Golf courses usually attract the upper-class people, which most developers and governments consider to be a good way to improve their investment. In the meantime, golf courses also contribute to the increase of land prices in surrounding areas," said Professor Zeng Gang, dean of the School of Resources and Environment Science at East China Normal University.

Golf courses may negatively impact the land and water resources, because various chemical pesticides and fertilizers are used in their maintenance, Zeng said.

"The impact is especially severe on wetland, since controlling the water level of the groundwater may damage the wetland," he added.

On May 4, the Ministry of Land and Resources criticized the illegal use of land for golf courses in Anhui province, Zhejiang province and Inner Mongolia. Li Jianqin, head of the supervision bureau of the ministry, reaffirmed the state's policy towards golf courses has not changed and the builders of any illegal golf courses will be investigated and harshly punished.

Source: China Daily


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