Woodland plans halted over fears of land shortage | Shanghai Daily

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Woodland plans halted over fears of land shortage

CHINA has halted a program of letting marginal farmland return to woodland because of fears that the country's arable land area could fall below a "red line" needed to feed its people, a vice minister said yesterday.

Lu Xinshe, deputy head of the Ministry of Land and Resources, said China was losing too many fields to industrialization to allow any more land to be returned to its natural state.

"To protect our 'red line' of 1.8 billion mu (120 million hectares) of arable land we will not plan any new large-scale projects to return farmland to its natural state, beyond those that have already been planned," he said in Beijing.

Self-sufficiency in grain has been a priority in China for decades, and sometimes led to farming on marginal land that might be better suited for growing other crops or grazing livestock.

The policy was revised as in some areas it contributed to rising environmental problems such as sandstorms and drought.

But the impact of industrialization on a country with already low farmland per capita means the government will not be backing further away from intrusive farming practices.

China is already edging dangerously close to its "red line" of 1.8 billion mu of arable land, with just 1.826 billion mu available at the end of last year, Liu told a news conference.

"If we just look at the overall data, it is unimaginable that China could hold the 1.8 billion mu red line, as China is still in the period of fast industrialization and urbanization, and taking over some arable land is inevitable," Lu said.

Every plot of arable land taken up for housing or industrial projects is supposed to be replaced by an equivalent parcel of land freed up by consolidation of smaller plots or takeover of former industrial housing.

"Every year around 4 million mu of land is added," Lu said.

But as legal compensation for expropriated cropland is much lower than the price the land fetches for industrial or residential use, there are many incentives for officials to rezone or simply seize land.

Lu said senior officials would be punished when illegal occupation of arable land accounted for over 15 percent of total land seizures.




 

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