07/25/2006, 00.00
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Beijing: office set up to stop industrialization rampant in rural areas

The State Council has approved the setting up of an inspection team of 360 members to monitor rural land and to prevent its conversion for industrial uses. In early 2006, more than 12,000 hectares of cultivated land disappeared.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – The Chinese government has approved the setting up of an inspection team of 360 members to monitor rural land conversion in a bid to counteract estimates that another 15 million farmers could lose their land by 2010.

The group will be headed by the minister of land and resources, who will appoint a deputy chief inspector of vice-ministerial rank to co-ordinate and supervise nine land inspection bureaus to be established in Beijing, Shenyang, Shanghai, Nanjing, Jinan, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu and Xian.

The inspectors will be regularly rotated to different areas in a bid to avoid corruption or improper land seizures.

Each bureau would be assigned responsibility for three to four provinces or municipalities, and would monitor government acquisitions and use of rural land. The formation and competencies of the group were decided by the Council of State, which gave details in a circular published yesterday.

The key responsibilities of the bureaus will be to identify illegal conversion of rural land to non-agricultural use: the onus will be local governments to maintain an appropriate level of farmland according to the targets set by Beijing.

At the moment, provincial or municipal government approval is required to convert rural land to non-agricultural use, while approval from the State Council is required for conversion of basic farmland for other uses. Zhang Xinbao, director of the law enforcement and supervision bureau with the Ministry of Land and Resources, said 12,241.7 hectares of rural land was illegally converted to non-agricultural use in the first five months of this year, 20% more than in the same period last year.

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