Report On the State of the Environment In China
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Arable Land/Land Resources

General Situation

According to the survey on land use changes, the total area of arable land that was being used was 123.3922 million hectares. The per capita arable land area had dropped from 0.098 hectare of last year to 0.095 hectare, which was less than half of the world average. China had 11.0816 million hectares of gardens, 223.9676 million hectares of forest land, 263.1118 million hectares of grassland, 25.5083 million hectares of other agricultural land, 25.3542 million hectares of residential land and independent industrial and mining land, 2.1452 million hectares of land for transportation use, and 3.5653 million hectares of land for water conservancy use. The rest land was not utilized.

In 2003, China lost 2.5374 million hectares of arable land. The main cause was the conversion of farmland to other uses for the purpose of ecological conservation. The total area of farmland converted to other uses was 2.2373 million hectares, among which 2.117 million hectares were converted to forest, 119,500 hectares were converted to grassland, and 900 hectares were converted to lakes. Agricultural structural adjustment led to a loss of 331,300 hectares of arable land, which was 62,700 hectares more than the previous year. Natural disasters destroyed 50,400 hectares of arable land, which was less than the historical average.

Use of Fertilizer and Pesticide: In 2003, China used 1.312 million tons of pesticide and 43.395 million tons of fertilizer (among which 21.573 million tons were nitrogen fertilizer, 7.122 million tons were phosphorus fertilizer, 4.225 million tons were potassium fertilizer, and 10.462 million tons were composite fertilizer).

Soil Erosion: The area of land affected by soil erosion was 3.56 million km2, which was 37.1% of China’s land territory. Among that, the land area affected by water erosion was1.65 million km2, which was 17.2% of China’s land territory; and the land area affected by wind erosion was 1.91 million km2, which was 19.9% of China’s total land territory. In terms of the intensity of soil erosion, light erosion affected 1.62 million km2, medium erosion affected 800,000 km2, serious erosion affected 430,000 km2, very serious erosion affected 330,000 km2, and extreme erosion affected 380,000 km2.

Countermeasures and Actions: 

The “farmland offsetting system” was being improved: 24 provinces had established various forms of responsibility systems in order to achieve the “farmland offsetting” objectives (i.e. farmland used for development purposes must be offset with the same amount of farmland converted from waste land or other uses). 26 provinces had linked farmland offsetting with land development or land treatment projects. 27 provinces had established land reserve base and 21 provinces had established farmland offsetting inventories. In general, farmland was not allowed to be converted to urban uses until the same amount of farmland had been converted from other uses. In assessing urban land use projects, “farmland offsetting” will be gradually taken into essential consideration. 310,800 hectares of farmland were treated and improved, or reclaimed from other uses, among which 64,400 hectares were farmland upgraded, 32,500 hectares were reclaimed from waste or deserted land, and 213,900 hectares were newly developed. The farmland added was 31,300 hectares more than the farmland converted by development or destroyed by natural disasters. In 26 provinces, the farmland added was more than the farmland converted by development.

The “Five Bans” for Capital Farmland: Non-agricultural development projects are banned from occupying capital farmland (unless the law permits otherwise); the area of capital farmland is banned from being reduced by violating the comprehensive land use plans in the name of “converting farmland to forests”; capital farmland is banned from being used for forestation and developing forest and fruit industries; capital farmland is banned from being used for aquatic culture and animal husbandry, or for other production activities that may damage the top soil; and, capital farmland is banned from being used for the construction of green corridors or greenbelts. 

Non-agricultural land use projects may not be approved under any of the six situations: if the land market management doesn’t meet required standard; if a record system has not been established as required for non-agricultural land use projects; if the urban growth scale has reached or exceeded the scale prescribed by the comprehensive land use plan, or the annual quota for non-agricultural land use has been used up; if there is still approved land left undeveloped; if the non-agricultural land use projects have not undergone prior examinations according to the relevant national regulations or standards; or, if the non-agricultural land use projects are not consistent with the relevant national policies.

Strict measures were taken to restore land market order: Various localities put moratorium on the approval of the establishment of new development zones or the expansion of existing development zones. There had been 6,015 development zones of various kinds in the country, but 3,763 of them were cancelled. 178,000 cases of illegal land use, among which 127,000 cases had been officially investigated and 124,000 cases had been concluded. RMB 1.22 billion were fined or appropriated from these cases, and 5,878.4 hectares of land were taken back. 925 people were given administrative and other kinds of penalties, and 132 people were being accused for criminal charges. 2,822 cases of illegal sales or renting of commercial land use rights were discovered and properly dealt with.

Treatment of Soil Erosion: In 2003, 166,000 km2 of eroded land were treated. Among it, 56,000 km2 were treated by comprehensive means, and 110,000 km2 were treated by closure for protection. 573,000 hectares of capital farmland were upgraded or constructed; 2.813 million hectares of water conservation forest, economic fruit forest, and water source conservation forest were constructed; 433,000 hectares of land was planted with grass and 1,560 sludge dams were established. 319,000 small-scale water conservancy projects such as water cellars or slope water systems were built; and more than 200,000 hectares of slope farmland were converted to farmland or forest. By the end of 2003, the area of eroded land under comprehensive treatment totaled 910,000 km2.

Mountain Closure for Protection Purposes: The governments of Beijing, Hebei, Shannxi, Qinghai, and Ningxia issued orders to close mountains and ban grazing. 894 counties in 25 provinces had implemented mountain closure and grazing ban. The land area covered was 520,000 km2.

Demonstration Projects on Conservation Agriculture: In 2003, 60 counties in 13 provinces and municipalities (including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, Shandong, Henan, Shannxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, and Xinjiang) implemented projects to disseminate tillage technologies that require little or no plowing or utilize crop stalks for land cover in dry farmland. 80,000 hectares of conservation agricultural land were newly added. 

Supervision and Management of Water Conservation for Construction Projects: In 2003, 22,000 development and construction projects incorporated the prevention and control of soil erosion into their implementation plan. 19,000 km2 of land was protected. 900 million tons of earth and sediments were blocked and protected. Large-scale forest belts were constructed in the neighboring areas of the construction projects. 

Freshwater Environment

Marine Environment

Atmospheric Environment

Acoustic Environment

Solid Wastes

Radioactive Environment

Arable Land / Land Resources



Climate and Natural Disasters

Environmental Management