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, China has 122.4443 million hectares in total area of arable land, 11.2878 million hectares of vegetable land, 235.047 million hectares of forests, 262.7068 million hectares grassland, 25.5327 million ha of other farm land, 25.7284 million hectares of residential area and factory and mining areas, 2.2332 million ha for transportation, 3.5895 million ha for water conservancy, others are unused land. Compared with that of 2003, arable land cut down by 0.77%, vegetable land area rose by 1.86%, forest land increased by 0.46%, grassland decreased by 0.15%, residential area and factory and mining areas increased by 1.48% and land for transportation use rose by 4.1%. 

The net loss of arable land across the country was 800,300 hectares, of which 145,100 hectares were used for construction; 63,300 hectares destroyed by disasters, 732,900 hectares were restored to their original landscape to conserve ecology, 204,700 hectares were lost due to agricultural restructuring and 345,600 hectares were added resulting from land rehabilitation. In addition, 147,700 hectares of land was found occupied by construction projects without reporting the change of land use during the streamlining of land market. 

Among the total area of "grain for green", 695,400 hectares of farmland were restored to forest, 37,200 hectares to grassland and 300 hectares to lakes. "Grain for green" is the prime reason for the net loss of arable land in China. 

The total area of farmland in mainland China decreased by 5.7% from 1997 to 2004, with a net loss of 7.467 million hectares during these 8 years. Among the total farmland, basic farmland took up only 100 million hectares or so and the average farmland per capita in China was only 0.1 hectare, even less than 50% of world average. 

Quality of Arable Land: The overall quality of existing arable land in China was relatively lower with such pre-eminent problems as unbalanced soil nutrient, low efficiency of fertilizer and environmental degradation. The following problems affected the quality of arable land. Firstly, farmland with medium and low productivity made up large proportion. Farmland with big and stable yield only accounted for 35% of the total. The rest (65%) was medium and low yield land subject to various restricting factors like drought, steep slope, barren, flood and salination. Among them, land with intermediate yield took up 37% whereas low-yield land accounted for 28%. Secondly, organic content in farmland was low with unbalanced soil nutrient. The average organic content of China's farmland was 1.8%. The organic content in such soil types as brown earth and cinnamon in Europe is twice higher than that of in China. The area of phosphorus-deficiency farmland accounted for 51% of the total (the content of effective phosphorus is less than 5mg/kg) and potassium-deficiency farmland took up 60% (the content of effective potassium is less than 50mg/kg). Thirdly, there were serious phenomena of "applying good farmland for other purpose but offsetting it with poor quality land". To be more specific, in some regions, the local authority only emphasized quantitative balance of farmland rather than quality balance when striving for the balance between the development and compensation. As a result, the newly compensated farmland was often of low quality, further enlarging the proportion of middle-to-low yield farmland. According to a survey in 15 provinces (cities), it would take 5-10 years of continual cultivation that the fertility of such new arable land might be compared with that of the existing farmland. Fourthly, exacerbated soil acidification brought about severe land degradation. In 15 provinces in South China, the gleization area of paddy field increased by 10% compared with that in 1980s. Over 40% farmland suffered from degradation due to soil erosion, leanness, secondary salination, gleization and soil acidification. 

Use of Fertilizer and Pesticides: The amount of pesticides and fertilizer applied in 2004 was 1.32 million tons and 44.12 million tons respectively. Fertilizer application was not in good proportion. The ratio of applied nitrogen to phosphor to potassium was 1 : 0.39 : 0.22, while the world average was 1 : 0.6 : 0.4. The amount of organic fertilizer applied only accounted for 25% of the total whereas the rational proportion stood at 40%. The area of farmland having applied with trace element fertilizer just took up 15% of the total. 

Soil Erosion: According to the findings of No.2 National Remote-sensing Survey, the area of land affected by soil erosion in mainland China was 3.56 million km2, accounting for 37.1% of the total. Among them, 1.65 million km2 was affected by water erosion and 1.91 km2 by wind erosion. Soil erosion spread everywhere in mainland China. It occurred in almost each province, autonomous region and municipality at different degrees, not only in mountainous areas, hilly land, windy and dusty regions, but also in plains and coastal areas. At the brim or slope of waterways, canals and seacoast areas, erosion was especially widespread. It was not uncommon in countryside, cities, development zones, transportation and mining zones. 

Countermeasures and Actions

【Balance between the Development and Offsetting of Farmland】 An balance was achieved in the overall amount of the farmland used for various construction and the making-up area that often resulted from waste or rehabilitated land. In the 30 provinces (autonomous regions or municipalities), the amount of compensated farmland was bigger than the area converted to development purposes. 

【Development and Treatment of Land】 There were 775 new projects on the development and treatment of land resources invested by the state with an area of 615,100 hectares. Among them, 514,500 hectares were under proper treatment, accounting for 83%; 40,500 hectares had been rehabilitated, accounting for 7% and 60,100 hectares were under development, taking up 10%. The newly added farmland totaled 149,000 hectares in 2004. 

【Implement the strictest farmland protection system and reform the land requisition system】 The authority carried out serious inspection on the protection of basic farmland and strictly checks on the reporting and approval of any new development projects that would use farmland. It had conducted examinations on the balance between the area of farmland for development and the compensated area and cleared up the compensation fee for farmland. The principle of "Four Musts" should be followed in the management of land requisition, i.e. planning must be executed, farmers' opinion must be fully considered, development project shall not be allowed unless the full amount of compensation and resettlement fees are in place and the land requisition procedures, compensation standards and land-use information must be made open. In addition, the authority had promoted the reform on land requisition system and improved the compensation and resettlement system as well as met the requirement of the State Council that part of the proceeds from land transfer should be appropriated for the development of farmland. As a result, all local governments had strengthened the streamlining of land development and treatment projects. 

【Control and Streamlining Land Market】 The authority had met the requirements of the State Council for the continuous provisional cease of the review and approval of the projects using farmland, provisional ceasing the amendment of various land plans concerning the adjustment of basic farmland and provisional ceasing of the amendment of overall land-use plan of county cities (districts) and townships. It had placed strict control and stopped the provision of land for such projects inconsistent with national industrial policies or market accession qualifications including steel, cement and electrolytic aluminum projects and golf course or luxury villas project. In addition, it had actively conducted the examination, review and approval of land-use applications for key and urgent infrastructure projects in energy, transportation, water conservancy and city planning and important projects on in the field of education, health and national defense. A basic quarterly reporting system on dynamic monitoring of land market had been basically established across the country. 

【Rectification of Development Zones】 After review, the authority had reduced 4,813 various development zones, accounting for 70% of the total. In the order of 2.49 million hectares of planed area were taken away from the development list, taking up 65% of the total planning area. 261,700 hectares of farmland for proposed development were returned to farmers. 52 national economic and technological development zones were made public with resumed land supply after they had passed the joint review by five ministries. There were 43 national export processing zones, bonded areas and trans-boundary industrial zones having been approved by the authority. Related government departments had investigated 81,962 new projects covering a land area of 792,600 hectares. Among them, 7,184 projects were involved in illegal land use, involving 36,500 hectares of land. It took such measures as ceasing land use application procedures, suspending follow-up land supply, ceasing issuance of land license and withdrawing the land to 7,077 projects, which were suspended or required to be rectified and reformed within certain period of time or cancelled authorization. During this investigation, 12.329 billion yuan RMN was found unpaid as fees for compensated use of land by new construction projects and 3.7 billion yuan has been recovered and turned over to the state. Moreover, 17.546 billion yuan of compensation fee for land requisition defaulted since 1999 was paid to farmers. 

【Control of Water and Soil Erosion】 In 2004, altogether 162,800 km2 eroded land were treated comprehensively, among them, 110,000 km2 were treated by closure for protection; 520,000 hectares of slope farmland, low land and flood plain were improved; 3 million hectares of forest and grassland for water and soil conservation were built and 274,000 small-scale water conservancy projects were built. Over 1,800 silt embankments were newly built in loess plateau. 

The efforts of ecological restoration for water and soil conservation were exerted in larger scope. On the basis of 106 pilot counties of ecological restoration, another 49 counties were added as pilot counties to restore the ecology of the Yangtze River and the Yellow River basins in 2004. Water and soil conservation projects had been conducted on more than 7,000 km highway and over 10,000 km railway across China, which have effectively controlled soil erosion caused by development projects and realized green and beautiful landscape. China formally initiated the First Phase Development Project of National Monitoring Network and Information System for Water and Soil Conservation. 

【Development of Key Water and Soil Conservation Projects in Seven River Basins including the Yangtze River and the Yellow River】 In 2004, the authority had conducted targeted control for water and soil erosion in such regions as the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, the middle reaches of the Yellow River, the dark land in Northeast China and karst area in the upper reaches of the Pearl River ranging from Yunnan and Guizhou, Sichuan, Chongqing, Hubei, Shaanxi, Gansu, Hunan, Jiangxi, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Qinghai, Henan, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, to Guangxi and Hebei. As a result, a total of 17,100 km2 land had finished the control of water and soil erosion in areas seriously affected. 

Fresh Water Environment

Marine Environment

Atmospheric Environment


Solid Wastes


Arable Land / Land Resources




Climate and Natural Disasters

Environmental Management