January 19, 2018 / 12:14 AM / a year ago

China to hold officials to account for protecting farmland

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China plans to hold government officials to account for the protection of farmland, part of its efforts to guarantee food production amid soaring levels of urbanization.

Local governments will be held fully responsible for retaining and protecting arable land under their jurisdiction, and for improving land quality, according to new guidelines issued by China’s cabinet, the State Council, on Thursday.

Central government funding for soil remediation projects will depend on how well a local government performs when it comes to protecting land, the guidelines published on China’s official government website said.

Protecting land will also become one of the criteria on which local officials are assessed, with failures likely to affect promotion prospects or even result in dismissal.

Food security has long been regarded as a key source of political legitimacy for the Chinese government, with the country having to feed nearly a quarter of the world’s population with just 7 percent of the world’s arable land.

But its farmland has come under increasing pressure due to soaring rates of urbanization and industrial development, which have encroached on traditional farming belts and left large stretches of territory unusable as a result of pollution.

The country’s environmental drive could also put more farmland out of reach, with the government committed to increasing forest coverage and establishing so-called “ecological red lines” that will make large swathes of territory off-limits to development.

Reporting by David Stanway; editing by Richard Pullin

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