More than 120 hectares of primary farmland were destroyed in a case of illegal occupation of arable land exposed recently in Northwest China's Gansu province, China Real Estate News reported on Wednesday.
According to the report, the arable farmlands were acquired from local farmers by the Gaolan county government for the purpose of "highway reconstruction".
In July 2013, the county government signed agreements with Gansu Zheyunhai Investment and Development Co Ltd to rearrange and reclaim a total of 1,700 hectares of land in the Shuifu township for a highway reconstruction project.
According to the report, the Zheyunhai Company has neither qualifications for land development nor qualifications for road construction.
The local land resource authority said they have received no approval application for the project.
Local authorities of agriculture and animal husbandry said they have never approved the project and ordered the developer to halt the project, but did not succeed.
A resident, surnamed Wang, in Zhuangziping village said he had 0.27 hectares of farmlands expropriated for the development project. He complained some water canals in the village were destroyed, leading to a reduction in crop yield.
An insider, who prefers to be unidentified, was quoted as saying the county, located on a hilly area with scarce land resources, levels barren mountains and occupies grasslands and arable land to attract businesses and investments, profiting from rearranged and developed lands.
The development project halted in October 2014 due to a lack of funds and tighter restrictions on development of unused State-owned land. More than 600 hectares of land have been rearranged and developed since the project started in 2013.
In February, the Gaolan county government signed a settlement agreement with the Zheyunhai Company and terminated the previous agreements.
The former Ministry of Land and Resources released a circular on Feb 26, setting a target of preserving at least 100 million hectares of permanent basic arable land by 2020. According to the circular, permanent basic farmlands are strictly prohibited from being used for other purposes.
China has a limited amount of arable land. By the end of 2015, every Chinese had 0.1 hectare of farmland on average, compared with the 0.19 hectare world average according to data from the World Bank.