China's top natural resources authority released a notice recently banning lower-level governments from improperly labeling arable land just to make their records look good.
Through 2035, the country aims to maintain 124 million hectares of arable land to guarantee its food security, according to the central government.
The campaign protecting arable land strictly controls the usage of such land for forestry, grassland and construction purposes, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources.
However, some local governments have forcibly uprooted trees and filled aquaculture ponds to create more arable land during peak growing and harvesting seasons. The ministry banned such behaviors in a notice released on June 14.
The move prohibits natural resources departments from adopting one-size-fits-all approaches to pursuing favorable data in their arable land coverage reports amid the national campaign.
"Pursuing a balance in the arable land sheet at the expense of the quality of the land will result in the loss of arable land," the notice said.
The ministry has urged departments to prohibit developing agricultural land on steep slopes that do not take into account the conditions of agricultural production and the environment.
It prohibits the cultivation of arable land on slopes above 15 degrees in important water source areas and steep slopes above 25 degrees.
The notice forbids the cultivation of arable land in areas of desertification or with serious soil erosion, fragile ecology, severe pollution or any other conditions that would make it difficult to restore.
Areas irrigated mainly by groundwater should not be developed with water logging projects.
Occupying plains with construction projects and supplementing mountainous areas as arable land are also banned.
The campaign requires protecting the red lines of arable land, and cracking down on the illegal occupation of it and on damage to the environment. Strict control of new urban construction is also required.
According to the national land survey, China lost 7.5 million hectares of arable land between 2009 and 2019.
The country has been taking measures to avoid such losses. As a result, from 2012 to 2021, China achieved a reduction of about 41 percent in the use of land for construction per unit of GDP, the ministry said.