Monday, November 21, 2016

Video Surveillance to Prevent Rural Land Grabs in Beijing

Beijing municipality is taking extreme measures to crack down on illegal conversion of land designated for agriculture, including the installation of video cameras to keep an eye on the land.

According to Beijing Evening News, the Beijing planning and land management commission has announced a multi-channel system for monitoring rural collective land use to prevent illegal construction on land designated for agricultural use. The channels include a telephone hot line, reporting violations to local or higher-level authorities, inspections by land management officials, inspection of satellite imagery, filing petitions, and a network of remote video surveillance. The video system, begun in June this year, reportedly covers 90 percent of Beijing municipality's cultivated land. The system is described as a "watching from heaven, inspections on the ground, online management" clue discovery system.

An explanation of the system posted by the Land Ministry in 2013 said wireless cameras connected to the "Internet of things" will have a surveillance radius of 1.5 km, allowing them to watch 7 square kilometers.
 Video surveillance of agricultural fields in Beijing.

In September 2015, a local land management official was interviewed about the rural land video surveillance system but he didn't provide any concrete details about how it would work. The main questions were about how officials planned to protect the privacy of individuals and what other methods were planned for reporting illegal land use.

Maintaining the agricultural land base at 1.8 billion mu (nearly 300 million acres) is one of the objectives set in China's 13th five-year plan for agriculture and the countryside. Local authorities are required to designated permanent agricultural land that cannot be converted to urban uses or roads. Converting such land is lucrative as cities spill out into the countryside. In Beijing, hundreds of villages are being swallowed by new housing estates, industrial parks, and shopping centers.

Beijing authorities also announced three typical cases of illegal land use to hold up as examples. Below are satellite images of each of the three villages where violations occurred.
The first was in Double Tree village of Chaoyang District where 12.4 mu (about 2 acres) of land was used to build unapproved office buildings and a warehouse. A penalty of 249,055.80 yuan ($40,000) was assessed in January 2016 and has been paid. The image of Double Tree village above shows new housing estates and industrial buildings adjacent to the village houses. A new subway line is under construction about a kilometer to the south. The green space appears to be covered mostly in trees with little or no agricultural fields. There is a livestock farm.
At Goose House Village in Beijing's Daxing District, a Mr. Li constructed an office building and other structures without approval on 9.63 mu (about 1.5 acres) of rented land. Mr. Li was fined 64,000 yuan (over $10,000). The image of Goose House village shows tightly-packed houses, industrial buildings, a steel market, a half-dozen supermarkets, a large parking lot, parks, but no significant farm land is visible.

An illegal building was constructed in Dagantang Village in Tongzhou District, but no details were provided. This village is in a more rural area and appears to be surrounded by farms, but the land appears to be mainly planted in horticultural crops and trees. There is little evidence of grain production around the village--the main purpose of the land protection system is to prevent grain production from falling.

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