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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: August 2009

18 - Environmental Law Reform to Control Land Degradation in the People's Republic of China: A View of the Legal Framework of the PRC–GEF Partnership Program

    • By Ian Hannam, Member IUCN Commission on Environmental Law; Chair IUCN CEL Specialist Working Goup on Sustainable Soil, Du Qun, Professor Research Institute of Environmental Law, Law School of Wuhan University, Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China; Member IUCN Commission on Environmental Law; Deputy Chair IUCN CEL Specialist Working Group on Sustainable Soil
  • Edited by Nathalie J. Chalifour, University of Ottawa, Patricia Kameri-Mbote, University of Nairobi, Lin Heng Lye, National University of Singapore, John R. Nolon, Pace University, New York
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • DOI:
  • pp 315-333



Land degradation in the People's Republic of China has accelerated over recent years for many reasons, including inappropriate land use practices and ineffective laws. Many land use initiatives in the past have not been well supported by legislation, resulting in severe environmental impacts in the dryland agricultural area of China. Land degradation now adversely affects around 40 percent of the area of China.


Land degradation is a broad term that includes degradation of land, water, and vegetation, as well as the processes of soil erosion and desertification; it is defined as the “overall reduction in the capability of land to produce benefits from a particular use under a specific form of land management.” The Convention to Combat Desertification defines land degradation as

the reduction or loss, in arid, semi-arid and dry subhumid areas, of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of rain-fed cropland, irrigated cropland, or range, pasture, forest and woodlands resulting from land uses or from a process or combination of processes, including processes arising from human activities and habitation patterns, such as: (i) soil erosion caused by wind and/or water; (ii) deterioration of the physical, chemical and biological or economic properties of soil; and (iii) long-term loss of natural vegetation.

Desertification is defined in the Convention as “land degradation in arid, semi and dry sub-humid humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.”

Land degradation has been accelerated by ineffective laws and inappropriate land use practices.