CRI在线收听:Golf Courses Grow in Defiance of Govt. Ban

Ever since golf was introduced to the general public in China in 1984, the game has become increasingly popular among the country's rapidly growing population of wealthy people.

The booming golfing industry has defiantly challenged the government moratorium.

Official statistics show that 430 new courses have been built in the past eight years despite a government ban that attempts to protect the environment.

Ma Jun is an environmentalist at the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, an NGO based in Beijing.

"In the northern parts of China, some golf courses operate by exploiting underground water. Some are even using deep underground water, which can never be replenished. This causes massive ecological damage."

The huge amount of chemical fertilizer used to keep the courses green is also a threat to nearby ecological systems.

The growing drive to play the game also puts huge pressure on land availability.

According to China's land watchdog, the construction of golf courses is one of the most prominent ways that land is used illegally. Of 18,500 hectares of land illegally used during the first half of last year, 6,000 hectares were formerly arable land.

Official data also indicates that Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Shandong and Hainan are the top five golf destinations, containing 90 per cent of the country's golf courses.

However, according to the People's Daily newspaper, only about 10 of these courses have received all the necessary permissions.

Legal experts say most of these golf courses were developed under the disguise of being "eco-tourism projects" or "property development" to circumvent the ban. Some courses are euphemistically called sports or leisure clubs.

Li Jianqin, an official with the Ministry of Land and Resources, says local governments are to blame because of their tacit encouragement for such projects.

"Golf courses are often built to support high-end residential communities. Some local governments think such projects will help push urbanization forward and boost tourism. Besides, local governments and enterprises have deliberately misinterpreted the policies, thus building the courses illegally."

Li Jianqian says the development of golf industry is often seen as a way to push up GDP, which constitutes a crucial part in the current assessment system for Chinese officials.

Some analysts say this should be changed to correct the present rampant construction of golf courses.

For CRI, I'm Wu Jia.