LUPIS - Application case in China

An illustrative application case in China has been studied in the frame of the LUPIS project. The case study coped with water pollution in Taihu Basin (Taihu Basin covers three provinces and Shangai city: it is an agriculturally productive and economically important region in China).

To address this issue, the integrated approach developed within the case study was based on Land Use Functions (LUFs). LUFs consist of economic, environmental and social indicators that are relevant for stakeholders. Impacts on LUFs are determined alongside these stakeholders on a multi-criteria analysis (MCA) basis in order to define alternative land use policies.

The assessment process is broken down into three main phases that are:

  • the definition of the problem and the development of scenarios: LUFs are connected to relevant indicators in this step;
  • the assessment of the impacts of policies, which is based on computer-based models. Stakeholders are consulted to provide expert knowledge on driver-impact relationships and changes in indicators according to the scenarios; and
  • the assessment of the options in terms of contribution towards sustainable development, using multi-criteria analysis.

It is assumed that performing this impact assessment is an iterative process that requires refinement along the analysis. 

As far as water pollution in Taihu Basin is concerned, the land use problem has been identified to come from agricultural sources in the first phase. Nine Land Use Functions (LUFs), three per dimension (i.e. economic, environmental, social), were determined. These functions stood for the most relevant sustainability issues and were defined as goods and services towards the functionality of the land.

LUFs related to the economic dimension were:

  • land-bases production,
  • economic production, and
  • industry & services.

LUFs dealing with the environmental dimension consisted of:

  • abiotic resources,
  • biotic resources, and
  • ecosystem processes.

LUFs linked to the social dimension were:

  • provision of work / livelihood,
  • human health, and
  • food security.

Every LUFs comprised several indicators. Human health contained “Biocide Index”, Food security was connected to “rice yield”, Food security was linked to “Nitrogen input”, etc.
In addition, institutional dimension was taken into account by defining indicators such as legal enforcement for instance.
Three policy options were then defined. These policies dealt with (i) the use of local fertilizers, (ii) mechanical transplanting and (iii) the conversion of arable land to trees in areas close to rivers and lake. The further comparison between these scenarios would be evaluated against a baseline scenario (i.e. “business as usual” scenario).

The second phase made use of computer-based models so as to calculate the various indicators. For example, a bio-economic farm model, based on the Farming Systems SIMulator (FSSIM) was used to assess the impact of policies on farm performance. As quantification of agro-agricultural relationships is required in such a model, the Technical Coefficient Generator developed for South-East Asia (TechnoGIN) was used to achieve this.

The third phase (post-modelling) was based on a multi-criteria analysis: changes in indicators related to LUFs were compared according to the different scenarios.

As a result, the creation of buffer zones has been found to be an effective policy. The analytical framework was applied in six other case studies with different land use problems (e.g. agrarian crisis leading to suicides in India, degradation and poverty in arid regions in Tunisia).


Methods and tools for integrated assessment of Land use policies on sustainable development in developing countries. Land Use Policy 28 (2011) 604-617.