China vows to root out soil pollution

Updated: 2016-03-18 08:07

By Zheng Jinran(China Daily)

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China vows to root out soil pollution

Bulldozers from a non-ferrous metal processing company spread waste residue across a mudflat in Wanwu township, Ningde, Fujian province. Last year, the mercury level in the mudflat's soil was 10 times higher than the national standard. Chen Jie/for China Daily

Threats posed by air and water pollution have often overshadowed the nation's contaminated farmland, but now the government has made the first moves to tackle a hidden killer. Zheng Jinran reports.

China has widened the scope of its anti-pollution efforts to include soil pollution for the first time.

A specific plan of action for the prevention and control of soil pollution will come into force during the period of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), and the nation's first specific national law on the control and prevention of soil pollution is being drafted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

China vows to root out soil pollution

"The draft will be submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for discussion in 2017, and placed on the legislative agenda," said Yuan Si, deputy director of the NPC's environmental protection and resources conservation committee, speaking at a media briefing about the legislation on March 10.

Although China already has legislation covering air and water pollution, there is no law to prevent soil pollution, let alone any comprehensive and practical legal specifications, he said.

The first national survey of soil quality, jointly conducted by the ministries of environmental protection and land and resources in April 2014, revealed the gravity of the situation.

Contaminants were discovered in more than 16 percent of soil samples collected across 6.3 million square kilometers of China's 9.6 million sqm, and farmland was found to have been hit particularly badly. The situation was far worse in the southern regions than in the north, and the levels contamination in major industrial zones, such as the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta and the Northeast of the country, were higher than the national average.

Soil pollution can affect food safety, people's standards of living and the country's sustainable development. That means legislative support, for regulations similar to the regulations already in place to control and reduce air and water pollution, is urgently needed, Yuan said.

Chen Jining, minister of environmental protection, said the legislative process will be backed up by the Action Plan on Soil Pollution Prevention and Control, a national campaign targeting soil pollution, which is expected to be launched this year.

Speaking at a March 11 media briefing to introduce new measures to control air, water and soil pollution, Chen said the program took longer than expected to prepare, partly because of poor basic information about soil pollution.

"But we have introduced pilot programs to control soil pollution and restore quality in 10 provinces, and improved the warning systems in regions badly affected by heavy-metal pollution," he said.

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