Friday, 29 June 2012

The clean-up begins on China's dirty secret – soil pollution

The Guardian reports on how China is putting considerable effort into cleaning up its contaminated soils which threaten agriculture and which are likely to prove a bigger long-term problem than air and water pollution.   According to the newspaper, nowhere is the global push to restore degraded land likely to be more important, complex and expensive than in China, where vast swaths of the soil are contaminated by arsenic and heavy metals from mines and factories.

Zhou Jianmin, director of the China Soil Association, estimated that one-tenth of China's farmland was affected.  "The country, the government and the public should realise how serious the soil pollution is," he said.  "More areas are being affected, the degree of contamination is intensifying and the range of toxins is increasing."

The land – and food chain – are threatened by lead and heavy metals from factories and overuse of pesticides and fertilisers by farmers, with one recent report stating that pollution ruins almost 12bn kilograms of food production each year, causing economic losses of 20 billion yuan.

Huang Hongxiang, a researcher from the Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, warned earlier this year that China needed to widen its focus from production volumes.  "If we don't improve the quality of farmland, but only depend on increasing investment and improving technology, then – regardless of whatever super rice, super wheat and other super quality crops we come up with – it will be difficult to guarantee the sustainable development of our nation's agriculture."

Read the full report here.