Action plan targets soil pollution

Third in series of initiatives would arrest worsening situation by 2020

China released its third national action plan to curb pollution on Tuesday, this time targeting soil deterioration.

The government said it will arrest the worsening problem by 2020, and then make improvements to polluted soil by 2030.

The first two action plans focused on air pollution (2013) and water pollution (2015).

The new action plan requires that 90 percent of contaminated farmland be made safe by 2020, with an increase to 95 percent by 2030.

On Tuesday, the State Council released the Action Plan on Prevention and Control of Soil Pollution-10 chapters with 231 detailed measures dealing with monitoring, pollution prevention and remediation to be used in drafting laws and regulations.

As with the requirements laid down in the previous action plans against water and air pollution, the State Council specified which ministry should take the lead and which should participate in specific efforts on behalf of the nation's soil. It also set incremental deadlines.

China has seen soil quality deteriorate over a vast region, which has affected the human health, agricultural product safety and the environment, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Tuesday.

The first national survey on soil quality, released in 2014, showed the gravity of soil pollution. More than 16 percent of the samples taken nationwide were contaminated.

Moreover, contaminants were discovered in 19.4 percent of surveyed farmland, 10 percent of forests and 10.4 percent of grassland, it said.

China's battle against soil pollution has been difficult, hindered by such things as a lack of basic data and loose supervision, according to Wang Xiahui, director of Soil Environment Protection Center of the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, a high-level think tank for the ministry.

"Unlike the often visible pollution of the air or water-obvious smog or dirty streams, for example-soil pollution may not be easily detected without professional tests," Wang said.

Also, soil pollution is hard to reverse, as contaminants last longer than those in air and water. That means efforts to curb the problem can require more time and money.

The new action plan is carefully crafted with such factors in mind, the ministry said.

It is expected to take two years to map polluted farmland, and four years for major industrial land, to provide thorough data for the action plan.

In addition, the soil pollution control efforts in the action plan highlight protection-the prevention of pollution to uncontaminated land-and tackles the problem across large regions and in major industries.

Like the previous action plans, the national campaign is expected to control pollution efficiently and also fuel economic growth.

It is estimated the action plan could add 2.7 trillion yuan ($411 billion) to the nation's GDP and create around 2 million jobs, the ministry said.

 

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