China Cleans Up Its Act: A Solution to Soil Pollution
Apr 07 2015
Talk of pollution in China conjures up images of thick smog concealing skylines and toxic material flowing freely into rivers, lakes and streams – but it is an entirely different type of pollution that is threatening the health of China’s citizens and prompting the government to take action.
The result of a five-year study revealed that 19.4% of China’s agricultural land is polluted with heavy metals, and these elements are working their way into the food supply. A more recent study from Changsha Shuguang Environmental Charity Development Center revealed that farmland in Hunan province was 200 times more polluted than Government-recommended levels, and Hunan is one of China’s primary rice producers.
The effects of eating food contaminated by heavy metals can be catastrophic to health, as the body isn’t able to eliminate the elements as it would with any other toxin, and it leads to a build-up in the organs. Extended exposure can lead to organ failure, weakening of the bones, and other health problems. The health impact on families in China is immeasurable, as many struggle to pay for medical care. The rapid industrialisation of China has brought manufacturing, infrastructure and urbanization, which has in turn created jobs and allowed citizens to prosper – but all of this comes at the expense of the health of the land, and the people.
First phase of new laws come into play
With China’s citizens becoming more vocal on climate and health issues, policy makers had no choice but to take an interest in environmentalism and take steps to reduce air, water and soil pollution. New laws are set to come into play this year to help combat soil pollution and protect the integrity of the food supply – and these are the first laws on their kind in China.
The ‘Soil Pollution Prevention and Remediation Action Plan’ aims to address five key tasks: “1) to give priority to protect arable lands, 2) pollution sources control, 3) risk management of contaminated sites, 4) pilot sites for soil remediation, and 5) to strengthen monitoring and management of the soil environment.” Another key aspect of the new legislation is increased transparency, as data on soil pollution had previously been closely guardian and classified as a state secret.
For more information on this topic and the different techniques involved, read: 5 Incredible Ways to Clean Soil.
Time to heal
This new legislation is the first step in allowing China’s agricultural land to heal, and while curbing pollution might prevent further damage, it will take time for the existing problems to be resolved. Speaking on the matter at a briefing for the National People’s Congress, spokeswomen Fu Ying said: “Though environmental protection laws are comprehensive, they aren’t enough.” This is a clear indication of China’s increased willingness to address the concerns, and is surely a step in the right direction for policy reform and environmentalism in China.
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