The Chinese environmental authority is to propose an action plan for prevention and treatment of soil pollution.
This follows publication of an air pollution control action plan in September 2013 and a water pollution control action plan in April.
Both of these set out achievement goals and key areas for action and the responsibilities of government, companies and society.
“We have submitted a draft of the (soil pollution) action plan to the State Council and we are waiting for approval,” Li Ganjie, vice-minister of environmental protection, said at a symposium in Beijing on July 11. The two-day symposium had the theme “2015 International Year of Soils”, declared by the 68th United Nations General Assembly to raise public awareness of soil protection.
Although Li said the timetable for publication of the latest action plan had not yet been decided, Fang Xin, deputy secretary of the Communist Party of China Leading Group of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the plan is likely to be announced later this year.
The symposium was hosted by Fang.
Fang’s words echoed an earlier statement by Liu Zhiquan, deputy director-general of the Department of Technology Standards at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, who said the plan would be published this year.
“Since implementation of the action plan for controlling air pollution, we have been seeing blue skies in Beijing more frequently, which gives our ministry great confidence,” Li said.
“Now water pollution is being taken care of step by step, and I hope the soil pollution action plan will be passed as soon as possible.”
According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, more than 16.7 percent of land and 19.4 percent of arable land in China is polluted.
“Although the percentages don’t appear to be so intimidating, the situation is grim now because with soil, unlike air and water, it is very difficult to remedy the situation once it is polluted. To date, there is no affordable way to restore most of the soil that is polluted,” Li said.
The key tasks facing the ministry in the next five years include controlling pollution of arable land and urban development land through detailed investigations and by setting up an effective system.
Zhang Taolin, vice-minister of agriculture, said: “China already struggles to feed 19 percent of the world’s population with only 8 percent of the arable land. What makes matters worse is that scarce arable land is under the threat of pollution.”
“We should protect our arable land just like protecting pandas,” he said.