China releases new action plan to tackle soil pollution

CCTV News

A farmer leans on his shovel as he takes a break from turning soil to plant crops with the chimneys from the huge state-owned lead smelter visible behind him in the town of Tianying, Anhui Province, in this file photo dated November 19, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray A farmer leans on his shovel as he takes a break from turning soil to plant crops with the chimneys from the huge state-owned lead smelter visible behind him in the town of Tianying, Anhui Province, in this file photo dated November 19, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray

China aims to curb worsening soil pollution by 2020 and stabilize and improve soil quality by 2030, the cabinet said in an action plan published on Tuesday.

The central government will set up a special fund to tackle soil pollution, as well as a separate fund to help upgrade technology and equipment in the heavy metal sector, the cabinet said in a statement on its website.

The government will also continue to eliminate outdated heavy metal capacity, the cabinet said.

Last year, the environment minister published a survey said 16 percent of China’s soil exceeded state pollution limits. Treatment costs for heavy metal or chemical contamination are high, and China has struggled to attract private funds for soil remediation. The survey, conducted between 2005-2013, found that 16.1 percent of China’s soil and 19.4 percent of its arable land showed contamination. The report named cadmium, nickel, and arsenic, as top pollutants.

According to Reuters calculations, the cost of making all of China’s contaminated land fit for crops or livestock would be around 5 trillion yuan ($760 billion), based on average industry estimates of the cost of treating one hectare.

Analysts have estimated the soil remediation market could be worth as much as 1 trillion yuan ($152 billion), but authorities have struggled to determine who should pay for rehabilitating contaminated land. Much of the responsibility for the costs now lies with impoverished local governments.

Researchers with Guohai Securities said earlier this year that there are currently 100 key soil remediation projects under way in China with an estimated total cost of 500 billion yuan ($76 billion). With no natural profit motive to encourage private companies to get involved, the clean-up programs have relied mostly on government funding.

China’s five-year plan published in March said the country would give priority to cleaning up contaminated soil used in agriculture. It promised also to strengthen soil pollution monitoring systems and promote new clean-up technologies.

Lawmakers said during the annual session of parliament in March that the country would introduce legislation to help tackle soil pollution by next year.

Companies involved in the sector include Beijing Orient Landscape and Ecology, Tus-Sound Environmental Resources, Beijing Originwater Technology and Guangxi Bossco Environmental Protection Technology.

Story by Reuters with data from the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land and Resources.