Unbridled industrialization with almost no environmental regulation has resulted in the toxic contamination of one-fifth of China’s farmland, the Communist Party has acknowledged for the first time.
The report, issued by the ministries of Environmental Protection and Land Resources, says 19.4 percent of the country’s soil is polluted with toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel and arsenic. It was based on a soil survey of more than 2.4 million square miles of land across China, spanning a period from April 2005 until December. It excluded special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.
In a dire assessment, the report says: “The overall condition of the Chinese soil allows no optimism.”
The Associated Press writes that the report was “previously deemed so sensitive [that] it was classified as a state secret.” The official Xinhua news agency blames “Irrigation by polluted water, the improper use of fertilizers and pesticides and the development of livestock breeding cause pollution to farming land.”
Almost 70 percent of the samples taken for the survey turned out to be “lightly polluted,” i.e., twice the national standard for pollutants. About 7 percent were found to be “heavily polluted” with levels more than five times the national standard, according to The Guardian.
Most of the contaminated farm land is on the highly developed and industrialized east coast, but heavy metal pollution was especially bad in the country’s southwest, according to the Guardian.
The newspaper says:
According to the AP, the report “also points to health risks that, in the case of heavy metals, can take decades to emerge after the first exposure. Already, health advocates have identified several ‘cancer villages’ in China near factories suspected of polluting the environment where they say cancer rates are above the national average.”
As we’ve reported in the past, China’s air pollution has become a real health concern in major urban areas.