Land contaminated by waste from factories in Lanzhou, Gansu province. (File photo/Xinhua)
The Chinese government has postponed the setting up of a national supervisory and management system for soil pollution prevention and control to 2020 from 2015, due to a failure to keep the soil pollution problem in check, Shanghai's First Financial Daily reports.
About 12 million tonnes of grain is contaminated by heavy metal in the country every year, causing direct economic losses exceeding 20 billion yuan (US$3.21 billion), according to a report by the country's environmental protection department.
On Jan. 28, the State Council published a notice on soil protection and related regulations which said that the government should assess the country's soil conditions by 2015 and prevent soil pollution from rising. This would help pave the way for the establishment of a national soil protection system and significantly improve the quality of the country's soil by 2020.
Related government agencies have differing views on the condition of China's soil.
Data from the Ministry of Environmental Protection indicated that the results of a soil pollution investigation conducted between 2006 and 2010 had revealed that the quality of soil in more developed regions of the country, including the southeastern Pearl River Delta, the Yangtze River Delta and the northern Bohai Rim, had deteriorated to different extents.
Soil pollution in some regions has become increasingly serious due to industrial waste, the use of various types of agricultural chemicals, the dissemination of pollutants from cities into rural areas and the accumulation of heavy metals and other pollutants.
The ministry's figures showed that harmful heavy metals were found in a random sample of soil from a 30-hectare farm protection zone. It was found that soil from a 3.6 hectare chunk of farm area in the zone, which is 12.1% of the total farmland, contained heavy metals in higher- than-permitted concentrations.
The investigation found that half of the arable farmland in southern China had been destroyed by toxic heavy metals and organic pollutants, while 10% of the soil in farmland in the Yangtze River Delta region had lost production capability due to heavy metal pollution.
The ministry said the metals causing water and soil pollution pose a serious threat to China's ecology, food safety, human health and the sustainable development of agriculture.
An expert said the country's soil contamination has been rising as a result of its rapid social and economic development and growing population.
The country's soil pollution is more serious than in many other countries and the accumulation in pollution levels is likely to continue during the next three decades, a soil expert said.
China's crop production fell by 10 billion catties (5.5 million tonnes) per year due to pesticide, chemical fertilizer and industrial pollution, an agricultural expert told the newspaper.