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Farmland Across China At Risk From Pollution

Chinese authorities are currently undertaking their first-ever national survey of soil pollution.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) April 09, 2007
China's farmland is becoming increasingly polluted, with coal-dependent factories and polluted waterways causing billions of dollars in damages, state press reported Monday. Heavy metals contaminate 12 million tonnes of grains each year, leading to direct losses of more than 20 billion yuan (2.6 billion dollars), the China Daily said, citing the nation's environmental watchdog.

More than 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres), or 10 percent of China's farming land, has been ruined, the paper said, citing other reports in the state-run press.

China's coal industry, which supplies about 70 percent of the nation's energy needs, is having a major impact.

More than two billion tonnes of coal is burnt each year, discharging around 2,000 tonnes of mercury into the environment.

Much of the highly toxic heavy metal ultimately seeps into the soil, the paper said.

Vegetables and fruit have also been polluted by excessive amounts of nitrate reaching the ground, it added.

China's rapid economic expansion over the past few decades has come at huge environmental cost.

More than 70 percent of China's waterways and 90 percent of its underground water are contaminated by pollution, according to previously released government figures, but the impact on soil has never been measured.

To get an accurate picture, Chinese authorities are currently undertaking their first-ever national survey of soil pollution.

The survey, which is costing the central government one billion yuan is expected to be completed next year, according to the China Daily.

The newspaper warned that urgent measures are needed to address the problem.

"It takes a long time for pollutants to accumulate in soil to the point of causing real harm. And it will take even more time and be more costly to rid the soil of harmful elements," it said in an editorial.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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