China says thousands of businesses risk contaminating soil

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China’s top environmental authority has said more than two-thirds of companies on the government’s pollution watch list are at risk of contaminating the country’s soil, state media Caixin reported on Monday.

About 70% of the 15,000 companies are either not equipped enough to prevent toxic chemicals from seeping into the ground or not doing enough to prevent them, Caixin reported, citing the Ministry of Ecology and Environment . The ministry last year conducted a national review of the risks of soil pollution from industrial sectors.

Su Kejing, soil ecology officer at the ministry, said many companies were not fully aware of their environmental obligations and local governments are now overseeing remedial measures for the companies in question.

Rapid urbanization with limited environmental liability has left a legacy of contamination in China over the past decades.

An estimated 12 million tons of the country’s annual production is polluted with heavy metals in the soil, mostly with residues from industrial runoff and animal feed, according to research by the Chinese Academy of Engineering in 2020. Pollution is worse in southern China than in the north, especially in the rice fields of central Hunan province, eastern Jiangxi province and southern Guangdong province.

China launched an action plan in 2016 to tackle soil pollution, pledging to clean up 90% of polluted land by 2020. In 2018, the country also passed a law on soil pollution, with the Ministry of Ecology and Environment as the soil monitoring authority. decontamination efforts.

The law required local governments to regularly publish a list of polluting companies that are required to self-monitor and report their pollution data to authorities.

However, progress in soil decontamination has not been rapid enough to completely solve the problem. Last year, a study published by researchers at Zhejiang University found that the legacies of industrial activities – including those in southwest China, the Yangtze Delta and the Pearl River Delta – polluted the soil with heavy metals, including lead, cadmium and zinc. among others.

According to the study, children were particularly vulnerable to potential health risks associated with exposure to polluted soils.

In 2021, Chinese artist Nut Brother organized a series of performances in post-industrial regions of the country to document enduring environmental trauma and call for greater awareness of the issue.

Publisher: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: VCG)

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