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March 11, 2016

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Soil pollution law on its way to reduce food safety risks

CHINA is aiming to pass its first soil pollution law next year, hoping to tackle a “serious” problem that lacks dedicated legislation, a senior Chinese official said yesterday.

The government declared war on pollution in 2014. After decades of pursuing growth at the expense of air, water and soil quality, pollution emerged as one of people’s top concerns.

It is under particular pressure to reduce the risk of contaminated crops entering the food chain, with farming on 3.3 million hectares across China already banned indefinitely.

There have been repeated food scandals, especially concerning rice and its contamination with heavy metals such as lead and cadmium.

“Looking at the results of soil pollution surveys from relevant departments of the State Council, our country’s soil pollution situation is generally speaking serious and it’s not easy to be optimistic. Some areas are seriously polluted,” said Yuan Si, deputy head of the National People’s Congress environmental protection and resources conservation committee.

The problem directly affects food and water safety and whether or not the country is able to develop in a sustainable way, Yuan told reporters on the sidelines of the NPC’s annual meeting in Beijing.

“The basis for our country’s soil pollution prevention work is weak,” he said.

“There are no specialised laws, meaning government bodies lack a legal basis for effective supervision, so it really needs legislation to resolve.”

China already has air and water pollution laws, but it is a “blank slate” for soil pollution, Yuan added.

The soil pollution law has been through 10 drafts already and will be submitted to the NPC’s Standing Committee next year to be put on the legislative agenda, he said.

Yuan said the law will stipulate the division of duties between government agencies, the establishment of a surveying and monitoring system, and increased funding.

He said his committee had been preparing for the law since 2013 after conducting surveys and holding meetings.

On Monday, Agriculture Minister Han Changfu said that about 1 percent of China’s polluted land was seriously polluted.


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