China to survey soil pollution

CNC report from Beijing
Added On June 15, 2013

The Ministry of Land and Resources said on Wednesday that the government plans to conduct a nationwide soil pollution survey.

It comes after the food safety scandal involving cadmium-tainted rice in central China's Hunan Province.

In an attempt to uncover the extent of the damage to China's soil caused by rapid industrialisation...

The Ministry of Land and Resources says soil samples will be collected at multiple depths, to find both the natural condition of the soil... and the impact human activity has had on it.

Samples taken at both deep and shallow depths will reveal how chemicals have affected the soil.

Previous investigations suggest some regions are heavily polluted, particularly near the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

A recent food safety scandal involving cadmium-tainted rice has stirred public concerns over worsening soil pollution.

Tainted rice was found in Zhuzhou and Hengyang, two cities in central China's Hunan Province... As well as much of Guangdong province.

Experts believe soil in some rice-producing areas has been contaminated by heavy metals from industrial waste in soil and water: both Hengyang and Zhuzhou are industrial cities, along the Xiangjiang River.

But the exact cause is still unknown. Pesticides could also be to blame.

Now, finding the source of contamination and treating it is the only way to save Hunan's farmers.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) YANG ZIJIANG, Rice farmer in Hunan:
"We're seriously affected. We have also been fed by the rice. But now few people would buy our rice, so we don't know whether we should continue to grow rice the next year."

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said soil pollution data were a state secret.

It said soil pollution was being investigated, and that it couldn't release relevant data "for the time being".

The remarks have raised widespread public concerns.

The Ministry of Land and Resources didn't give a precise date for releasing the survey results.

But the new survey suggests increasing openness by the central government to address soil pollution.

The public has asked authorities to issue soil pollution data, as well as undertake tougher measures to stem industrial pollution in future.