In 2006, the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) disclosed an estimate that the amount of the nation’s grains polluted by heavy metal reached 12 million tons per year, with direct economic losses of more than 20 billion Chinese Yuan, threatening ecological environment, food security, public health, and development of sustainable agriculture. In 2009, a number of heavy metal pollution incidents shocked the country.
In its 12th Five Year Plan, the central government has acknowledged the need to better supervise and downsize the heavy metal producing industry sectors. However, it is not yet clear on how this is implemented on the local level.
In 2014, the MEP and the Ministry of Land and Resources reported that 19.4% of farming land is polluted, but countermeasures are already being taken. MEP is currently mapping out an anti-land pollution action plan and the government has given top priority to soil environment in its legislative efforts. The revision of the Environmental Protection Law is also seen as being central to curbing pollution.
Sino-German Environmental Partnership
On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the Sino-German Environmental Partnership project supports the EU-China Environmental Sustainability Programme (ESP) (2013-2016). The objective of the ESP is to support the Chinese authorities in their efforts to achieve environmental sustainability and meet the environmental targets of the 12th Five Year Plan, by reducing water and heavy metal pollution and implementing sustainable waste policies.
As a partner, GIZ supports the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office (FECO) of MEP in cooperation with other partners, namely the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) on heavy metal pollution and waste management related issues. The specific objective is to set up a policy support and networking mechanism to synthesize the results of eight pilot projects undertaken in the fields of water pollution prevention, waste management and heavy metal pollution of the ESP and ensure a further up-taking of results on national policy level.
GIZ provides technical inputs on heavy metal pollution and waste management related issues as well as expertise on results-based monitoring and dissemination strategies.
The objectives of the pilot projects in the area of heavy metal pollution supported by the ESP are as follows:
– Contribute to environmental sustainability through prevention and control of heavy metal pollution in China.
– Enhance the national and regional policy framework of heavy metal pollutant emission control of China.
– Effectively reduce heavy metal pollution so as to protect human health and environmental safety and improve sustainable development.
– Improve the current environmental emergency response systems (ERS) in China based on similar experiences in the EU with regard to emergencies involving heavy metals release from industry.