More strict soil pollution prevention measures are about to become a major part of the PRC’s environmental policies. According to a national soil survey from 2014, 16.1% of the land is polluted. With 19.4%, the figure of contaminated farm land is even higher. China’s soil is mainly polluted by heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, mercury and cooper which are leached out of open mines, industries and agriculture activities (e.g. use of fertilizer). Despite the importance of soil pollution, China’s challenging soil conditions have not led, in contrast to air and water pollution, to any major popular outrage. The health and environment related consequences of soil contamination are not as visible as air and water pollution.
Two new sets of soil pollution standards were released by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment in January 2015 and 2018 in order to enhance the national standards for soil pollution and remediation. The Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping is willing to face this challenge and prioritizes soil pollution prevention in its 13th Five-Year-Plan (2016-2020).
Comparatively speaking, soil environmental management in China is still in its infant period, and legislation, standards and industry regulatory system are yet to be improved, with more studies and international experience to be made and drawn on.
Sino-German Environmental Partnership
On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) the Sino-German Environmental Partnership project supports the Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) and CCICED in their endeavors to implement methods to prevent soil pollution in the upcoming 14th Five-Year-Plan more efficiently, respectively, to reduce the harmful effects of heavy metal pollution soil and water quality. Concrete activities include among other things:
Providing additional international expertise to the CCICED Special Policy Study on Legislation/Regulations and Incentive Mechanisms for Soil Environmental Management in China. Furthermore, experts from MEE and related institutions are advised on European and German experiences, including:
- EU’s Towards a Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection, Soil Framework Directive and Industrial Emissions Directive (IED)
- Soil Pollution Prevention and Control; expert exchange on Soil standards, National Soil Survey recommendations
- Remediation technologies and case studies
- Cooperation between the Soil Protection Authority and the responsible parties (polluter, ground owner)
- Establishment of an inventory and its importance for the planning procedures and urban development