Jun. 28, 2016
Chinese environmental protection experts called for more efforts to prevent and monitor soil pollution ahead of the 26th National Land Day that falls on Saturday this year.
Wang Xiahui, director of the soil environment protection center under the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said prevention is the strategy as treating soil contaminated with heavy metals and organic pollutants could be very costly.
The authorities should roll out tough restrictions on pollutants emitted by factories and mines and those who cause severe soil pollution should be shut down and fined, Wang said.
Wang also called for related government departments to beef up monitoring over soil pollution.
The environmental monitoring agencies in many cities and counties, however, are short of equipment and personnel and many new soil pollutants are not even on the radar, he said.
More accurate monitoring is needed to locate contaminated land and determine the severity and pollutant types, said Wang.
He also said the government should evaluate the related risks on farm produce, health and the ecosystem and thus determine risk control measures.
He also called for more coordinated efforts to curb air, water and soil pollution, warning that they could affect each other.
The soil treatment market in China is rather large, but experts are cautious over the market prospects in the short term.
According to a research note released by Minsheng Securities, China has 25.5 million hectares of polluted land, including cropland, waiting for treatment.
Xue Tao, president of environmental research agency E20 Policy and Market Research, said currently there are not many soil treatment deals with fewer returns being expected from the treated land and the governments also do not have enough fiscal revenues to finance land treatment.
Soil treatment relies more on government funding as it can hardly win credits, said Xue.
In 2015, the market size is estimated at 2 to 3 billion yuan (302 to 453 million U.S. dollars), said Xue. "Only a few companies and research institutes joined in government-funded programs," he said.
China's land treatment market is dominated by several industry giants, but eyeing business opportunities, more than 900 companies have entered the industry by 2015, said Gao Shengda, president of China Environmental Restoration Research Institute.
More business opportunities are expected after China officially declared a war on soil pollution with the release of an action plan in late May.
Cleaning up the mess from decades of industrialization and questionable farming practices will be a long hard journey and the plan sets three significant milestones.
By 2020, the decline in soil quality and the expansion of polluted areas will have been arrested. By 2030, all risks will be under control. By 2050, a virtuous cycle will have been established to ensure that rejuvenated soil remains that way.
The State Council, China's cabinet, has decreed that by 2020, 90 percent of polluted land, regardless of how it is used, must be made safe. The figure should rise to 95 percent by 2030.