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Soil monitoring network passes milestone

2017-06-28author:source:China Daily

The Ministry of Protection held a regular press conference on June 21 to brief the public on latest developments in soil environment management since 2016. Mr. Qiu Qiwen, head of soil quality management at the Ministry of Environmental Protection attended the press conference and responded to journalists.

China has reached the halfway point in setting up a national soil monitoring network, with about 20,000 quality control devices that now cover 99 percent of all counties, according to a senior environment official. The goal is to have 40,000 devices nationwide by 2020, "but already 88 percent of the main grain-growing areas are covered by the initial network", Mr. Qiu said .

The devices run regular tests using 12 key indicators - mainly heavy metals - and relay the data back to a central database. Eventually, the information will be available online to the public, as laid out in a five-year environmental protection plan released by the State Council in November. The network is seen as a major tool to aid China's efforts to prevent and control soil pollution, as the country looks to protect its arable land and shore up its food security.

This press conference came as top legislators prepared to discuss a draft law governing soil pollution at their bimonthly session, from Thursday to Tuesday, which is expected to provide legal tools to push control efforts forward.

China has also launched a comprehensive study that includes a survey of farmland - including the distribution of polluted farmland and its influence on grain - which will be finished next year, as well as a survey of land surrounding polluting companies that emit pollutants including chemicals and nonferrous metals. That survey is to be finished by 2020. "All preparation work has been completed, with unified technical standards, surveying standards and information release processes mapped out for the 31 provincial regions that will conduct the survey," Qiu said.

In fact, China has managed to reduce heavy metals emissions through strict controls. Emissions of five major heavy metals - lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and arsenic - fell measurably from 2007 to 2015, according to data from the Environmental Protection ministry.

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