By Paul Chung
Image credit: @Augapfel.
Soil pollution might not be the most alarmingly salient type of pollution in China, but it may very well be more serious than previously believed.
Last month, Beijing-based lawyer Dong Zhongwei requested the Ministry of Environmental Protection publish results from a 2006 soil pollution report. The country’s environmental watchdog subsequently denied the lawyer’s request.
Instead, the ministry responded with a lengthy 22 page letter (with no survey data) explaining that the findings contained in the report were “state secrets”. Dong objected to the government’s justification, citing soil pollution as a substantial public interest that directly impacts people’s public health in the long term.
“The environmental ministry has been releasing real-time information about air pollution even though the air in Beijing was so bad last month. In contrast, soil pollution is a ‘state secret.’ Does this suggest that the land is contaminated much worse than the air?” said Dong.
The $160 million soil contamination investigation started in 2006 and ended in 2010. It reportedly contains sections on survey methods, results, causes of soil pollution, and prevention methods.
Despite its unwillingness to publicize the soil pollution survey, the ministry did recently admit the existence of some 247 “cancer villages” across 27 provinces in China (though these were first identified by independent observers in 2010, alacrity isn’t really the ministry’s strong suit).