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China to raise people's awareness of land protection

(China Daily)

13:55, June 25, 2013

In May 1991, the State Council, China's Cabinet, set June 25 as National Land Day, to raise people's awareness of the insufficiency of land resources.

When the country celebrates its 23rd National Land Day today, with the theme Treasuring Land Resources and Economical Use of Land, there can be no relenting in such efforts.

Not only because the country faces mounting difficulties in maintaining the "red line" for the total area of arable land at 120 million hectares because of farmland being consumed by industrial projects and booming urbanization across the country. It is also because pollution is eroding the limited land available for farming.

According to a May study by the Committee of Population, Resources and Environment under the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the top advisory body, about 8.3 percent of arable land has been contaminated. Soil contamination is particularly serious in the Yangtze River and Pearl River deltas, two of China's major grain-planting areas, where the levels of heavy metals, such as cadmium, lead and mercury, are much higher than permissible levels.

The country's environmental authorities have put the annual output of grains contaminated with heavy metals at 12 million tons, with a direct annual economic loss of more than 20 billion yuan ($3.26 billion).

According to experts, China will have to inject trillions of yuan to clean up contaminated farmland.

Considering the astronomical cost of treating contaminated soil and the fact the country has nearly one-fifth of the world's population to feed with only 7 percent of the world's arable land, China has good reasons to double its efforts to strengthen the protection of its limited land resources, arable land in particular.

Aside from raising national awareness of the land insufficiency, the country should more urgently accelerate efforts to bid farewell to the heavily polluting economic model and strengthen its legal system, so that there are forcible measures to protect the land and prevent soil contamination.

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