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Polluted Land
China's Government Finally Admits Horribly Poisoned Farmland is "Troubling"

Bucking the trend of keeping data on the country’s environmental destruction a state secret, China released a report on Wednesday that lays bare the epic pollution and massive deterioration of China’s arable land. Nearly 20 percent of the country’s farmland is polluted, the environmental ministry said, and 16 percent of the soil across the country is as well. “The national soil situation overall does not offer cause for optimism,” the report dryly notes.

To put it in more concrete terms, portion of China’s arable land roughly the same size as the United Kingdom is polluted. The report calls this “troubling”, and “the problem of pollution from industry and mining particularly worrisome.”

To combat the rippling effects of its breakneck economic growth, China is being forced to consider all sorts of extreme measures. Consider, for instance, the epic South-to-North Water Diversion Project, the world’s largest ever water pipeline project. It will carry water—more than is in the River Thames—to China’s parched north from the verdant south. The north is so dry in part because of desertification and overuse of land. The project is projected to cost $60 billion and even Chinese officials aren’t sure it will work. In a rare admission, one called it “difficult to sustain”; the central route (one of three under construction) will transport water to Beijing, but not even enough to sustain current levels of consumption.

The destruction of the environment—and the government’s overambitious, corruption-riddled efforts to fix it—have grown to become a serious gripe among many Chinese. Thousands of people protested against a chemical plant in the city of Maoming late last month, an event that was quickly condemned and silenced by the authorities. Photos uploaded to social media show protestors lying unconscious in pools of blood. The next day, the state-run local newspaper ran a front page article praising the plant and PX, the noxious but useful chemical it produces. PX is “an important element for a happy life,” the article read. Happy, indeed.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Desertification is a noun, not a verb, i.e., it is a result of external forces, in this case, over-consumption.

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