By Karl Bourdeau and Sarah Kettenmann

China’s State Council released a nationwide Action Plan for Soil Pollution Prevention and Control on May 31 that calls for laws to monitor, prevent, and remediate soil pollution, and aims to incrementally improve soil quality across the country by mid-century.

Specifically, the plan aims to make 90 percent of polluted arable land safe for human use by 2020, and increases that target to 95 percent by 2030. Implementation will be led by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP).

MEP will cooperate with the Ministry of Land and Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture to implement a uniform system to track the soil quality of every region. By 2020, the monitoring system will serve as an intra-governmental database to track real-time soil contamination. Regular soil quality investigations will then be conducted every 10 years.

The Action Plan was announced following a 2014 nationwide soil quality survey, which revealed contamination in approximately 19 percent of surveyed farmland, 10 percent of forests, and 10 percent of grasslands across the country. The plan addresses existing contamination on industrial and agricultural land and sets forth protections for uncontaminated land. It does not, however, provide measures to address soil contamination, such as listing priority sites, providing an overall approach to evaluating and selecting cleanup measures, or defining cleanup standards. These issues will need to be addressed in future legislation.

The Action Plan is consistent with the goals of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan to clean up agricultural land and reduce contamination from pesticides and fertilizers. The plan is the government’s third environmental action plan in recent years: the first targets air pollution (released in 2013) and the second targets water pollution (released in 2015).

About the author: Beveridge & Diamond advises Chinese companies on the environmental considerations of doing business in the United States and, through relationships with a network of Chinese national law firms, on environmental issues faced by multinational companies doing business in China. Firm Principal Karl Bourdeau regularly travels to China and fosters dialogue among various stakeholders regarding China’s evolving environmental regulatory regime.  Sarah Kettenmann is an associate with the firm. For more information, please contact the authors or any member of our China Practice.

Posted by By Karl Bourdeau and Sarah Kettenmann