BEIJING, June 22 (Xinhua) -- China has taken strong measures against soil pollution, to eliminate threat to the environment and people's health and ensure food security.
Local authorities have launched an emergency response after media reported that samples of new wheat harvested in the city of Xinxiang, central China's Henan Province, were found to contain an excessive amount of cadmium, a poisonous heavy metal.
At a Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) press conference Wednesday, head of the soil environment division Qiu Qiwen said Henan provincial agricultural department has collected samples of wheat and soil that might have been tainted by cadmium.
The local government has collected all questionable wheat from areas exposed by the reports and placed it under strict monitoring. "Further details will be released by local authorities," Qiu said.
In recent years, other kinds of grain including rice have also been found to contain excessive amounts of heavy metals in several provinces.
To eliminate the hazards for both environment and people's health, China has started a detailed soil pollution survey with a focus on highly polluting industries, including non-ferrous metals, oil, chemical, and pesticide sectors.
China aims to complete the survey by the end of 2020 to lay the foundation for taking concrete measures, following the schedule in an action plan for soil pollution control made public in May 2016.
Before the end of 2018, China will identify the area and distribution of agricultural land pollution and the effect of soil pollution on farm produce, Qiu said.
The move comes as China addresses pollution to ensure food security as climate change and pollutants have depleted arable land and reduced the capacity to produce food.
To gain a better understanding of the level of soil pollution, the country has also put into place a nationwide monitoring network.
Currently, the network consists of about 20,000 monitoring areas around the country, covering 99 percent of counties, 98 percent of soil types and 88 percent of the country's main grain production areas.
Qiu said that prevention of heavy metal pollution had showed clear effects during the 2011-2015 period, with total emissions of five major heavy metals down by about a quarter from 2011 level.
Heavy metal-related environmental incidents have also dropped substantially in the period, Qiu said.
"Heavy metal pollution came into being after a long period of accumulation, and thus eliminating the influence of the pollution will also take some time," Qiu said.
In the future, the MEP will increase efforts in prevention and control of heavy metal pollution to improve environmental quality in major areas, Qiu said.
In 2016, China set up a fund for soil pollution control and treatment, with 14.6 billion yuan (2.1 billion U.S. dollars) earmarked as of this year.
On Thursday, Chinese lawmakers reviewed a draft Soil Pollution Prevention and Control Law, promising funds and a nationwide soil condition census once every 10 years.
All entities and individuals have the obligation to prevent soil pollution, and will be held accountable for damage caused, according to the draft.
A network of monitoring stations will be established with data and other information shared among environmental, agricultural, housing, forestry, health, and land resource authorities.
Enterprises involved in production, utilization, storage, transfer, recycling, and disposal of pollutants must monitor and report to authorities their annual discharge and transfer volumes and prevent toxic substances from entering the soil, according to the draft.