Soil samples across China have revealed remnants of heavy metals dating back at least a century and traces of a pesticide banned in the 1980s, revealing the extent of the country’s pollution problems

Amid China air, water pollution, soil survey reveals century-old heavy metals

As much as 65 per cent of the fertiliser in China’s countryside was improperly used and left to pollute rivers and fields.

Wed, Apr 10, 2013

BEIJING – Soil samples across China have revealed remnants of heavy metals dating back at least a century and traces of a pesticide banned in the 1980s, an environmental official said on Wednesday, revealing the extent of the country’s pollution problems.

Street-level anger over air pollution that blanketed many northern cities this winter spilled over into online appeals for Beijing to clean water supplies as well.

The rotting corpses of thousands of pigs found last month in a river that supplies tap water to Shanghai drew even more attention to water safety.

Mr Zhuang Guotai, head of the ecological department of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said a nationwide soil survey showed the countryside had paid a heavy price for an agricultural revolution that has seen grain production almost double in the last 30 years, despite a much reduced workforce.“There is a cost behind the nine consecutive years of bumper grain harvests,” he said at a conference in Beijing. “They rely on the heavy use of fertiliser, but the country needs to boost grain production so it is quite a difficult issue.”

Mr Zhuang noted that as much as 65 per cent of the fertiliser in China’s countryside was improperly used and left to pollute rivers and fields.

“All pollutants ultimately end up in the soil, and when we did the soil survey, we saw that even metal pollution from a hundred years ago was present, as well as the ‘666’ pesticide banned in the 1980s.”

Mr Zhuang said China aimed to release the results of the survey very soon, two months after access to the data was denied on the grounds that it was a “state secret”.

He said the government always intended to disclose the survey results, which took four years to compile.

The disclosure of data is part of China’s commitment to improve transparency and allay widespread public suspicions that the government has routinely covered up the extent of the damage done by more than three decades of breakneck economic growth.

China routinely vows resolve in cleaning up pollution in its cities, fields and waterways, but little is ever done, due mainly to lack of enforcement in the face of a corporate drive for profits.

At the beginning of this year, Beijing agreed to improve the way it monitored and disclosed air pollution in its major cities. Just weeks later, record-high smog readings in the Chinese capital forced the government to impose emergency restrictions on cars and factories.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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