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Arable Land Suffering from Pollution
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China's pollution problems have damaged 10 million hectares, or one tenth, of the country's arable land, said the environment watchdog Tuesday as it called for expanding grass-roots monitoring staff in the rural areas.

China faces "grave" soil pollution jeopardizing its ecology, food safety, residents' health and the sustainable development of agriculture, according to the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).

Estimations state 12 million tons of grain are contaminated annually by heavy metals in the soil, causing direct economic losses of over 20 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion), the SEPA said. Irrigated sewage, scrap metal and acid rain are blamed for contaminated crops.

China's arable land occupies 13 percent of its land area. Despite the efforts of SEPA's 160,000 environmental officials, China's environmental picture shows little cause for optimism.

Pollution prevention is weak, especially in rural areas, the SEPA said, pointing out the absence of legislation concerning soil and poultry raising pollution.

Though in excess of one million factories in the country are generating pollution, there are only 50,000 environmental monitoring and inspection personnel at various levels, SEPA said.

(Xinhua News Agency November 9, 2006)

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