January 27, 2020

January 27, 2020

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China Announces Action Plan to Tackle Soil Pollution

On May 31, China’s State Council released a nationwide Action Plan for Soil Pollution Prevention and Control (“Action Plan”). The Action Plan, whose implementation will be led by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (“MEP”), calls for the establishment of 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% of polluted arable land safe for human use by 2020, and increases that target to 95% by 2030.[1]

Of particular significance, MEP will cooperate with the Ministry of Land and Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture to implement a uniform monitoring system to track the soil quality of all regions across the nation. By 2020, the monitoring system is to serve as an intra-governmental database to provide real-time tracking of soil contamination. Regular soil quality investigations will thereafter be conducted every ten years.

The Action Plan was announced following a 2014 nationwide soil quality survey, which revealed contamination in approximately 19% of surveyed farmland, 10% of forests and 10% of grasslands across the country.[2] The plan addresses existing contamination on industrial and agricultural land, and also sets forth protections for uncontaminated land. It does not, however, provide for any number of measures instrumental to addressing soil contamination, such as listing of priority sites, providing for an overall approach to evaluating and selecting cleanup measures, or defining cleanup standards.  These issues will need to be addressed in the future legislation called for by the Action Plan.

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

[1] Xinhua, China announces soil pollution controls, Xinhuanet (June 1, 2016).

[2] Zheng Jinran, Action plan targets soil pollution, ChinaDaily USA (updated June 1, 2016).

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About this Author

Karl S. Bourdeau, Principal, Beveridge Diamond Law Firm

For over thirty-five years, Karl Bourdeau has engaged principally in a wide-ranging litigation, regulatory, transactional and legislative practice involving hazardous substance and hazardous waste issues under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), and analogous state laws. He has also been active in representing clients on a variety of international environmental, chemical risk assessment, and federal Information Quality Act issues.


Sarah A. Kettenmann, Beveridge Diamond, general environmental litigation lawyer, regulatory practice attorney

Sarah Kettenmann maintains a general environmental litigation and regulatory practice. Prior to joining the Firm, Sarah served as a judicial clerk for Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers in the Supreme Court of Connecticut.

During her time at Pace Law School, Sarah  served as a judicial extern for Judge Laura Taylor Swain in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y.), and  interned in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, S.D.N.Y., and in the King’s County District Attorney’s Office.  She also served as an environmental policy adviser and legal extern in the United Nations General Assembly, Permanent Mission of Saint Kitts & Nevis to the United Nations.  She also served as a research assistant in the Pace University Center for Environmental Legal Studies and as acquisitions editor for Pace Environmental Law Review.

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