Heavy Metal Contamination Threatens Chinese Agriculture (Video)

By Chen Yilian, Epoch Times
May 24, 2011 Updated: September 29, 2015


Heavy Metal Contaminates Hunan’s Crop Land

The Ministry of Land and Resources in China recently admitted that more than 10 percent of arable land has been polluted by heavy metal toxins. Since 2009, there have been more than 30 reported cases of severe heavy metal pollution. Reports emerge of people dying from cadmium poisoning, or cases like that near the industrial center of Chenzhou, where at least 250 children have been found to suffer from elevated blood lead levels.

Particularly hard hit is Hunan Province, traditionally considered the home of heavy metal minerals. The level of pollution from heavy metal in Hunan is currently the highest in China. In areas with metal mineral mines, nearly all agricultural produces have ceased to grow. Soils in the Xiang River region have been heavily polluted and are no longer able to support crops. Water resources have also been polluted, and the ground water has been depleted.

Xiang River Dying

The 856 km (532 mile) Xiang River is known as the “Mother River” of Hunan. According to the China-based Economic Observer, for several years many mining companies operated in the river’s vicinity without environmental safeguards. Large amounts of untreated discharge containing heavy metal toxins were thus dumped into the river and its tributaries. This, along with waste discharge by other industries, made the heavy metal pollution in the Xiang River the highest in the country.

Niexi Village in Chenzhou is located near Chongling, the Xiang River’s main tributary. The mountain range is surrounded by mining operations, and large amounts of heavy metal toxins are directly discharged into the river. Every family in Niexi traditionally planted soybeans, but the pollution destroyed crop and now there is nearly no produce.

A few years ago, villagers planted more than 500 mu (82 acres) of orange and other trees, which grew only a couple of feet in five years and failed to produce fruit.

Soil and Water Depleted

Yizhang County is home to more than 36 kinds of minerals. As more and more mining companies set up shop, the area’s soil solidification has accelerated and water resources are quickly being depleted.

Huang Yuanxun of Jiangshui Village told The Epoch Times that all areas with mineral mines suffer the same problem, but that it’s just a matter of degree. “The well water contains heavy metals,” he said. “When the land is irrigated with the polluted water, the soil turns into solid chunks and can no longer be used for planting. When people drink the polluted water, they become sick and many of the diseases they suffer are hard to diagnose. Some even develop cancer.”

One villager named Cao said that now all the ground water has been drained so there is no water left for irrigation; in other cases, mineral excavation caused houses and fields to collapse. “This kind of mining is illegal. It was permitted only to line the pockets of government officials. For example, the Political and Legal Commission Secretary of our district owns a lot of stock in the mining company. So do his family members. That’s why he does everything he can to protect the ‘legitimacy’ of this mine,” he said.

Metal Pollution

Heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, and lead can severely damage the human body and even lead to death: arsenic is highly toxic, cadmium is a major cancer-causing agent, and lead brings constipation and damage the blood system.

According to Century Weekly, rice, the main staple of the Chinese, is being threatened by heavy metal pollution. A random test of samples showed that approximately 10 percent of the rice in the market has elevated levels of cadmium. Many researchers believe that heavy metal toxins will replace pesticides as the top pollutant in China.

Conservative estimates show that 12 million tons of grains are polluted by heavy metal every year, causing over 20 billion yuan (approximately US$3 billion) in damages.

Read the original Chinese article