Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Confession: Agriculture Pollution "Relatively Serious"

In a press conference this week, Vice Minister of Agriculture Zhang Taolin admitted that agriculture's contribution to water pollution in China is "relatively serious."

Zhang cited the communique from the first census of pollution sources which showed that agriculture accounted for 43.7 percent of chemical oxygen demand emissions in 2007. Agriculture also accounted for 57 percent of nitrogen and 67 percent of phosphorus pollution entering bodies of water. Mr. Zhang said the volume of emissions from agriculture and their contribution to overall emissions are controversial among scholars.

The pollution communique was released in February 2010. It apparently took more than a year to compile and release the brief report on data for 2007. The dimsums blog reported the agricultural pollution numbers February 17, 2010, more than two years ahead of Vice Minister's pollution confession.

Vice Minister Zhang explained that nonpoint pollution from agriculture comes from organic matter, chemical fertilizer and pesticides washed into bodies of water by rainfall and other water flow. Zhang said the concentration of agriculture is steadily rising, which increases the amount of chemical fertilizer, pesticide, plastic sheeting, animal waste and antibiotics used. Moreover, household waste and garbage in rural areas are increasing and treatment and disposal is far behind that of urban areas.

Chinese officials typically don't admit there's a problem until they have "solved" it. The Ministry apparently feels they now have enough programs and campaigns in place to admit that there is an agricultural pollution problem. Zhang says that MOA has been cooperating with other departments to address the pollution problems. They have promoted "cycling economy" to reduce fertilizer use, increase efficiency of pesticide applications, treat animal waste, and reduce use of antibiotics. Zhang promises that additional targeted steps will be taken during the 12th five-year plan.

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