New law on soil pollution will pinpoint responsibility

The country’s first national law on soil pollution and control came into force on Tuesday, defining responsibilities for pollution and establishing a special fund for the costs of remediation.

New law on soil pollution will pinpoint responsibility

If those who have polluted the soil cannot be identified, those who currently have the right to use the land will be responsible, and if there is a dispute, local governments will be empowered to allocate responsibility, according to the new Soil Pollution Prevention and Control Law.

Local environmental and natural resources authorities will determine responsibility when soil pollution occurs in various circumstances. If farmland is polluted, another two local authorities-agriculture, and forestry/grassland-will also be involved in the work.

The law also stipulates that the cost to the local government in controlling the pollution will be covered by those who bear the responsibility.

These local government bodies will determine responsibility according to strict procedures to be drafted by environmental authorities under the State Council, said Zhang Guilong, an official of the legislative work committee of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

The establishment of a special fund for soil pollution control at both central and provincial levels is also included in the law as a way to address the money needed for pollution control and soil remediation. It also addresses pollution that occurred before the law was passed if the polluter can be identified.

“It’s a breakthrough for the law to include the fund”, which is key to establishing a financial support system for risk control and pollution remediation, said Wang Fengchun, an official with the NPC’s environmental protection and resources conservation committee.

The law doesn’t define the ratio that the two levels of government should contribute to remediation work, but Wang said it’s still too early to do the job, as China hasn’t figured out how much of its soil is polluted or determined the resources needed annually for investigation, monitoring, assessment and remediation.