Part of China’s industrial landscape spans the Yixing area, and while the chemical boom has made the area one of China’s richest “country-level towns,” it has also caused an immense amount of damage to China’s third largest fresh water lake, Lake Tai.
Moreover, the area of increased industrialization is also located near agricultural fields, and consequently, vegetables are being planted in soil polluted by cadmium, mercury, lead and other disease-causing metals.
Although air and water pollution are widely discussed, soil pollution in China is not as widely addressed. Only in February of 2013 did the Ministry of Environmental Protection declare that the villages around Lake Tai and the Fenshui and Zhoutie areas are considered “cancer villages.”
Although many factories have been closed in an attempt to reduce the pollution of Lake Tai, much of the damage has already been done, as the harmful chemicals remain in the soil. Villager Zhang Junwei told a Guardian reporter that cancer rates had risen in the past ten years, and although farmers are aware of the harmful affects their crops have on the buyers, they have no choice but to plant in the polluted soil.
Dingshu has been one of the main areas of pollution, and although in 2011 there was a large effort to shutdown many ceramic factories, by 2013 only 300 had been completely closed.
Guardian reporter He Guangwei writes that “the area’s problems illustrate the high price China is paying for 30 years of rapid economic development and the risks China’s increasingly serious soil pollution poses to its food.”
In April 2014 the Ministry of Land and National Bureau of Statistics released a report saying that “16.1 percent of China’s soil and 19.4 percent of farmland were contaminated.” These results are forcing government officials to take more immediate action against the increasing pollution. Legislation increasing fines for polluters and ensuring that economic growth is not the sole factor in giving promotions to local officials is being developed in response to the environmental damage.