Chemical farming is poisoning China’s water

Press release - 2009-01-08
Greenpeace reveals that in 20 out of 25 water samples collected in Lake Tai, the amount of fertiliser pollution exceeded the national standard. All of the samples are not fit for human use, and cannot even be used for industrial or agricultural use. The report shows how polluted the water still is despite three years of government efforts.

Greenpeace reveals that 20 out of 25 water samples collected in Tai Lake, the amount of fertiliser pollution exceeded the national standard.

In 2007 about two million people were sickened by a massive algal bloom that spread across Lake Tai in eastern China. The government earmarked RMB 100 million to clean it up. Since 2005, the Ministry of Agriculture has been promoting a nationwide reduction in fertiliser use and has been running a soil-testing program, where it advises farmers on what fertiliser is needed according to the state of the soil with the aim of preventing fertiliser overuse.  In the three years of soil testing (2005 to 2007), some 90 million mu of farmland has been tested.

However, despite 3 years of government efforts, Greenpeace recent report shows that there had been no reduction in the amount of fertiliser pollution. From March to November 2008, Greenpeace collected water samples from streams that run from nearby fields into the lake. They tested the 25 water samples for nitrogen, nitrate and phosphor content.

The concentration of total nitrogen (TN) exceeded the national standard V in 20 of the 25 samples and exceeded the national standard IV in the remaining five. Nitrate - which comes from fertiliser - was also found in high concentrations. The results indicate that chemical fertilisers are still a major source of pollution in Lake Tai. Farmers also told that over the past 10 years they have increased their use of fertilisers.

Greenpeace Food & Agriculture Campaigner Pan Wenjing says, "While the government has been pouring money into cleaning up Lake Tai, little has been done to solve the problem at the source. The solution is a major move from chemical-intensive agriculture to eco-farming. The government should also review its soil testing program as it still relies on chemical fertilisers." She urges the government to limit the amount of chemical fertiliser produced in the country including the removal of subsidies to this sector.

Greenpeace also believe that more policies are needed to encourage recycling and the production and efficient use of organic fertilisers. The government has drawn up policies to promote eco-farming, but Greenpeace believes these should strengthened. More money and more support should be offered to help farmers switch methods.

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