Chinese Farms Produce More Water Pollution than Factories

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China’s government released its most in-depth domestic water pollution study this week, showing discharges in 2007 to be twice as high as previous estimates.

For the first time the Chinese government included agricultural effluent in a national survey, prior years the government calculated water pollution from a narrower list of sources that did not include fertilizers or pesticides, as is reported by the New York Times.

“Fertilizers and pesticides have played an important role in enhancing productivity but in certain areas improper use has had a grave impact on the environment,” said Wang Yangliang of the Ministry of Agriculture at a press conference for the study’s release.

The study showed chemical oxygen demand – a key pollution indicator – more than doubled when farm runoff was taken into account. Agriculture contributes 43 percent of China’s chemical oxygen demand, 67 percent of phosphorus and 57 percent of nitrogen discharges according to the study.

Sources inside the Chinese government said the report’s release was delayed by the agriculture ministry, which had insisted that farming contributed little pollution.

The Chinese government has a stated goal of reducing chemical oxygen demand by 10 percent between 2005 and 2010. Data from the study shows a decrease of three percent from 2006 to 2007, if agricultural effluent is excluded.

The government report supports the results of a study released earlier this year by Renmin University in China and Greenpeace, which found Chinese farmers use 40% more fertilizer than necessary.

  • Mark Spowart

    A writer and photographer, Spowart has publication credits in Canada, United States, Europe and Norway with such publications as The Globe & Mail, The National Post, Sun Media, Canwest News, and Canada News Wire.

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