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China - The houses built on poisoned land

Gao Shengke and Wang Kai have won the prize for Best Investigation atchinadialogue’s and The Guardian’s China Environmental Press Awards - 2013 for their investigation into contaminated earth in Chinese cities. Here is the first of their three-part series of reports. 

The excavators are rumbling and dust swirls all about at the second phase of the Kangquan New City construction project in Guanzhuang village, Chaoyang District, outside Beijing’s east fifth ring road.

A 20-metre deep pit has been dug on the site. A foul stench rises from the pile of earth that has been removed. Until now, few people knew about the secret that was buried here.

This plot of land was previously the site of a factory owned by the Ministry of Railways that made anti-corrosive railway sleepers. The plant was in operation for more than 30 years; many kinds of organic pollutants continuously seeped into the topsoil, deeper soil layers, and into the groundwater. Some seven or eight years ago, the factory was relocated and this plot of ground was left unused. In January 2011, the city administration decided to convert the land into a development for affordable housing and it was taken over by the Residential Construction Service Centre for Civil Servants to build low-cost housing for civil servants from all ministries.

After the Civil Servants Residential Centre took over the plot, a number of specialists carried out an initial land survey. In May 2011, the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences released a public environmental impact assessment report which made no mention of any soil pollution problem. There was also no mention of the historical use of the site or the original environment.

However, Caijing magazine got hold of another similar survey report by the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, which showed that pollutants in the soil seriously exceeded approved levels, especially semi-volatile organic pollutants such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons. There were many kinds of hydrocarbons, most of them relatively strong carcinogens and mutagens.

For the full article use the link below

The Guardian 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jun/06/houses-chinas-posioned-land