The impact of the booming Chinese economy on the quality of the nation’s air and water has garnered a lot of attention recently. Now, focus is turning to another polluted realm: the very ground beneath China’s feet.

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China's green movement is awakening and starting to receive global attention (see, for example, Q. Wang et al. Nature 489, 502; 2012). The municipal governments of Qidong and Shifang should be applauded for suspending two planned industrial plants likely to cause widespread pollution (Nature 488, 261–262; 2012). But there may be plans afoot to relocate these to rural areas. (Correspondence)

Your Editorial 'A fresh approach to water' (Nature 452, 253; 2008) points out that the world's looming water crisis is driven by climate change, population growth and economic development. In China, changing food-consumption patterns are the main cause of the worsening water scarcity. If other developing countries follow China's trend towards protein-rich Western diets, the global water shortage will become still more severe. (Correspondence)