In the era of globalisation, the issue of environmental pollution and environmental protection are the most discussed subjects. Environmental pollution is caused by various factors such as population growth, leading industrial activities, exploitation of natural resources for commercial purpose and many other factors which are deteriorating the standard level of environment day by day. Today, laws are enacted not only for the welfare of the people but also for the sustainable development of the environment. These environments related laws are not only enacted but are also enforced at national and international level to check and protect the environment. Environmental pollution can be of many kinds such as air pollution caused by emissions of automobiles, water pollution caused by dumping industrial and domestic waste in water bodies, soil pollution caused by excessive use of fertilisers and many more chemicals, land pollution caused by improper management of solid waste. Environmental pollution highly influences the health of humans, plants and animals. Our constitution also provides a right to get pollution free water and air, but still we humans are mainly responsible for polluting and degrading the natural resources of the environment. There is an urgent need and ultimate requirement to protect and conserve the environment for future generations and equitable development. Also conservation and protection of environment is followed not only on national level but also at international level. The Indian government is adopting many new scientific practices or techniques in order to overcome or to minimize the problem of environmental pollution. The increasing levels of global warming, the depletion of the ozone layer and a serious loss of biodiversity have also made people about the growing environmental concerns. If we will be not protecting the environment at present then it may be a threat to large number of species of flora and fauna which can become extinct in future. In order to conserve the natural resources we should adopt such practices which are eco-friendly and less polluting like the use of three R’s i.e. Reuse, Reduce and Recycle. Also to make people more aware about the importance and protection of environment we should involve environmental studies as a subject in the syllabus of students so that our young generations could start practise to protect the environment and through this more and more people will come to know about it. We can minimise the use of chemicals such as fertilisers, use of leaded petrol in automobiles, use of air conditioners and refrigerators to reduce the level of chlorofluorocarbons and many more. Our government has also enacted an act for the environment i.e. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to protect the environment and also to punish the persons who misuse or exploit the resources of the environment. Environmental pollution is such an incurable disease which cannot be eradicated out at once but can be minimised. We also use solar energy, water energy and wind energy as a sources of energy rather than using the energy coming from the burning of fossil fuels.
Environmental problems have attracted the attention of a wide cross-section of people all over the world from the last few years. People are becoming increasingly more conscious for a variety of problems like global warming, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, droughts, floods, scarcity of fuel, pollution of air and water and problems from hazardous chemicals and radiation which have adverse effect on environment. In order to understand environmental pollution firstly, we should know about environment, environment means all the things which surrounds us such as air, water, land, soil, plants and animals. Secondly, pollution is the effect of undesirable changes in our surroundings that have harmful effects on plants, animals and human beings. So environmental pollution is the manipulation or exploitation of natural resources for one’s own benefit which had adverse impact on environment directly or indirectly. No phenomenon has led to greater ecological changes than that created by humans. The degradation in environmental quality has been caused by enormous pollution, loss of vegetation and biological diversity, excessive accumulation of harmful chemicals in the atmosphere and in food chains and growing threats to life support system. The pollutants including solid, liquid and gaseous substances which occur in the environment due to result of various human activities are also mainly responsible for deteriorating the level or standard quality of the resources of environment.
TYPES OF POLLUTION WITH THEIR CAUSES, CONSEQUENCES AND MEASURES OF CONTROL
1. AIR POLLUTION
The origin of the air pollution on the earth can be traced back to the time when humans started using firewood as a means of cooking and heating. With the spreading of industrialisation and urbanisation the level of pollutants or contaminants in the air starts increasing rapidly due to which the quality of the air we breathe i.e. oxygen is being degraded. Air pollution occurs due to the presence of undesirable solid or gaseous particles in the air in high quantities that are harmful to human health and the environment. Pollutants that are emitted directly from identifiable sources are produced both by natural events like dust storms and volcanic eruptions and by human activities like emissions from vehicles and industries contribute to about 90% of the global total air pollution. Cigarette smoking is responsible for the greatest exposure to carbon monoxide. Prolonged smoking or exposure to air pollutants cause many diseases such as lung cancer, asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These air pollutants are also arising as a result of the negative effects of the very process of development. In the stratosphere, unfiltered UV radiations coming from the sun severs the chemical bonds, releasing chlorine from the chlorofluorocarbons and these released chlorine atoms are mainly responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer. The ozone layer over countries like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and parts of South America is being depleted. Chlorofluorocarbons are mostly released from many industrial activities, aerosols, refrigerators, air conditioners and fire extinguishers.
India signed the Montreal Protocol in 1992, which aimed at controlling the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances. Atmospheric changes induced by pollution also contribute to global warming, a phenomenon in which the concentration of many greenhouse gases gets increased like carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and many more. Global warming cause floods in low lying areas and increase in sea level by melting of glaciers, icebergs etc.
MEASURES TO CONTROL
One of the effective means of controlling air pollution is to have proper pollution control equipment which includes closed collection recovery systems through which it is possible to collect the pollutants before they escape the use of dry and wet collectors, filters and electrostatic precipitators. Industries should be located in order to minimise the effects of pollution after checking the topography and wind directions. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) can be used instead of petrol or diesel, government should ban old vehicles, improving traffic management and introducing improved vehicular technology as to decrease the level of harmful gases like nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide in the emissions of automobiles.
The Central Pollution Control Board1 (CPCB) is executing a nation-wide programme of air quality monitoring known as the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP). This programme aims to determine the present air quality status and trends and to control and regulate pollution from industries and other sources to meet the ambient air quality standards. The NAMP has an extensive network of 342 operating stations across the country. An act was legislated by our government to control the level of air pollution i.e. THE AIR (PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF POLLUTION) ACT, 1981. This act was made for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution. Section 19 of this act also states that any industrial activity which prevails in a residential area will termed as illegal concerning to a threat to the life of the people living in that area. Also in the areas notified by the government under this act no industrial pollution causing activity could come up without the permission of the concerned CPCB. Further many more amendments has been done in this act to enhance pollution control measures and many other acts has also been legislated like to regulate vehicular pollution, the Central Motor Vehicles Act came in 1939. The exhaust emission rules for vehicle owners were notify in 1990 and the mass emission standards for vehicle manufacturers were enforced in 1991 for the first time. Air pollution is more acute in heavily industrialised and urbanised areas, which are also densely populated. So the presence of pollution beyond certain limits due to various pollutants discharged through industrial emission is monitored by the Pollution Control Boards set up in every state.
2. WATER POLLUTION
“Our liquid planet glows like a soft blue sapphire in the hard-edged darkness of space. There is nothing else like it in the solar system. It is because of water.”
- By John Todd
Water is the essential element that makes life possible on earth. Without water there would be no life. When the quality or composition of water changes directly or indirectly as a result of human activities such that it becomes unfit for any purpose like drinking or domestic then it is said to be polluted. The major sources of water pollution are –
a. Domestic garbage and Faecal material
b. Pollution by chemical insecticides and pesticides
c. Industrial solid or liquid effluents thrown into river or ponds nearby
d. Mixing of radioactive substances and petroleum products in water
e. Religious rituals garbage
In India, still there is 70% population which is not getting safe and clean water. In today’s world water pollution is the major source of infection of public health. India stands at the 120th position out of 122 countries of the world regarding availability of clean water. The quantity of fertilisers applied in a field is often many times more than is actually required by the plants. Run off carries excess fertilisers into nearby water bodies, causing eutrophication which promote the excessive growth of algae and other aquatic plants. As the organic matter grows, the oxygen level decreases and aquatic species die. About 20 thousand crore tonnes of garbage whether solid or liquid thrown into rivers, ponds and reservoirs every year.
Indians have always had a tradition of venerating their rivers. Most rivers in India are worshipped and named after gods, goddesses or saints. Urbanisation, industrialisation, excessive withdrawal of water, agricultural run-off, improper agricultural practices and various religious and social practices all contribute to river pollution in India. Every single river of India, be its Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari or Krishna is being polluted due to these factors. According to a research study data, sewage and municipal effluents account for 75% of the pollution load in rivers while the remaining 25% is from industrial effluents. In 1985, India launched the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) the largest ever river clean up operation in the country. But later on the plan was criticised for overspending and slow progress. The biggest drawback of these river cleaning programmes was that they failed to allocate responsibility regarding who would pay for running the treatment facilities in the long run. With the power supply being erratic and these plants being heavily dependent on power, most of these facilities lie under-utilised. Also the problem of river pollution due to agricultural run-off has not been addressed in this programme.
MEASURES TO CONTROL
To prevent the water from being contaminated by the pollutants an act was legislated or introduced by our government in i.e. THE WATER POLLUTION ACT, 1974.The Government formulated this act to prevent the pollution of water by industrial, agricultural and household wastewater that can contaminate our water sources. Wastewater with high levels of pollutants that enter wetlands, rivers, lakes and the seas are serious health hazards. Controlling the point sources by monitoring levels of different pollutants is one way to prevent pollution. The main objectives of the Water Act are to provide for prevention, control and abatement of water pollution and the maintenance or restoration of the quality of water. Basically this act is designed to assess pollution levels and punish polluters. In order to stop or minimise the water pollution water pollution board at the centre and in the state has established an administrative machinery to prescribe penalties under this act. The Centre and State boards are entrusted with the task of monitoring the state of water pollution and also providing technical assistance to control water pollution. This act prohibits dumping of noxious, poisonous or hazardous matters into rivers, reservoirs and wells. The act also deals with the subjects of discharging of sewage or any industrial effluents3 in ponds, wells or any water streams without the consent of the board. Board has the right to penalize and prosecute the polluter under this act.
Penalties are charged for acts that have caused pollution. An individual or organisation that fails to comply with the directions given in the subsections of the law can be convicted or punished with imprisonment for a term of three months with a fine of Rs 10,000 or both in case of failure continues then an additional fine of Rs 5,000 will be applied every day. If a person who has already been convicted for any offence is found guilty of the same offence again, he or she after the second and every subsequent conviction would be punishable with imprisonment for a term not less than two years but which may extend to seven years with a fine.
The foremost necessity to prevent or reduce the level of pollutants in water is setting up of effluent treatment plants to treat the waste water coming from different sources. The treated effluent can be reused for gardening or cooling purposes, wherever it is possible. A new technology named Root Zone Process was developed by Thermax. This system involves running contaminated water through the root zones of specially designed reed beds. The reeds which are essentially wetland plants, have the capacity to absorb oxygen from the surrounding air through their stomatal openings. The oxygen is pushed through the porous stem of the reeds into the hollow roots where it enters the root zone and create conditions suitable for the growth of numerous bacteria and fungi. These microorganisms oxidise impurities in the waste water so that the water which finally comes out is clean.
3. SOIL POLLUTION
“We can no more manufacture soil with a tank of chemicals that we can invent a rainforest or produce a single bird. We may enhance the soil by helping its processes along, but we can never recreate what we destroy. The soil is a resource for which there is no substitute.”
- By Donald Worster
The soil is a thin covering over the land consisting of a mixture of minerals, organic matter, living organisms, air and water that together support the growth of plant life. When various pollutants contaminate the quality of the soil adversely such that the fertility of the soil gets degraded then the soil is said to be polluted. Soil pollution is caused by many factors such as dumping non-biodegradable things or materials on the soil like polythene bag; increased deforestation results in soil erosion i.e. removal of top layer of the soil; excessive use of chemicals like pesticides, insecticides, fertilisers; repeated practice of slash and burn agriculture which reduces the fertility as well as nutrient content of the soil and makes the land barren. Also the loss of the topsoil reduces the water holding capacity of the soil. The topsoil which is washed away, also contributes to water pollution by clogging lakes and increasing the turbidity of the water which ultimately leads to the loss of aquatic life. Approximately 25% of the world’s crop yield is estimated to be directly attributable to chemical fertilisers, the use of which is rising significantly every year. Pesticides not only kill the pests but also a large variety of living things, including humans. They may be persistent or non-persistent. Persistent pesticides once applied, are effective for a long time. But they do not break down easily, so they tend to accumulate in the soil and in the bodies of animals in the food chain causing bioaccumulation and biomagnification or bioamplification. The short-term and long-term health effects on the persons using the pesticide and the public that consumes the food grown by using the pesticides are major concerns. Exposure to small quantities of pesticides over several years can cause mutations or produce cancers.
Other source of soil pollution is the use of saline water for irrigation purposes. Irrigation water contains dissolved salts and in dry climates much of the water in the saline solution evaporates leaving its salts in the soil. The accumulation of these salts is called salinisation which can stunt the plant growth, lower crop yield and eventually kill the crop and render the land useless for agriculture.
MEASURES OF CONTROL
Farmers are now increasingly opting to replace chemical fertilisers and use different methods of controlling pests without affecting their yield. Thus, several different approaches have been developed as alternatives to using fertilisers and pesticides. Alternative agriculture can be called as a broadest term as it includes all non-traditional agricultural methods, and encompasses sustainable agriculture, organic agriculture, alternative uses of traditional crops and alternative methods for raising crops. Sustainable agriculture advocates the use of methods to produce adequate safe food in an economically viable manner while maintaining the state of the ecosystem. Organic agriculture advocates avoiding the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. However, critics argue that organic farming cannot produce the amount of food required for today’s population and it is economically viable under certain conditions. But supporters of organic farming feel that if the hidden costs of soil erosion and pollution are taken into account then it is a viable approach.
Another way to reduce the impact of soil pollution is Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This is a technique that uses a complete understanding of all the ecological aspects of a crop and the particular pests to which it is susceptible to establish pest control strategies that use no or few pesticides. IPM promotes the use of biopesticides. Chemical insecticides and pesticides are toxic chemicals their indiscriminate or unplanned use plays a hazardous role to degrade environment through soil and plant contamination. They pose a serious threat or consequence to human health, animal health as well as pollute our nature. So it was our duty or major responsibility to safeguard citizen’s health. That’s why an Act i.e. INSECTICIDE ACT, 1968 was came in 1968 and was enforced from 1971. It was enforced to regulate sale, transport, manufacture, import distribution and use of pesticides with a concern to safeguard the health of humans and animals. For the effective enforcement of this Act several nodal agencies were formed like committee to ban or restrict the use of insecticides, Central Pesticide Laboratory, Pesticide Environment Pollution Advisory Committee, Central Insecticide Board, Pesticide Registration Committee.
4. LAND POLLUTION
In old times, in cities food scraps and other wastes were simply thrown onto the unpaved streets where they accumulated. The initial disposal methods of wastes were not good and were often just open pits outside the city walls. As the population increased efforts were made to transport the waste further away from cities thus creating city dumps. The mostly used means of disposal was to dump solid waste outside the city or village limits and where the waste is burnt or compacted.
Around most towns and cities in India, the approach roads are littered with multi-coloured plastic bags and other garbage. Waste is also burnt to reduce its volume. Modern methods of disposal such as incineration, and the development of sanitary landfills are now attempting to solve these problems. The lack of space for dumping solid waste has become a serious problem in several cities and towns all over the world. Dumping and burning waste is not an acceptable practice today from the view of an environmental or a health perspective.
Modern society produces large quantities of hazardous waste generated by chemical manufacturing companies, petroleum refineries, paper mills, smelters and other industries. Hazardous waste is that which can cause harm to humans as well as to the environment. Hazardous waste contributes to an increase in mortality or increase in serious irreversible illness or a potential threat to humans and to the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported or disposed of.
MEASURES OF CONTROL
The disposal of solid waste should be part of an integrated waste management plan. The method of collection, processing, resource recovery and final disposal should be done in a synchronised way to achieve a common objective. An integrated waste management strategy includes three main components i.e. Source reduction, Recycling and Disposal. Source reduction can be done by using less material while making a product, reusing products on sites and designing products or packaging to reduce their quantity. On an individual level we can reduce the use of unnecessary items while shopping, avoid buying non-disposable items and also avoid carrying plastic bags.
Recycling is reusing some components of the waste that may have some economic value. Recycling has many benefits like conserving resources, reducing energy used during manufacture and reducing pollution levels. Paper recycling helps to preserve forests as it takes about 17 trees to make one ton of paper. Thirdly, Disposal of solid waste is done most commonly through a sanitary landfill or incineration. A modern sanitary landfill is a depression in an impermeable soil layer lined with an impermeable membrane.
Today the most common methods for disposing of hazardous waste are land disposal and incineration. In countries where there is abundant land available for disposal, for example in North America land disposal is the most widely used method. In countries like Europe, Japan where land is not readily available and is expensive there incineration which is another method of waste disposal is preferred. Despite strong laws illegal dumping of these hazardous waste continues. So, industries need to be encouraged to generate less hazardous waste in their manufacturing processes.
LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY AND WILDLIFE – A RESULT OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION
Man has begun to overuse or misuse most of these natural ecosystems. Due to this unsustainable use of resources once productive forests and grasslands have been turned into deserts and wastelands have increased all over the world. There are 1.8 million species of plants and animals known to science in the world at present. But unfortunately, at the present rate of extinction about 25% of the world’s species will undergo extinction rapidly. The loss of species occurs due to the destruction of natural ecosystems either for conversion to agriculture or industry or by over- extraction of their resources or through pollution of air, water and soil. Specific threats to certain animals are related to large economic benefits. The skin and bones of tigers, ivory of elephants and horns of rhinos are extensively used for commercial purpose. In short, threats to biodiversity includes habitat loss due to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation and poaching for wildlife for short term economic. There is need to promote international cooperation to curb the trade of endangered species. Illegal wildlife trade is highly organised internationally linked trade. Our constitution gives right to save wildlife under Article48A of Indian Constitution.
In the Wild Life Protection Act (1972) and (1991) under sections 9, 39, 40(2) activities which are against law or comes under crime are:-
1. Hunting or poaching of wild animals
2. Captive breeding of wild animals or to keep wild animal in captivity
3. To gift anyone or to purchase or sale of wild life or its products
4. Illegal trade of wild animals or its products
In the year 2002 Wild Life Protection Act (WPA) was revised by an amendment passed by parliament and became effective from April 1, 2003. Significant changes has been made regarding penalties while maximum sentence in this act has been enhanced to three years imprisonment for any offence against any animal and may be extendable up to seven years and also a fine of not less than Rs 10,000.
ROLE OF AN INDIVIDUAL IN THE PREVENTION OF POLLUTION
There are a lot of environmental problems caused by human actions on the environment. Each of us is individually responsible for the quality of the environment we live in. Our personal actions can worsen or improve the quality of our environment. Several people thought that environmental problems can be solved with quick technological solutions. While most individuals want a cleaner environment so to a large extent the decisions and actions of individuals determine the quality of life for everyone. This necessitates that individuals should not only be aware of various environmental issues but the consequences of their actions on the environment.
With the help of solar energy, natural processes developed over billions of years can indefinitely renew the topsoil, water, air, forests, grasslands and wildlife on which all forms of life depend but only so long as we do not use these potentially renewable resources faster than they are replenished.
Every human being has a great feelings for different aspects of his or her surroundings. Environmental problems created by development are due to neither to the need for economic development, nor to the technology pollution but rather to a lack of awareness of the consequences of unlimited and unrestrained anti-developmental behaviour. Each action by an individual must be linked to its environmental consequences in his or her mind so that a value is created that strengthens pro-environmental behaviour and prevents anti-environmental actions. As environmentally conscious individuals we need to develop a set of values that are linked with a better and more sustainable way of life for all people.
Undoubtedly the environmental problem is a global issue, however developed countries are observing controlled environmental pollution but the condition of other countries is pathetic. There is an urgent and ultimate requirement for the promotion of nature conservation and environmental protection as the basis for sustainable and equitable development. Basically there are five broad components which can be helpful in promoting the conservation of environment:-
1. Promoting India’s ecological security
2. Conserving biological diversity
3. Ensuring sustainable use of natural resources
4. Minimizing pollution and wasteful consumption
5. Promoting sustainable lifestyles
Ever since human society has progressed from ancient times man has started altering natural environment for creating an economic, social and cultural environment of his own choice. This has resulted in depletion of abiotic and biotic natural resources. In order to promote sustained use of natural resources with sustainable livelihood to conserve natural resources numerous laws came into force at the national and international level. The protection and improvement of human environment is a major issue which affects the well-being of people and economic development throughout the world and it is common duty of all government and people to put common effort for preservation and improvement of human environment for sustenance of human life.
Most sections of society do not feel the direct effects of degradation of the environment till it is too late. Several marginalised sectors of society are most affected by deforestation or the loss of grassland tracts or the deterioration of perennial water sources. All these effects can be linked to increasing unsustainable pressures on land and natural resources. An equitable sharing of resources forms the basis of sustainable development for urban, rural and wilderness dwelling communities.
In the urban and megacity environments sustainable cities can be created if we adopt measures to conserve energy, use alternate energy sources, develop better public transport, use non-polluting vehicles that reduce emissions, create and implement better water conservation measures in our daily lives and ensure better sewage and solid waste management at the city and the individual household level. Therefore, sustainability related issues need a new pattern of urban governance so that water, housing, health, education, entertainment and urban green space for recreation in natural surroundings are used equitably. There were several existing laws that deals directly or indirectly with environmental issues, it was necessary to have a general legislation for environmental protection because the existing laws focussed on very specific types of pollution or specific categories of hazardous substances or were indirectly related to the environment through laws that control land use, protect our national parks and sanctuaries and our wildlife. There were also gaps in areas that were potential environmental hazards and there were several inadequate links in handling matters of industrial and environmental safety.
The Environment Protection Act was passed to protect the environment as there was a growing concern over the deteriorating state of the environment. There was a need for an authority to study, plan and implement the long term requirements of environmental safety and to direct and coordinate a system of appropriate response to emergencies threatening the environment. As the impact due to degradation of the environment grew considerably environmental protection became a national priority in the 1970s.
Public concern and support is crucial for implementing the Environment Protection Act. This must be supported by an enlightened media, good administrators, highly aware policy makers, informed judiciary and trained technocrats who together can influence and prevent further degradation of our environment. There are several Governmental and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working towards environmental protection in our country. Among the large number of institutions that deal with environmental protection and conservation, a few well known organisations include governmental organisations like the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), Environmental Information System (ENVIS), Pollution Control Boards (PCBs) and Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and NGOs like the BNHS, WWF-I and many others. They have created a growing interest in environmental protection and conservation of nature and natural resources.
The judicious management of our ecological goods and services for sustainable use today, with a new focus on the future. A better environment is one that is more conducive to all sectors of society, protecting a wider range of living beings including both flora and fauna that forms a silent web of life is an integral part of human well-being.
1. ESTABLISHED UNDER THE ACT OF THE AIR (PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF POLLUTION) ACT, 1981
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