What is Deforestation?
The destruction of natural forests because of cutting trees, logging, making space for cattle grazing, mining, extraction of oil, building dams and population expansion is known as deforestation. As per the reports of Natural Conservancy, logging accounts for 32 million acres of earth’s natural forests every year. By 2011 half of earth’s forests disappeared. A major part of this loss took place in the last 50 years alone. Forest goods and most importantly the wood, has been the essential need of the human civilization for over centuries and continues to be the main source of several activities that a man performs in his day to day proceedings. For example, paper is indispensible part of personal or official means of conducting the dealings. Invariably, this would necessitate human beings to source the wood from the forests leading to deforestation.
CAUSES OF DEFORESTATION
Timber Production – Need for the production of timber is the prime cause of deforestation. The timber is used as important construction material and also forms an important source of raw material for paper production. To make the timber products cheaper, governments allowed deforestation without realizing the fact that it would destroy ecological balance.
Division of Habitation – Construction of roads through the forests leads to division of habitation of animals, birds and other species. Once the roads are put to use, they pose a barrier for free movement of wildlife. Although, a small portion of forest land would have been used by felling trees, the division of habitation would be strongly felt by wildlife leading to imbalance. Further, such construction of roads provides easy access to logging and encourages uncontrolled activity of timber production.
Cut and Blaze Farming – Poor nations and developing countries tend to practice farming by claiming forest land to grow crops by cutting and setting the forest areas fire claiming that the forest land is fertile due to forest’s flora and fauna. This way large tracts of forest land is deforested for cultivation. Unfortunately, most of these countries do not realize that the land itself is responsible for its fertility rather than the forest mass. Cut and blaze farming is possibly sustainable provided density of population is below 8 per square kilometer. But in reality, more than 30 people habitat a given square kilometer leads to the destruction of complete balance.
Deforestation for Grass and Land Development – Grass lands are needed for cattle feeding and developing the cattle growing industry. In order to raise the cattle cheaply, some counties followed the deforestation route at it is and cheap allowing local industry to meet the demand of multinationals for cheaper animal products.
Forest as Source of Fire Wood – Less privileged nations, because of poverty and poor economic conditions, are forced to use forest as a principle source of fire wood for its people. They tend to deforest for fuel wood production leading to large tracts of forest land becoming barren. To replenish the deforested area it would take not less than 12 to 15 years but such duration greatly imbalances the forest sustainability. Besides, it is a widely recognized fact that fire wood as fuel is the most pollution producing material.
Effects of Deforestation:
There are several effects of deforestation on earth’s climate and nature.
Atmospheric – For global warming deforestation is the major contributor. Deforestation causes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As the concentration of carbon dioxide increases, a layer forms in the atmosphere that traps sun radiation. This radiation gets converted to heat and causes global warming. In other terms it is known as greenhouse effect. (Know what are the greenhouse gases) Deforestation also influences trees to release carbon stores. Scientists say that almost 1.5 billion tons of carbon is released each year by tropical deforestation.
Hydrological – Water cycle in the nature gets affected by deforestation. Trees pull up ground water with the help of their roots and then release the water vapour into the atmosphere. If trees are reduced, the water vapour content in the atmosphere is reduced and it results in drier climate. It also results in soil erosion which may lead to landslides or floods.
Reducing forest cover reduces the capacity of the soil to perspire. It means the absence of trees can influence the quantity of water on the land, in the atmosphere or in the soil. It affects the ecological cycle.
Soil – Forests as such have a very low soil loss rate. It is at approximately two metric tons per square kilometer. Deforestation results in soil erosion because tress can bind the soil together. If trees are removed from steep slopes, it may result in landslides.
Biodiversity – Deforestation results in the decline in biodiversity and many species of living organisms are becoming extinct. Forests support wildlife habitat and the tropical rainforests contribute to 80%of the biodiversity. The removal of trees has led to the degradation of environment and biodiversity.
Because of rainforest deforestation, we are losing an average of 137 plants, insects and animal species every day. It will account to almost 50,000 species over an year. There is a serious threat to several endangered species. It is estimated that almost 90 percent of predicted extinctions will take place within next forty years.
Economic – Deforestation and its effects can change the living standards of the people. Human societies utilize timber and wood from forests for building houses and making paper. On an average it is estimated that three million people depend on wood for cooking and other purposes. Rapid increase in economic growth also has the impact on forests. As population increases, there is demand for new homes and empty spaces. Roads are laid to expand cities and it results in the reduction of forest cover.
Reduction in emissions – Several international organizations along with United Nations and World Bank have been implementing various programs to curb deforestation. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) advices and encourages developing countries to reduce deforestation.
Farming – New farming technologies should be invented so that the existing resources are not depleted. Crop yield per acre of land should be increased so that with limited land more produce can be harvested.
Monitoring deforestation – Satellite data can be used to effectively assess the deforested areas. Positive steps by all governments will result in maintaining the forest cover.
Reforestation – In East Asian countries reforestation and afforestation are increasing slowly. Between 2000 and 2005, 1 million hectares of lost forest area was again brought back to life. Depending on the latest trends, it is believed that by 2050 there will an increase in forest cover globally by 10%.
Significance of Forests for Ecological Balance
It is well acknowledged fact that forests assume significance for variety of causes. In the first place many would opine that forests should be conserved for upcoming generations to benefit from. While it is true but the second and the most important motivation comes from the need for providing territory for large number of animals, birds and other species which are vital part of now well recognized earth’s ecological system, to make their habitation. Concurrently, forests perform a very fundamental task of natural oxygen generation. Over and above, they help in preventing land degradation leading to formation of deserts. Last but not the least, the forests are the only resourceful places for timber production and there is a continuous need for it as construction material, base fuel for heating and paper! Nonetheless, deforestation has been the biggest environment issue which continued to draw attention of the world.
Environmental pollution, problems and control measures – Overview
A. Introduction and definition of environmental pollution – We know that, a living organism cannot live by itself. Organisms interact among themselves. Hence, all organisms, such as plants, animals and human beings, as well as the physical surroundings with whom we interact, form a part of our environment. All these constituents of the environment are dependent upon each other. Thus, they maintain a balance in nature. As we are the only organisms try to modify the environment to fulfill our needs; it is our responsibility to take necessary steps to control the environmental imbalances.
The environmental imbalance gives rise to various environmental problems. Some of the environmental problems are pollution, soil erosion leading to floods, salt deserts and sea recedes, desertification, landslides, change of river directions, extinction of species, and vulnerable ecosystem in place of more complex and stable ecosystems, depletion of natural resources, waste accumulation, deforestation, thinning of ozone layer and global warming. The environmental problems are visualized in terms of pollution, growth in population, development, industrialization, unplanned urbanization etc. Rapid migration and increase in population in the urban areas has also lead to traffic congestion, water shortages, solid waste, and air, water and noise pollution are common noticeable problems in almost all the urban areas since last few years.
Environmental pollution is defined as the undesirable change in physical, chemical and biological characteristics of our air, land and water. As a result of over-population, rapid industrializations, and other human activities like agriculture and deforestation etc., earth became loaded with diverse pollutants that were released as by-products. Pollutants are generally grouped under two classes:
(a) Biodegradable pollutants – Biodegradable pollutants are broken down by the activity of micro-organisms and enter into the biogeochemical cycles. Examples of such pollutants are domestic waste products, urine and faucal matter, sewage, agricultural residue, paper, wood and cloth etc.
(b) Non- Biodegradable pollutants – Non-biodegradable pollutants are stronger chemical bondage, do not break down into simpler and harmless products. These include various insecticides and other pesticides, mercury, lead, arsenic, aluminum, plastics, radioactive waste etc.
B. Classification of Environmental Pollution – Pollution can be broadly classified according to the components of environment that are polluted. Major of these are: Air pollution, Water pollution, Soil pollution (land degradation) and Noise pollution. Details of these types of pollutions are discussed below with their prevention measures.
(1) Air Pollution:Air is mainly a mixture of various gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen. These are present in a particular ratio. Whenever there is any imbalance in the ratio of these gases, air pollution is caused. The sources of air pollution can be grouped as under
(i) Natural; such as, forest fires, ash from smoking volcanoes, dust storm and decay of organic matters.
(ii) Man-made due to population explosion, deforestation, urbanization and industrializations.
Certain activities of human beings release several pollutants in air, such as carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), hydrocarbons (HC), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), lead, arsenic, asbestos, radioactive matter, and dust. The major threat comes from burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum products. Thermal power plants, automobiles and industries are major sources of air pollution as well. Due to progress in atomic energy sector, there has been an increase in radioactivity in the atmosphere. Mining activity adds to air pollution in the form of particulate matter. Progress in agriculture due to use of fertilizers and pesticides has also contributed towards air pollution. Indiscriminate cutting of trees and clearing of forests has led to increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in atmosphere. Global warming is a consequence of green house effect caused by increased level of carbon dioxide (CO2). Ozone (O3) depletion has resulted in UV radiation striking our earth.
The gaseous composition of unpolluted air
Parts per million (vol)
Harmful Effects of air pollution –
(a) It affects respiratory system of living organisms and causes bronchitis, asthma, lung cancer, pneumonia etc. Carbon monoxide (CO) emitted from motor vehicles and cigarette smoke affects the central nervous system.
(b) Due to depletion of ozone layer, UV radiation reaches the earth. UV radiation causes skin cancer, damage to eyes and immune system.
(c) Acid rain is also a result of air pollution. This is caused by presence of oxides of nitrogen and sulfur in the air. These oxides dissolve in rain water to form nitric acid and sulfuric acid respectively. Various monuments, buildings, and statues are damaged due to corrosion by acid present in the rain. The soil also becomes acidic. The cumulative effect is the gradual degradation of soil and a decline in forest and agricultural productivity.
(d) The green house gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) trap the heat radiated from earth. This leads to an increase in earth’s temperature.
(e) Some toxic metals and pesticides also cause air pollution.
[For more refer Industrial Dust, Air Pollution and Related Occupational Diseases ]
(2) Water Pollution:Water is one of the prime necessities of life. With increasing number of people depend on this resource; water has become a scarce commodity. Pollution makes even the limited available water unfit for use. Water is said to be polluted when there is any physical, biological or chemical change in water quality that adversely affects living organisms or makes water unsuitable for use. Sources of water pollution are mainly factories, power plants, coal mines and oil wells situated either close to water source or away from sources. They discharge pollutants directly or indirectly into the water sources like river, lakes, water streams etc. The harmful effects of water pollution are:
(a) Human beings become victims of various water borne diseases, such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, jaundice, etc.
(b) The presence of acids/alkalies in water destroys the microorganisms, thereby hindering the self-purification process in the rivers or water bodies. Agriculture is affected badly due to polluted water. Marine eco-systems are affected adversely.
(c) The sewage waste promotes growth of phytoplankton in water bodies; causing reduction of dissolved oxygen.
(d) Poisonous industrial wastes present in water bodies affect the fish population and deprives us of one of our sources of food. It also kills other animals living in fresh water.
(e) The quality of underground water is also affected due to toxicity and pollutant content of surface water.
(2.1) Water pollution by industries and its effects –A change in the chemical, physical, biological, and radiological quality of water that is injurious to its uses. The term “water pollution” generally refers to human-induced changes to water quality. Thus, the discharge of toxic chemicals from industries or the release of human or livestock waste into a nearby water body is considered pollution.
The contamination of ground water of water bodies like rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries, and oceans can threaten the health of humans and aquatic life. Sources of water pollution may be divided into two categories. (i) Point-source pollution, in which contaminants are discharged from a discrete location. Sewage outfalls and oil spills are examples of point-source pollution. (ii) Non-point-source or diffuse pollution, referring to all of the other discharges that deliver contaminants to water bodies. Acid rain and unconfined runoff from agricultural or urban areas falls under this category.
The principal contaminants of water include toxic chemicals, nutrients, biodegradable organics, and bacterial & viral pathogens. Water pollution can affect human health when pollutants enter the body either via skin exposure or through the direct consumption of contaminated drinking water and contaminated food. Prime pollutants, including DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), persist in the natural environment and bioaccumulation occurs in the tissues of aquatic organisms. These prolonged and persistent organic pollutants are transferred up the food chain and they can reach levels of concern in fish species that are eaten by humans. Moreover, bacteria and viral pathogens can pose a public health risk for those who drink contaminated water or eat raw shellfish from polluted water bodies.
Contaminants have a significant impact on aquatic ecosystems. Enrichment of water bodies with nutrients (principally nitrogen and phosphorus) can result in the growth of algae and other aquatic plants that shade or clog streams. If wastewater containing biodegradable organic matter is discharged into a stream with inadequate dissolved oxygen, the water downstream of the point of discharge will become anaerobic and will be turbid and dark. Settleable solids will be deposited on the streambed, and anaerobic decomposition will occur. Over the reach of stream where the dissolved-oxygen concentration is zero, a zone of putrefaction will occur with the production of hydrogen sulfide (H2S), ammonia (NH3), and other odorous gases. Because many fish species require a minimum of 4–5 mg of dissolved oxygen per liter of water, they will be unable to survive in this portion of the stream.
Direct exposures to toxic chemicals are also a health concern for individual aquatic plants and animals. Chemicals such as pesticides are frequently transported to lakes and rivers via runoff, and they can have harmful effects on aquatic life. Toxic chemicals have been shown to reduce the growth, survival, reproductive output, and disease resistance of exposed organisms. These effects can have important consequences for the viability of aquatic populations and communities.
Wastewater discharges are most commonly controlled through effluent standards and discharge permits. Under this system, discharge permits are issued with limits on the quantity and quality of effluents. Water-quality standards are sets of qualitative and quantitative criteria designed to maintain or enhance the quality of receiving waters. Criteria can be developed and implemented to protect aquatic life against acute and chronic effects and to safeguard humans against deleterious health effects, including cancer.
[ For more refer ‘Water Conservation – Need-of-the-day for our very survival‘ ]
(3) Soil pollution (Land degradation): Land pollution is due to
(i) Deforestation and
(ii) Dumping of solid wastes.
Deforestation increases soil erosion; thus valuable agricultural land is lost. Solid wastes from household and industries also pollute land and enhance land degradation. Solid wastes include things from household waste and of industrial wastes. They include ash, glass, peelings of fruit and vegetables, paper, clothes, plastics, rubber, leather, brick, sand, metal, waste from cattle shed, night soil and cow dung. Chemicals discharged into air, such as compounds of sulfur and lead, eventually come to soil and pollute it. The heaps of solid waste destroy the natural beauty and surroundings become dirty. Pigs, dogs, rats, flies, mosquitoes visit the dumped waste and foul smell comes from the waste. The waste may block the flow of water in the drain, which then becomes the breeding place for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are carriers of parasites of malaria and dengue. Consumption of polluted water causes many diseases, such as cholera, diarrhea and dysentery.
[ For more refer Solid Waste Disposal -A Burning Problem To Be Resolved To Save Environment ]
(4) Noise pollution :High level noise is a disturbance to the human environment. Because of urbanization, noise in all areas in a city has increased considerably. One of the most pervasive sources of noise in our environment today is those associated with transportation. People reside adjacent to highways, are subjected to high level of noise produced by trucks and vehicles pass on the highways. Prolonged exposure to high level of noise is very much harmful to the health of mankind.
In industry and in mines the main sources of noise pollution are blasting, movement of heavy earth moving machines, drilling, crusher and coal handling plants etc. The critical value for the development of hearing problems is at 80 decibels.
Chronic exposure to noise may cause noise-induced hearing loss. High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects. Moreover, noise can be a causal factor in workplace accidents.
C. Fundamentals of prevention and control of air pollution:
As mentioned above, air pollutants can be gaseous or particulate matters. Different techniques for controlling these pollutants are discussed below:
a. Methods of controlling gaseous pollutants –
1. Combustion – This technique is used when the pollutants are in the form of organic gases or vapors. During flame combustion or catalytic process, these organic pollutants are converted into water vapor and relatively less harmful products, such as CO2.
2. Absorption – In this technique, the gaseous effluents are passed through scrubbers or absorbers. These contain a suitable liquid absorbent, which removes or modifies one or more of the pollutants present in the gaseous effluents.
3. Adsorption – The gaseous effluents are passed through porous solid adsorbents kept in suitable containers. The organic and inorganic constituents of the effluent gases are trapped at the interface of the solid adsorbent by physical adsorbent.
b. Methods to control particulate emissions –
1. Mechanical devices generally work on the basis of the following:
(i) Gravity: In this process, the particles settle down by gravitational force.
(ii) Sudden change in direction of the gas flow. This causes the particles to separate out due to greater momentum.
2. Fabric Filters: The gases containing dust are passed through a porous medium. These porous media may be woven or filled fabrics. The particles present in the gas are trapped and collected in the filters. The gases freed from the particles are discharged.
3. Wet Scrubbers: Wet scrubbers are used in chemical, mining and metallurgical industries to trap SO2, NH3, metal fumes, etc.
4. Electrostatic Precipitators: When a gas or an air stream containing aerosols in the form of dust, fumes or mist, is passed between two electrodes, then, the aerosol particles get precipitated on the electrode.
c. Other practices in controlling air pollution – Apart from the above, following practices also help in controlling air pollution.
(i) Use of better designed equipment and smokeless fuels, hearths in industries and at home.
(ii) Automobiles should be properly maintained and adhere to recent emission-control standards.
(iii) More trees should be planted along road side and houses.
(iv) Renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar energy, ocean currents, should fulfill energy needs.
(v) Tall chimneys should be installed for vertical dispersion of pollutants.
d. General air pollution control devices / equipments for industries – The commonly used equipments / process for control of dust in various industries are (a) Mechanical dust collectors in the form of dust cyclones; (b) Electrostatic precipitators – both dry and wet system; (c) particulate scrubbers; (d) Water sprayer at dust generation points; (e) proper ventilation system and (f) various monitoring devices to know the concentration of dust in general body of air.
The common equipments / process used for control of toxic / flue gases are the (a) process of desulphurisation; (b) process of denitrification; (c) Gas conditioning etc. and (d) various monitoring devices to know the efficacy of the systems used.
e. Steps, in general, to be taken for reduction of air pollution – To change our behavior in order to reduce AIR POLLUTION at home as well as on the road, few following small steps taken by us would lead to clean our Environment.
1. Avoid using chemical pesticides or fertilizers in your yard and garden. Many fertilizers are a source of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Try organic products instead.
2. Compost your yard waste instead of burning it. Outdoor burning is not advisable, as it pollutes air. Breathing this smoke is bad for you, your family and your neighbors. Plus, you can use the compost in your garden.
3. If you use a wood stove or fireplace to heat your home, it would be better to consider switching to another form of heat which does not generate smoke. It is always better to use sweater or warm clothing than using fireplace.
4. Be energy efficient. Most traditional sources of energy burn fossil fuels, causing air pollution. Keep your home well-maintained with weather-stripping, storm windows, and insulation. Lowering your thermostat can also help – and for every two degrees Fahrenheit you lower it, you save about two percent on your heating bill.
5. Plant trees and encourage other to plant trees as well. Trees absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and filter out air pollution. During warmer days, trees provide cool air, unnecessary use of energy on air conditioning is avoided, hence the air pollution.
6. Try to stop smoking; at home, at office or at outside. Tobacco smoking not only deteriorates self’s health, it affects others health too.
On the Road:
7. Keep your vehicle well maintained. A poorly maintained engine both creates more air pollution and uses more fuel. Replace oil and air filters regularly, and keep your tires properly inflated.
8. Drive less. Walking, bicycling, riding the bus, or working from home can save you money as well as reducing air pollution.
9. Don’t idle your vehicle. If you stop for more than 30 seconds, except in traffic, turn off your engine.
10. Don’t buy more car than you need. Four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, engine size, vehicle weight, and tire size all affect the amount of fuel your vehicle uses. The more fuel it uses the more air pollution it causes.
D. Water pollution prevention and control:
Water is a key resource for our quality of life. It also provides natural habitats and eco-systems for plant and animal species. Access to clean water for drinking and sanitary purposes is a precondition for human health and well-being. Clean unpolluted water is essential for our ecosystems. Plants and animals in lakes, rivers and seas react to changes in their environment caused by changes in chemical water quality and physical disturbance of their habitat.
Water pollution is a human-induced change in the chemical, physical, biological, and radiological quality of water that is injurious to its existing, intended, or potential uses such as boating, waterskiing, swimming, the consumption of fish, and the health of aquatic organisms and ecosystems. Thus, the discharge of toxic chemicals from a pipe or the release of livestock waste into a nearby water body is considered pollution. The contamination of ground water, rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries, and oceans can threaten the health of humans and aquatic life.
Contaminants have a significant impact on aquatic ecosystems. for example, enrichment of water bodies with nutrients (principally nitrogen and phosphorus) can result in the growth of algae and other aquatic plants that shade or clog streams. Direct exposures to toxic chemicals such as pesticides, is also a health concern for individual aquatic plants and animals. Without healthy water for drinking, cooking, fishing, and farming, the human race would perish. Clean water is also necessary for recreational interests such as swimming, boating, and water skiing.
a. Sources of Water Pollution – Sources of water pollution are generally divided into two categories. The first is point-source pollution, in which contaminants are discharged from a discrete location. Sewage outfalls and oil spills are examples of point-source pollution. The second category is non-point-source or diffuses pollution, referring to all of the other discharges that deliver contaminants to water bodies.
Numerous manufacturing plants pour off undiluted corrosives, poisons, and other noxious byproducts to water streams. The construction industry discharges slurries of gypsum, cement, abrasives, metals, and poisonous solvents. The mining industry also presents persistent water pollution problems. In yet another instance of pollution, hot water discharged by factories and power plants causes so-called ‘thermal pollution’ by increasing water temperatures. Such increases change the level of oxygen dissolved in a body of water, thereby disrupting the water’s ecological balance, killing off some plant and animal species while encouraging the overgrowth of others. Towns and municipalities are also major sources of water pollution.
In many public water systems, pollution exceeds safe levels. One reason for this is that much groundwater has been contaminated by wastes pumped underground for disposal or by seepage from surface water. When contamination reaches underground water tables, it is difficult to correct and spreads over wide areas. Discharge of untreated or only partially treated sewage into the waterways threatens the health of their own and neighboring populations as well. Along with domestic wastes, sewage carries industrial contaminants and a growing tonnage of paper and plastic refuse. Although thorough sewage treatment would destroy most disease-causing bacteria, the problem of the spread of viruses and viral illness remains. Additionally, most sewage treatment does not remove phosphorus compounds, contributed principally by detergents.
b. Dangers of Water Pollution – Virtually all water pollutants are hazardous to humans as well as lesser species; sodium is implicated in cardiovascular disease, nitrates in blood disorders. Mercury and lead can cause nervous disorders. Some contaminants are carcinogens. DDT is toxic to humans and can alter chromosomes. Along many shores, shellfish can no longer be taken because of contamination by DDT, sewage, or industrial wastes.
c. Prevention and Control of Water Pollution –Sewage should be treated before it is discharged into the river or ocean. This is possible through modern techniques.
Sewage is first passed through a grinding mechanism. This is then passed through several settling chambers and neutralized with lime. Up to this stage, the process is called primary treatment. The sewage still contains a large number of pathogenic and non-pathogenic organisms, and also sufficient quantity of organic matter. The neutralized effluents are sent to UASB (up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket). It is a reactor. In this, the anaerobic bacteria degrade the biodegradable material present in the waste water. This removes foul odor and releases methane, which can be used elsewhere. In this system, the pollution load is reduced upto 85 percent. After this, water is sent to aeration tanks where it is mixed with air and bacteria. Bacteria digest the organic waste material. This is called biological or secondary treatment. Even after the treatment, water is not yet fit for drinking. The harmful microorganisms need to be killed. The final step (tertiary treatment) is, therefore, a disinfection process, to remove final traces of organics, bacteria, dissolved inorganic solids, etc. For tertiary treatment, methods, such as chlorination, evaporation, and exchange absorption may be employed. These depend upon the required quality of the final treatment.
Apart from the above, you should also adopt the following practices:
(i) Waste food material, paper, decaying vegetables and plastics should not be thrown into open drains.
(ii) Effluents from distilleries, and solid wastes containing organic matter should be sent to biogas plants for generation of energy.
(iii) Oil slicks should be skimmed off from the surface with suction device. Sawdust may be spread over oil slicks to absorb the oil components.
E. Soil erosion and its prevention: Soil erosion by water, wind and tillage affects both agriculture and the natural environment. Soil loss, and its associated impacts, is one of the most important (yet probably the least well-known) of today’s environmental problems. It is mostly due to poor land use practices, which include deforestation, overgrazing, unmanaged construction activity and road or trail building.
Soil is a complex mixture of living and non-living materials. It provides anchorage and sustenance to plants. Natural agents like water and wind, constantly tend to remove the top soil and cause erosion. Rain falling upon the unprotected top soil, washes it down into the streams. Due to the absence of plant covering, eroded soil cannot hold water. Water rushes into the rivers and overflows as flood. Dust storm also causes soil erosion. The particles of top soil are picked up in such quantities that they form clouds of dust. Human beings also cause soil erosion. The growing human habitation and expansion of urban areas lead to removal of vegetation. Once vegetation is removed, the naked soil gets exposed to wind and water. Improper tillage is another cause of soil erosion. Farmers often loosen the top soil for removing weeds and preparing seed beds. They also leave agricultural fields lying fallow for long time. These practices expose the top soil to the wind and cause erosion.
Soil erosion is always a result of mankind’s unwise actions, such as overgrazing or unsuitable cultivation practices. These leave the land unprotected and vulnerable. Accelerated soil erosion by water or wind may affect both agricultural areas and the natural environment, and is one of the most widespread of today’s environmental problems. Soil erosion is just one form of soil degradation. Other kinds of soil degradation include salinisation, nutrient loss, and compaction.
Prevention of soil erosion –Plants provide protective cover on the land and prevent soil erosion for the reasons:
(a) plants slow down water as it flows over the land (runoff) and this allows much of the rain to soak into the ground;
(b) plant roots hold the soil in position and prevent it from being washed away;
(c) plants break the impact of a raindrop before it hits the soil, thus reducing its ability to erode;
(d) plants in wetlands and on the banks of rivers are of particular importance as they slow down the flow of the water and their roots bind the soil, thus preventing erosion.
Preventing soil erosion requires technical changes to adopt. Aspects of technical changes include:
(i) use of contour ploughing and wind breaks;
(ii) leaving unploughed grass strips between ploughed land;
(iii) making sure that there are always plants growing on the soil, and that the soil is rich in humus (decaying plant and animal remains). This organic matter is the “glue” that binds the soil particles together and plays an important part in preventing erosion;
(iv) avoiding overgrazing and the over-use of crop lands;
(v) allowing indigenous plants to grow along the river banks instead of ploughing and planting crops right up to the water’s edge;
(vi) encouraging biological diversity by planting several different types of plants together;
(vii) conservation of wetlands.
We can check soil erosion by adopting the following additional practices:
1. Intensive cropping and use of proper drainage canals.
2. Terracing on the sloping fields. This retards the speed of the flowing water.
3. Planting trees and sowing grasses.
4. Extensive aforestation practices to be carried out.
[ For more refer Soil Erosion Combating is Essential ]
F. Mitigation of Noise pollution: Reducing noise pollution by muffling the sounds at the source is one of the best methods in industry and for urban living. Protective equipment is generally mandatory when noise levels exceed 85 dB(A) in industry. Creation of green cover adjacent to municipal roads and in mines is the way to mitigate noise pollution. It has been observed that noise level reduces by 10 decibels per every 10m wide green belt development. Apart, redesigning industrial equipment, shock mounting assemblies and physical barriers in the workplace are also for reduction and exposure of unwanted industrial noise.
High way noise pollution can be mitigated by constructing noise barriers. Artificial noise barriers are solid obstructions built between the highway and the residential areas along a highway. They block major portion of noise produced by passing vehicles on a highway. Effective noise barriers typically reduce noise levels by as much as half or more. The construction of noise barrier may be built in the form of earth mounds, vertical wall along the highways for creation of blockage of sound generated by heavy vehicles. Creation of greenbelt in the space between the residences and highways also reduces the noise nuisance.
G. Conservation and protection of environment: By now, all of us have realized how important it is to protect the environment for our own survival. The term ‘conservation’ of environment relates to activities which can provide individual or commercial benefits, but at the same time, prevent excessive use leading to environmental damage. Conservation may be distinguished from preservation, which is considered to be “maintaining of nature as it is, or might have been before the intervention of either human beings or natural forces.” We know that natural resources are getting depleted and environmental problems are increasing. It is, therefore, necessary to conserve and protect our environment. Following practices help in protecting our environment.
1. Rotation of crops.
2. Judicious use of fertilisers, intensive cropping, proper drainage and irrigation.
3. Treatment of sewage, so that it does not pollute the rivers and other water bodies.
4. Composting organic solid waste for use as manure.
5. Planting trees in place of those removed for various purposes.
6. National parks and conservation forests should be established by the government.
7. Harvesting of rain water.
Some action points to protect or improve the environment –
(i) Dispose the waste after separating them into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste material.
(ii) Start a compost heap or use a compost bin. This can be used to recycle waste food and other biodegradable materials.
(iii) Avoid unnecessary or wasteful packaging of products.
(iv) Reuse carry bags.
(v) Plant trees. They will help to absorb excess carbon dioxide.
(vi) Observe World Environment Day on 5th June.
(vii) Never put any left over chemicals, used oils down the drain, toilet or dump them on the ground or in water or burn them in the garden. If you do so, it will cause pollution.
(viii) Don’t burn any waste, especially plastics, for the smoke may contain polluting gases.
(ix) Use unleaded petrol and alternate sources of energy, and keep the engine properly tuned and serviced and the tyres inflated to the right pressure, so that vehicle runs efficiently.
(x) Avoid fast starts and sudden braking of automobiles.
(xi) Walk or cycle where it is safe to do so – walking is free; cycling can help to keep you fit.
(xii) Use public transport wherever you can, or form a car pool for everyday travel.
(xiii) Send your waste oil, old batteries and used tyres to a garage for recycling or safe disposal; all these can cause serious pollution.