Environmental Pollution And Degradation
Environmental pollution has existed for centuries but only started to be significant following the industrial revolution in the 19th century.
Pollution occurs when the natural environment cannot destroy an element without creating harm or damage to itself. The elements involved are not produced by nature, and the destroying process can vary from a few days to thousands of years (that is, for instance, the case for radioactive pollutants). In other words, pollution takes place when nature does not know how to decompose an element that has been brought to it in an unnatural way.
Pollution must be taken seriously, as it has a negative effect on natural elements that are an absolute need for life to exist on earth, such as water and air. Indeed, without it, or if they were present on different quantities, animals – including humans – and plants could not survive. We can identify several types of pollution on Earth: air pollution, water pollution and soil pollution.
Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air that are detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole.
Effects of Air Pollution
1. Smog and soot
These two are the most prevalent types of air pollution. Smog, or “ground-level ozone,” as it is more wonkily called, occurs when emissions from combusting fossil fuels react with sunlight. Soot, or “particulate matter,” is made up of tiny particles of chemicals, soil, smoke, dust, or allergens, in the form of gas or solids, that are carried in the air. Both come from cars and trucks, factories, power plants, incinerators, engines—anything that combusts fossil fuels such as coal, gas, or natural gas. The tiniest airborne particles in soot—whether they’re in the form of gas or solids—are especially dangerous because they can penetrate the lungs and bloodstream and worsen bronchitis, lead to heart attacks, and even hasten death.
Smog can irritate the eyes and throat and also damage the lungs—especially of people who work or exercise outside, children, and senior citizens. It’s even worse for people who have asthma or allergies—these extra pollutants only intensify their symptoms and can trigger asthma attacks.
2. Hazardous air pollutants
These are either deadly or have severe health risks even in small amounts. Benzene, classified as a carcinogen by the EPA, can cause eye, skin, and lung irritation in the short term and blood disorders in the long term. Dioxins, more typically found in food but also present in small amounts in the air, can affect the liver in the short term and harm the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, as well as reproductive functions. Lead in large amounts can damage children’s brains and kidneys, and even in small amounts it can affect children’s IQ and ability to learn. Mercury affects the central nervous system.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, are toxic components of traffic exhaust and wildfire smoke. In large amounts, they have been linked to eye and lung irritation, blood and liver issues, and even cancer. In one recent study, the children of mothers who’d had higher PAH exposure during pregnancy had slower brain processing speeds and worse symptoms of ADHD.
3. Greenhouse gases
By trapping the earth’s heat in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases lead to warmer temperatures and all the hallmarks of climate change: rising sea levels, more extreme weather, heat-related deaths, and increasing transmission of infectious diseases like Lyme. Carbon dioxide comes from combusting fossil fuels, and methane comes from natural and industrial sources, including the large amounts that are released during oil and gas drilling. Another class of greenhouse gases, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide in their ability to trap heat.
In October 2016, more than 140 countries reached an agreement to reduce the use of these chemicals—which are used in air conditioners and refrigerators—and find greener alternatives over time.
4. Pollen and mold
Mold and allergens from trees, weeds, and grass are also carried in the air, are exacerbated by climate change, and can be hazardous to health. They are not regulated by the government and are less directly connected to human actions, but they can be considered air pollution. When homes, schools, or businesses get water damage, mold can grow and can produce allergenic airborne pollutants. Mold exposure can precipitate asthma attacks or an allergic response, and some molds can even produce toxins that would be dangerous for anyone to inhale.
Pollen allergies are worsening because of climate change. Lab and field studies are showing that the more carbon dioxide pollen-producing plants—especially ragweed—are grown in, the bigger they grow and the more pollen they produce. Climate change also extends the pollen production season, and some studies are beginning to suggest that ragweed pollen itself might be becoming a more potent allergen. That means more people will suffer runny noses, fevers, itchy eyes, and other symptoms.
How to Help Reduce Air Pollution
The less gasoline we burn, the better we’re doing to reduce air pollution and harmful effects of climate change. Buying food locally cuts down on the fossil fuels burned in trucking or flying food in from across the country.
How to Protect Health
1. When you see in the newspaper or hear on the weather report that pollution levels are high, it may be useful to limit the time when children go outside or you go for a jog. Generally, ozone levels tend to be lower in the morning.
2. When you do exercise outside, stay as far as you can from heavily trafficked roads. Then shower and wash your clothes to remove fine particles.
3. If the air quality is bad, stay inside with windows closed.
4. Wear sunscreen. When ultraviolet radiation comes through the weakened ozone layer, it can cause skin damage and skin cancer.
Water pollution is defined as the presence in groundwater of toxic chemicals and biological agents that exceed what is naturally found in the water and may pose a threat to human health and/or the environment. Additionally, water pollution may consist of chemicals introduced into the water bodies as a result of various human activities. Any amount of those chemicals pollutes the water, regardless of the harm they may pose to human health and the environment.
Many of the chlorinated solvents commonly used in industry (such as PCE, TCE, 1,1,1-TCA) are examples of such chemicals polluting our waters exclusively due to human activities. Regardless of their provenance, the chemicals or biological agents causing water pollution are generically referred to as water pollutants. The chemical and biological agents represent the main causes of water pollution and are generically referred to as water pollutants.
Any kind of water can become polluted, regardless of its size or location. This includes lakes from remote areas or huge water bodies and is due to the air transportation of pollutant particles and their transfer into precipitation water. The groundwater and surface water consist of swimming pools, ponds, lakes, creeks, rivers, seas, and oceans that may all become polluted at some point. Due to the quick diffusion and dissipation of contamination and the faster natural degradation processes, the bigger the water body is, the shorter the time required for naturally cleansing the pollution and recovery.
Types of Water Pollution
There are various types of water pollution based on the various causes of water pollution. Various classifications can be made, based on various water pollution causes:
1. The type of the water pollutants – based on this classification criteria, water pollution can be:
1. Chemical – when various chemicals are the water pollution causes. The following chemicals are the most common water pollutants: Crude oil and various petroleum products (including gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, motor and lubricating oils, jet fuel). These compounds are lighter than water and thus always sit on top of water forming sheens of “free product”. However, part of these compounds dissolve in water and, even in small amounts may be harmful and at the same time may remain unnoticeable by the eye.
2. Fertilizers (including nitrates and phosphates) – while small amounts are useful to life, higher amounts of nitrates and phosphates in water are only beneficial to algae and harmful microorganisms and are poisonous to human and aquatic life. These contaminants cannot be seen themselves in water (as they do not form sheens or color the water), but their effects can. The typical effect of water pollution by fertilizers (usually through agricultural runoff) is the fast and abundant water growth.
3. Chlorinated solvents (including TCE, PCE, 1,1,1-TCA, carbon tetrachloride, Freons) which sink in water (are denser than water) and are quite persistent and toxic. These compounds thus, cannot be seen by the eye, in contrast with petroleum products that are easily seen as sheens on top of water surface.
4. Petroleum solvents (including benzene, toluene, xylenes, ethylbenzene).
5. Other organic solvents and chemicals (such as acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, alcohols such as ethanol, isopropanol; or oxygenate compounds such as MTBE)
6. Antibiotics and other pharmaceutical products;
7. Perchlorate – perchlorate salts are used in rocket fuels, as well as many other applications such as fireworks, explosives, road flares, inflation bags, etc. This contaminant is usually associated with military bases, construction sites (when explosives are used). However, natural formation in arid areas may account for perchlorate in water, too (e.g., in Chile, Texas or California where natural formation of perchlorate has been observed)
8. Trihalomethanes – these are usually byproducts of water chlorination and may pollute groundwater and surface water via leaking sewer lines and discharges. Examples of such compounds are: chloroform, bromoform, dichlorobromomethane;
9. Metals and their compounds – of higher health risk are the organo-metal compounds which may form when metals from water react with organic compounds from water. Common examples include Hg, As, and Cr poisoning of water. Thus, if water is polluted with both metals and organic compounds the health risk is higher. And so is the effect of water pollution on aquatic life.
10. Pesticides/insecticides/herbicides – comprise a large number of individual chemicals that get into water due to agricultural activities directly (by spraying over large areas) or indirectly with agriculture runoff. The insecticide DDT is a typical example of such type of water pollutant.
11. PCBs – in spite of their recent ban, their ubiquitous environmental presence makes these contaminants usually associated with urban runoffs.
II) Radiological – when radioactive materials are the water pollutant causes.
III) Biological – when various microorganisms (e.g., bacterial species and viruses), worms, and/or algae occurring in a large number are the water pollution causes. This type of pollution is caused by decaying organic material in water, animal wastes, as well as improper disposal of human wastes.
Sources of Water Pollution
The main sources of pollution are all resulted from the disposal of chemical substances coming from medical, industrial and household waste, chaotic agricultural fertilizers disposal and accidental oil spills that pollute the water to a large extent.
Examples of major water pollutants that affect the health of humans are:
1. The numerous infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, and parasites) that contaminate the water through sewage, human waste, and animal excreta
2. Radioactive waste that contains highly toxic materials such as uranium, thorium, and radon. This waste is a major water pollutant resulted from mining activities, power plants or natural sources
3. The chemical substances that contaminate the water. These chemicals can be either organic – pesticides, plastic, oil, detergents, etc. – coming from domestic, industrial or agricultural waste, or inorganic – acids, metals, salts – domestic and industrial effluents.
Examples of major water pollutants that affect the ecosystem only are the following:
1. Plant nutrients like phosphates and nitrates that form various chemical fertilizers, sewage, and manure
2. Oxygen-demanding manures and agricultural waste resulted from sewage and agricultural run-offs
3. Sediments in the soil (silt) following soil erosion, and heated waters used in several industries and power plants.
How Does Water Pollution Affect Humans
Water pollution may cause a large variety of diseases and poses a serious problem for human health. This is mainly because we may get exposed to polluted water in various ways, including, but not necessarily limited to:
1. Drinking polluted water
2. Bathing or showering in polluted water
3. Swimming in polluted water
4. Breathing the vapors of a polluted water while sitting next to a polluted water source
5. Consuming polluted food (meat and/or vegetables) affected by polluted water
6. Consuming meat from animals fed with polluted water of food affected by polluted water (e.g. vegetables irrigated with polluted water or grown in an area with polluted groundwater)
The effects of water pollution may appear immediately after exposure and be more or less violent in the case of drinking water with a high amount of pollutants. On the other hand, the effects may appear some time after repetitive exposure to water contaminated with lower amounts of pollutants. The health effects of drinking contaminated water may range from simple intoxication and stomach aches to deadly diseases or sudden death.
Land/ Solid waste Pollution:
It is another term for soil contamination (for example, by factory chemicals or sewage and other wastewater). In this article, we’ll define it more widely to include garbage and industrial waste, agricultural pesticides and fertilizers, impacts from mining and other forms of industry, the unwanted consequences of urbanization, and the systematic destruction of soil through over-intensive agriculture; we’ll take land pollution to mean any kind of long-term land damage, destruction, degradation, or loss.
Causes of land pollution
There are many different ways of permanently changing the land, from soil contamination (poisoning by chemicals or waste) to general urbanization (the systematic creation of cities and other human settlements from greenfield, virgin land). Some, such as huge landfills or quarries, are very obvious; others, such as atmospheric deposition (where land becomes contaminated when air pollution falls onto it) are much less apparent.
1. Waste disposal
Humans produce vast quantities of waste—in factories and offices, in our homes and schools, and in such unlikely places as hospitals. Even the most sophisticated waste processing plants, which use plasma torches (electrically controlled “flames” at temperatures of thousands of degrees) to turn waste into gas, produce solid waste products that have to be disposed of somehow.
Waste disposal didn’t always mean land pollution. Before the 20th century, most of the materials people used were completely natural (produced from either plants, animals, or minerals found in the Earth) so, when they were disposed of, the waste products they generated were natural and harmless too: mostly organic (carbon-based) materials that would simply biodegrade (break down eventually into soil-like compost).
There was really nothing we could put into the Earth that was more harmful than anything we’d taken from it in the first place. But during the 20th century, the development of plastics (polymers generally made in chemical plants from petroleum and other chemicals), composites (made by combining two or more other materials), and other synthetic (human-created) materials has produced a new generation of unnatural materials that the natural environment has no idea how to break down.
It can take 500 years for a plastic bottle to biodegrade, for example. And while it’s easy enough to recycle simple things such as cardboard boxes or steel cans, it’s much harder to do the same thing with computer circuit boards made from dozens of different electronic components, themselves made from countless metals and other chemicals, all tightly bonded together and almost impossible to dismantle.
Nothing illustrates the problem of waste disposal more clearly than radioactive waste. When scientists discovered how to create energy by splitting atoms in nuclear power plants, they also created the world’s hardest waste disposal problem. Nuclear plants produce toxic waste that can remain dangerously radioactive for thousands of years and, what’s worse, will contaminate anything or anyone that comes into contact with it.
Nuclear plants that have suffered catastrophic accidents (including the Chernobyl plant in the Ukraine, which exploded in 1986, and the Fukushima plant in Japan, which was damaged by an earthquake in 2011) are generally sealed with concrete and abandoned indefinitely. Not surprisingly, local communities object vociferously to having nuclear waste stored anywhere near them.
Although there are many responsible mining companies, and environmental laws now tightly restrict mining in some countries, mines remain among the most obvious scars on (and under) the landscape. Surface mining (sometimes called quarrying or opencast mining) requires the removal of topsoil (the fertile layer of soil and organic matter that is particularly valuable for agriculture) to get at the valuable rocks below.
Even if the destruction of topsoil is the worst that happens, it can turn a productive landscape into a barren one, which is a kind of pollution. Most metals, for example, occur in rocky mixtures called ores, from which the valuable elements have to be extracted by chemical, electrical, or other processes. That leaves behind waste products and the chemicals used to process them, which historically were simply dumped back on the land. Since all the waste was left in one place, the concentration of pollution often became dangerously high.Often old mines have been used as landfills, adding the insult of an inverted garbage mountain to the injury of the original damage. But at least it saved damaging more land elsewhere.
Air pollution doesn’t remain air pollution forever. Ideally it disperses, so the concentration of problematic chemicals becomes so low that it no longer constitutes pollution. Sometimes, though, it falls back to the ground and becomes either water pollution (if it enters the oceans, rivers, and lakes) or land pollution. Pollution created (“deposited”) in water or land from existing pollution in the air (atmosphere) is known as atmospheric deposition.
Land can become polluted by deposition in some very unexpected ways. For example, a corridor of land either side of a highway or freeway becomes systematically polluted over time with all kinds of harmful byproducts of road travel—everything from fuel spills and brake linings to dust worn from the pavement and heavy metal deposits (such as lead) washed from the engines. These chemicals accumulate in the soil where they can undergo reactions with one another and form substances that are even more toxic .
Soil is a much more complex growing habitat that remains productive only when it is cared for and nurtured. Too much wind or water, destruction of soil structure by excessive plowing, excessive nutrients, overgrazing, and overproduction of crops erode soil, damaging its structure and drastically reducing its productivity until it’s little more than dust. At its worst, soil erosion becomes desertification: once-productive agricultural areas become barren, useless deserts. How serious is the problem?
Deforestation doesn’t only harm the place where the trees are cut down. A 2013 study by Princeton University researchers found that if the Amazon rainforest were completely destroyed, it would have a dramatic effect on the atmosphere, which would carry across to places like the United States, causing drought and potentially desertification there as well.
Unfortunately, because soil erosion has so far affected developing countries more than the developed world, it’s a problem that receives relatively little attention. Accelerating climate change will soon alter that. In a future of hotter weather and more intense storms, it will become increasingly difficult to maintain soil in a fertile and productive state, while heavy rainstorms and flash floods will wash away topsoil more readily.
Meanwhile, agriculture may become impossible in coastal areas inundated by saltwater carried in by rising sea levels. We might think of global warming as an example of air pollution (because it’s caused mostly by humans releasing gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere). But if it leads to dramatic sea-level rise and coastal erosion, you could argue that it will become an example of land pollution as well.
Effects of land pollution
With luck and the right atmospheric conditions, air and water pollution disperse and disappear. What makes land pollution such a problem is that land is static, so land pollution stays exactly where it is until and unless someone cleans it up. Land that’s polluted stays polluted; land that’s urbanized almost invariably stays urbanized. Plastics take hundreds of years to disappear while radiation can contaminate land for ten times longer. That means landfill sites and radioactive waste dumps remain that way pretty much indefinitely.
The simplest effect of land pollution is that it takes land out of circulation. The more land we use up, the less we have remaining. That might not sound a problem where there’s plenty of land in rural areas, but it’s certainly a concern where productive agricultural land is concerned, especially as the world’s population continues to increase. The biggest problem comes when contaminated land is returned to use, either as building or agricultural land.
No-one knows how much land is contaminated, how contamination varies from one place to another, or how land contaminants react with one another once they enter watercourses and become water pollution. So the scale of the problem and its ultimate effects are impossible to determine.
However, we do know what effect individual pollutants have. We know, for example, that lead is a toxic heavy metal that has all kinds of unpleasant effects on human health; it’s been implicated in developmental deficits (such as reductions in intelligence) in children. We know that some chemicals are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) while others cause congenital defects such as heart disease. At the very least, it seems prudent not to introduce dangerous chemicals, such as persistent organic pollutants, into the environment where they may mat harm people’s health for many years into the future.
Why does land pollution matter? Although Earth might seem a pretty big place, only about a third of its surface is covered in land, and there are now over seven billion people trying to survive here. Most of our energy (around 85 percent worldwide) still comes from fossil fuels buried under the ground and, since we haven’t yet figured out how to mine in space, so do all our minerals. Much of our food is grown on the surface of the planet; the water we need comes from the planet’s surface too or from rocks buried just underground.
In short, our lives are as intimately tied to the surface of Earth as the plants that grow from the ground. Anything that degrades, damages, or destroys the land ultimately has an impact on human life and may threaten our very ability to survive. That’s why we need solutions to the problem.
In some countries, it’s now commonplace to require mine operators to clean-up mines and restore the landscape after they’ve finished working them; sometimes mine owners even have to file financial bonds to ensure they have the money in place to do this. Greater interest in organic food and farming might, one day, lead to a reduction in the use of harmful agricultural chemicals, but that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. Even so, public concerns about food and chemical safety have led to the withdrawal of the more harmful pesticides—in some countries, at least. Meanwhile, international efforts, such as the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, are helping to focus attention on major problems like soil erosion.
Ideally, we don’t just need to stop polluting land: we also need to clean up the many contaminated sites that already exist. Where sites can’t be completely restored, it’s possible to “recycle” them and benefit the environment in other ways; for example, a number of contaminated sites and former mines in the United States have now become wind farms or sites for large areas of solar panels.
New technologies will almost certainly make it easier to “recycle” polluted land in future. For example, the relatively new form of waste disposal called plasma gasification makes it possible to “mine” former landfills, converting the old waste into an energy-rich gas and a relatively safe solid waste that can be used as a building material. Bioremediation is another very promising land-cleaning technology, in which microbes of various kinds eat and digest waste and turn it into safer end-products; phyto-remediation is a similar concept but involves using plants, such as willow trees, to pull contaminants from the soil.
All these things offer hope for a better future—a future where we value the environment more, damage the land less—and realize, finally, that Earth itself is a limited and precious resource.
Light pollution, also known as photopollution or luminous pollution, is the excessive, misdirected or invasive use of artificial outdoor lighting. Mismanaged lighting alters the color and contrast of the nighttime sky, eclipses natural starlight, and disrupts circadian rhythms (the 24-hour processes of most organisms), which affects the environment, energy resources, wildlife, humans and astronomy research. The threat of light pollution continues to grow as the demand for artificial light increases each year.
Photopollution is not a new phenomenon. Over the last 50 years, as countries became affluent and urbanized, demand for outdoor lighting increased and light pollution sprawled beyond the city limits and into suburban and rural areas. This form pollution is now prevalent in Asia, Europe, and North America, particularly in cities like Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C. In 2008, National Geographic magazine named Chicago the most light-polluted city in the United States.
Luminous pollution, unlike other forms of contamination and waste, can be contained and/or reduced by improving outdoor lighting practices. Remember that outdoor lighting serves a purpose – to provide visibility and safety at night, but lighting that exceeds its purpose can quickly become offensive to others.
Causes of Environmental degradation
Environmental degradation is the disintegration of the earth or deterioration of the environment through consumption of assets, for example, air, water and soil; the destruction of environments and the eradication of wildlife. It is characterized as any change or aggravation to nature’s turf seen to be pernicious or undesirable.
Ecological effect or degradation is created by the consolidation of an effectively substantial and expanding human populace, constantly expanding monetary development or per capita fortune and the application of asset exhausting and polluting technology. It occurs when earth’s natural resources are depleted and environment is compromised in the form of extinction of species, pollution in air, water and soil, and rapid growth in population.
Environmental degradation is one of the largest threats that are being looked at in the world today. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction characterizes environmental degradation as the lessening of the limit of the earth to meet social and environmental destinations, and needs. Environmental degradation can happen in a number of ways. At the point when environments are wrecked or common assets are exhausted, the environment is considered to be corrupted and harmed. There are a number of different techniques that are being used to prevent this, including environmental resource protection and general protection efforts.
Environmental issues can be seen by long term ecological effects, some of which can demolish whole environments. An environment is a unique unit and incorporates all the living and non-living components that live inside it. Plants and creatures are evident parts of the environment, but it also includes the things on which they depend on, for example, streams, lakes, and soils.
Environmental surroundings get to be divided when technological advancement splits up areas of land. Some examples of this can include streets which may slice through woods or even trails which wind through prairies. While it may not sound all terrible on the surface, there are bad results. The biggest of these results are felt by particular animal and plant groups, the vast majority of which are specific for their bio-region or need a large area in order to make sure that their genetic lines are kept intact.
Causes of Environmental Degradation
Some environmental life species require substantial areas to help provide food, living space, and other different assets. These creatures are called area specific. At the point when the biome is divided, the vast patches of living space don’t exist anymore. It gets to be more troublesome for the wildlife to get the assets they need in order to survive. The environment goes on, even though the animals and plant life are not there to help sustain it properly.
1. Land Disturbance: A more basic cause of environmental degradation is land damage. Numerous weedy plant species, for example, garlic mustard, are both foreign and obtrusive. A rupture in the environmental surroundings provides for them a chance to start growing and spreading. These plants can assume control over nature, eliminating the local greenery. The result is territory with a solitary predominant plant which doesn’t give satisfactory food assets to all the environmental life. Whole environments can be destroyed because of these invasive species.
2. Pollution: Pollution, in whatever form, whether it is air, water, land or noise is harmful for the environment. Air pollution pollutes the air that we breathe which causes health issues. Water pollution degrades the quality of water that we use for drinking purposes. Land pollution results in degradation of earth’s surface as a result of human activities. Noise pollution can cause irreparable damage to our ears when exposed to continuous large sounds like honking of vehicles on a busy road or machines producing large noise in a factory or a mill.
3. Overpopulation: Rapid population growth puts strain on natural resources which results in degradation of our environment. Mortality rate has gone down due to better medical facilities which has resulted in increased lifespan. More population simple means more demand for food, clothes and shelter. You need more space to grow food and provide homes to millions of people. This results in deforestation which is another factor of environmental degradation.
4. Landfills: Landfills pollute the environment and destroy the beauty of the city. Landfills come within the city due the large amount of waste that gets generated by households, industries, factories and hospitals. Landfills pose a great risk to the health of the environment and the people who live there. Landfills produce foul smell when burned and cause huge environmental degradation.
5. Deforestation: Deforestation is the cutting down of trees to make way for more homes and industries. Rapid growth in population and urban sprawl are two of the major causes of deforestation. Apart from that, use of forest land for agriculture, animal grazing, harvest for fuel wood and logging are some of the other causes of deforestation. Deforestation contributes to global warming as decreased forest size puts carbon back into the environment.
6: Natural Causes: Things like avalanches, quakes, tidal waves, storms, and wildfires can totally crush nearby animal and plant groups to the point where they can no longer survive in those areas. This can either come to fruition through physical demolition as the result of a specific disaster, or by the long term degradation of assets by the presentation of an obtrusive foreign species to the environment. The latter frequently happens after tidal waves, when reptiles and bugs are washed ashore.
Effects of Environmental Degradation
1. Impact on Human Health: Human health might be at the receiving end as a result of the environmental degradation. Areas exposed to toxic air pollutants can cause respiratory problems like pneumonia and asthma. Millions of people are known to have died of due to indirect effects of air pollution.
2. Loss of Biodiversity: Biodiversity is important for maintaining balance of the ecosystem in the form of combating pollution, restoring nutrients, protecting water sources and stabilizing climate. Deforestation, global warming, overpopulation and pollution are few of the major causes for loss of biodiversity.
3. Ozone Layer Depletion: Ozone layer is responsible for protecting earth from harmful ultraviolet rays. The presence of chlorofluorocarbons, hydro chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere is causing the ozone layer to deplete. As it will deplete, it will emit harmful radiations back to the earth.
4. Loss for Tourism Industry: The deterioration of environment can be a huge setback for tourism industry that rely on tourists for their daily livelihood. Environmental damage in the form of loss of green cover, loss of biodiversity, huge landfills, increased air and water pollution can be a big turn off for most of the tourists.
5. Economic Impact: The huge cost that a country may have to borne due to environmental degradation can have big economic impact in terms of restoration of green cover, cleaning up of landfills and protection of endangered species. The economic impact can also be in terms of loss of tourism industry.
Environmental Impact Assessment
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an important management tool for ensuring optimal use of natural resources for sustainable development. A beginning in this direction was made in our country with the impact assessment of river valley projects in 1978-79 and the scope has subsequently been enhanced to cover other developmental sectors such as industries, thermal power projects, mining schemes etc.
To facilitate collection of environmental data and preparation of management plans, guidelines have been evolved and circulated to the concerned Central and State Government Departments. EIA has now been made mandatory under the Environmental (Protection Act, 1986 for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of Rs. 50 crores and above.
Environmental Appraisal Committees
With a view to ensure multi-disciplinary input required for environmental appraisal of development projects, Expert Committees have been constituted for the following sectors:
1. Mining Projects
2. Industrial Projects
3. Thermal Power Projects
4. River Valley, Multipurpose, Irrigation and H.E. Projects
5. Infrastructure Development and Miscellaneous Projects
6. Nuclear Power Projects
Environmental Appraisal Procedure
Once an application has been submitted by a project authority alongwith all the requisite documents specified in the EIA Notification, it is scrutinised by the technical staff of the Ministry prior to placing it before the Environmental Appraisal Committees. The Appraisal Committees evaluate the impact of the project based on the data furnished by the project authorities and if necessary, site visits or on-the-spot assessment of various environmental aspects are also undertaken. Based on such examination, the Committees make recommendations for approval or rejection of the project, which are then processed in the Ministry for approval or rejection.
In case of site specific projects such as Mining, River Valley, Ports and Harbours etc., a two stage clearance procedure has been adopted whereby the project authorities have to obtain site clearance before applying for environmental clearance of their projects. This is to ensure avoiding areas which are ecologically fragile and environmentally sensitive. In case of projects where complete information has been submitted by the project proponents, a decision is taken within 90 days.
After considering all the facets of a project, environmental clearance is accorded subject to implementation of the stipulated environmental safeguards. Monitoring of cleared projects is undertaken by the six regional offices of the Ministry functioning at Shillong, Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh, Bangalore, Lucknow and Bhopal. The primary objective of such a procedure is to ensure adequacy of the suggested safeguards and also to undertake mid-course corrections required, if any. The procedure adopted for monitoring is as follows:
Project authorities are required to report every six months on the progress of implementation of the conditions/safeguards stipulated, while according clearance to the project. In case of substantial deviations and poor or no response, the matter is taken up with the concerned State Government. Changes in scope of project are identified to check whether review of earlier decision is called for or not.