One of the biggest menace to the human race on this planet today is the environment pollution. It is increasing with every passing year. It is an issue that troubles us economically, physically and socially. The contamination of the environment is also being linked to some of the fatal diseases. The environmental problem that is worsening with each day needs to be addressed so that its harmful effects on humans as well as the planet can be rectified. India has been ranked 177 among 180 countries in the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2018. High rank in the EPI shows long standing commitments to protecting public health, preserving natural resources and decoupling GHG emissions from economic activity The report has ranked India as fourth worst country worldwide in curbing environmental pollution.
The effects of environmental pollution on humans are mainly physical, but can also turn into neuro-affections in the long term. The best-known troubles are respiratory, in the form of allergies, asthma, irritation of the eyes and nasal passages or other forms of respiratory infections. Environmental pollution also affects animals by causing harm to their living environment, making it toxic them to live in. Acid rains can change the composition of rivers and seas, making them toxic for fishes, an important quantity of ozone in the lower parts of the atmosphere can cause lung problems to all animals. In short, environmental pollution, almost exclusively created by human activities, has a negative effect on the ecosystem, destroying crucial layers of it and causing an even more negative effect on the upper layers. Problems like ozone depletion, global warming, greenhouse effect, melting of glaciers etc have arisen due to pollution. Environmental pollution consists of five basic types of pollution namely; Air, Noise, Water, Soil and Radioactive Pollution etc.
Air pollution is a gas (or a liquid or solid dispersed through-ordinary air) released in a big enough quantity to harm the health of people or other animals, kill plants or stop them from growing properly. Air pollution may be defined as the presence of any solid, liquid or gaseous substance including noise and radioactive radiation in the atmosphere in such concentration that may be directly and indirectly injurious to humans or other living organisms, plants, property or interferes with the normal environmental processes. Air pollution is a result of industrial and certain domestic activity. As per study published by researchers at University of Maryland, US, India is overtaking China to become world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic SO2. An ever-increasing use of fossil fuels in power plants, industries, transportation, mining, construction of buildings etc., had led to air pollution. Some major diseases caused by air pollution are bronchitis, asthma, lung cancer, tuberculosis and pneumonia.
Preventive and control measures of air pollution include better designed equipment and smokeless fuels should be used in homes and industries, renewable and non-polluting sources of energy like solar energy, wind energy, etc should be used, tall chimneys should be installed in factories, more trees should be planted along roadsides and houses.
Noise is one of the most pervasive pollutant. Noise by definition is, Sound without value’ or Any noise that is unwanted by the recipient. Noise in industries such as stone cutting and crushing, steel forgings, loudspeakers, shouting by hawkers selling their wares, movement of heavy transport vehicles, railways and airports leads to irritation and an increased blood pressure, loss of temper, decrease in work efficiency, loss of hearing which may be first temporary but can become permanent as the noise stress continues. Noise level is measured in terms of decibels (dB). Noise pollution is a growing problem. All human activities contribute to noise pollution to varying extent. Sources of noise pollution are many and may be located indoors or outdoors. Indoor sources include noise produced by radio, television, generators, electric fans, air coolers, air conditioners, different home appliances and family conflicts. Outdoor sources of noise pollution include indiscriminate use of loudspeakers, industrial activities, automobiles, rail traffic, aeroplanes and activities such as those at market place, religious, social, and cultural functions, sports and political rallies. Noise pollution is highly annoying and irritating. Noise disturbs sleep, causes hypertensions (high blood pressure), emotional problems such as aggression, mental depression and annoyance. Noise pollution adversely affects efficiency and performance of individuals.
Certain steps can be initiated to control or minimise noise pollution. These include better designing and proper maintenance of vehicles to reduce road traffic noise, industrial noises can be reduced by sound proofing equipments like generators and areas producing lot of noise. Power tools, very loud music and land mowers, public functions using loudspeakers, etc should be permitted at night. Use of horns, alarms, refrigeration units, fire crackers etc., is to be restricted. A green belt of trees is an efficient noise absorber. A loud speaker or a public address system shall not be used at night (between 1000 pm. to 600 a.m.) except in closed premises for communication within e.g., auditoriums, conference rooms, community halls and banquet halls. A person may, if the noise level exceeds the ambient noise standards by 10dB(A) or more given in the corresponding columns against any area/zone, make a complain to the authority.
Water pollution is one of the most serious environmental problems. Water pollution is caused by a variety of human activities such as industrial, agricultural and domestic. Agricultural run off laden with excess fertilizers and pesticides, industrial effluents with toxic substances and sewage water with human and animal wastes pollute our water thoroughly. Natural sources of pollution of water are soil erosion, leaching of minerals from rocks and decaying of organic matter. Water pollution is the major source of water born diseases and other health problems. Sediments brought by runoff water from agricultural fields and discharge of untreated or partially treated sewage and industrial effluents, disposal of fly ash or solid waste into or close to a water body cause severe problems of water pollution. This may also increase turbidity of water because sediments reduces penetration of light in water that reduces photosynthesis by aquatic plants. Researchers have found high levels of human-made pollutants in the tissues of marine creatures dwelling in the deepest oceans of the Earth. It shows that the remote and pristine oceanic realm which was earlier considered safe from human impact has now come under the influence of pollution. Several measures can be adopted to control water pollution. Some of them are
- The water requirement should be minimised by altering the techniques involved,
- Water should be reused with or without treatment,
- Recycling of water after treatment should be practiced to the maximum extent possible.
- The quantity of waste water discharge should be minimised.
The next source of environmental pollution is soil. It is caused by the presence of man-made chemicals and other alteration in the natural soil. This type of contamination typically arises from percolation of contaminated surface water to subsurface strata, oil and fuel dumping, direct discharge of industrial wastes to the soil, leaching of wastes from landfills etc. The most common chemicals involved in soil pollution are petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, pesticides, lead and other heavy metals. Soil pollution is a very dangerous aspect of environment since it affects fertility and food production of the area and country. It is a serious concern which can be called for improvement by appropriate and moderate use of pesticides to increase the fertility and quality of soil and thus reducing the harm. To control soil pollution, it is essential to stop the use of plastic bags. Sewage should be, treated properly before using as fertilizer and as landfills. Biomedical waste prior to disposal should be properly treated for removing hazardous materials. Biomedical waste should be separately collected and incinerated in proper incinerators.
The radioactive pollution is defined as the physical pollution of air, water and the other radioactive materials. The ability of certain materials to emit he proton, gamma rays and electrons by their nuclei is known as the radioactive. The protons are known as the alpha particle and the electrons are also known as the beta particle. Those materials are known as the radioactive elements. The environmental radiations can be from different sources and can be natural or man-made. The natural radiations are also known as the background radiations. In this, the cosmic rays are involved and reach the surface of Earth from space. It includes the radioactive elements like radium, uranium, thorium, radon, potassium and carbon. These occur in the rock, soil and water. The man-made radiations include the mining and refining of plutonium and thorium. This production and explosion of nuclear weapons include the nuclear fuels, power plants and radioactive isotopes. Low levels of radiation exposure on a small portion of the body may just affect the cell membranes and cause mild skin irritation. Other immediate effects of short span exposure of nuclear radiation are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of hair and nails, bruises owing to subcutaneous bleeding etc. High radiation exposures have much acute toxicity and can quickly kill the victim. The victim declines in vitality and dies from anaemia, infection and haemorrhage. Radioactive pollution can be controlled by number of ways. It includes the stoppage of leakage from the radioactive materials including the nuclear reactors, industries and laboratories. The power plants must follow the safe instructions. The protective garments must be worn by the workers who work in the nuclear plants.
The Government of India has been a keen observer of the effects on the environment and has been in the forefront to help and protect it. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has been actively involved in monitoring and formulating ways to preserve India’s natural beauty and maintain a healthy ecological balance. From the promotion of organic farming to the implementation of stringent industrial waste treatment rules, the government has provided facilities and policies to protect our nature.
In last few years, the Indian Government has taken various measures in response to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ‘National Action Plan on Climate Change’ and ‘Low Carbon Strategies for Inclusive Growth’ have been initiated.
The Union Government in November 2017 had decided to skip one stage and migrate to BS-VI directly from BS-IV norms from April 2020 to fight the growing pollution. Bharat stage emission standards or BS norms are instituted by Government of India to regulate the output of air pollutants from the combustion engines. Many initiatives have been taken by government at international and national level both to combat environmental pollution. These include Stockholm Convention on Persistant Organic Pollutants, Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes. The UN Conference on Human Environment (UNEP) was convened to study the profound changes in the relationship between man and his environments in the wake ot modern scientific and technological development. The World Health Organisation also set up an international network for the monitoring and study of air pollution on a global scale and for devising possible remedies. India been working on the issue of its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions for several years now. The estimated average per capita GHG emissions of India in 2020 are expected to be well below those of the developed countries. Never the less, India is acutely conscious of the need to address the issue of climate change and hence, the Indian Government has a robust National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in place which is a mix of both mitigation and adaptation measures.
India has under taken several initiatives to combat climate change under the areas of Science and Research, Policy Development, Policy Implementation, International Co-operation and Forestry. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has taken several positive steps to minimise pollution of the environment. The Government of India has passed some important Environmental Laws, viz, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has launched the “Harit Diwali, Swasth Diwali” campaign in 2017 with an aim to reduce adverse environmental conditions especially pollution after Diwali celebrations due to excessive bursting of crackers which contributes significantly to air and noise pollution. The present Government of India took six crucial eco-friendly steps to control environmental pollution. These steps included Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’, Clean Ganga Mission’, ‘National Air Quality Index (NAQI), Toilets before Temples’, ‘Mount Everest Ascent’, i., Mount Everest Cleaning drive, Water Conservation’ etc.
The past decade has witnessed a remarkable shift in government policy from emphasis on pollution control to pollution prevention in order to tackle the environmental problem posed by the industry. Concerted efforts have been made by the government in this direction. Now, the responsibility lies with the industry, equipment manufacturers, academic and consultancy organisations, national and international organisations as well as on the citizens to work in line with the government’s policy to create a healthy and competitive atmosphere for sustainable industrial development in the country.