Environmental Issues: Pollution and Waste | UGC NET Paper 1

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Environmental Issues (Pollution Waste): Environment has been supplying us the different types of resources to live life since our appearance on the earth. In return, we have damaged the environment severely.

Environmental Issues: Local, Regional and Global

The human activities have polluted the ecology and have modified the environmental structure. Due to changes in the originality of nature, we are facing different types of environmental issues at local, regional and global levels.

Environmental Issues at Local level

  • Drinking water
  • Poor Air Quality
  • Infertility of soil
  • Health issues due to Hazardous waste

Environmental Issues at Regional Level

  • Deforestation
  • Desertification
  • Pollution
  • Diminishing of Fossil Fuels

Environmental Issues at Global Level

  • Global warming
  • Depletion of the Ozone layer
  • Acid Rain
  • Climate Change

Further reading: Human and Environment Interaction

Pollution

The addition of unwanted substances in a concentration that has an adverse effect on organisms and the environment is called pollution.

TYPES OF POLLUTION

  • Air pollution
  • Water pollution
  • Soil pollution
  • Noise pollution
  • Waste (Solid, Liquid, Biomedical, Hazardous, Electronic)

Air Pollution

According to NASA, the composition of air (gases) in Earth’s atmosphere include:

Nitrogen — 78 per cent
Oxygen — 21 per cent
Argon — 0.93 per cent
Carbon dioxide — 0.04 per cent
Trace amounts of neon, helium, methane, krypton and hydrogen, as well as water vapour.

If there is some disturbance in the proportion of gases or the addition of some unwanted substances (like smoke, dust particles etc.) in atmospheric air, then it is called Air Pollution.

Sources of Air Pollution

The sources of air pollution can be divided into two categories (i) Natural, and (ii) Human-made

A. Natural sources

  • Ash from burning volcanoes, dust from the storm, forest fires
  • Pollen grains from flowers in the air are natural sources of pollution

B. Anthropogenic (human-made) sources

  • Power stations using coal or crude oil release CO2 in the air
  • Also, furnaces using coal, cattle dung cakes, firewood, kerosene,
  • Steam engines used in railways, steamers, motor vehicles, etc. give out CO2.
  • So do Motor and internal combustion engines which run on petrol, diesel, kerosene. Vegetable oils, kerosene, and coal as household fuels
  • Sewers and domestic drains emanating foul gases
  • Pesticide residues in air

Major Air Pollutants

  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Sulphur Dioxide
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Fluorides
  • Oxides of Nitrogen
  • Smog
  • Aerosol Spray Propellants
  • Domestic Air Pollutants

Water Pollution

Any physical, biological or chemical change in water quality that adversely affects living organisms or makes water unsuitable for desired use is called water pollution.

Sources of Water Pollution

There are two sources of water pollution on the basis of the origin of pollutants: (i) Point sources and (ii) Non-point sources

(i) Point sources: Those sources which discharge water pollutants directly into the water are known as point sources of water pollution. Oil wells situated near water bodies, factories. power plants, underground coal mines, etc. are point sources of water pollution.

(ii) Non-point sources: Those sources which do not have any specific location for discharging pollutants, in the water body are known as non-point sources of water pollution. Run-offs from agricultural fields, lawns, gardens, construction sites, roads and streets are some non-point sources of water pollution.

Soil Pollution

Addition of substances that change the quality of soil by making it less fertile and unable to support life is called soil pollution.

Sources of soil pollution

Soil pollution is caused due to:

  • Domestic sources: plastic bags, kitchen waste, glass bottles, and paper
  • Industrial sources: chemical residue, fly ash, metallic waste, and
  • Agricultural residues: fertilizers and pesticides.

Soil Erosion

The process of detaching and removal of loosened soil particles by water (running water, groundwater, rain, sea waves) and the wind is known as soil erosion.

Soil may be eroded by water and wind, each contributing towards a significant amount of soil loss every year in our country.

Types of soil erosion

Wind erosion: Erosion of large quantity of fine soil particles and sand from deserts by wind is known as wind erosion. It is spread over the cultivated land and thus, destroys the fertility of that land.

Sheet erosion: When water moves over the land surface like a sheet, it takes away the topmost thin layer of soil. This phenomenon occurs uniformly on the slopes of hilly areas, riverbeds and areas affected by floods. This type of erosion is known as sheet erosion.

Gully erosion: When water moves down the slope as a channel, it scoops out the soil and forms gullies which gradually multiply and spread over a large area. This type of soil erosion is known as gully erosion.

Noise Pollution

Any unwanted sound is defined as noise. You know that the noises come from traffic, vehicles, especially at peak hour every day, loudspeakers and building construction work. Industries expose their workers to a high level of noises for a long period of work every day.

Prolonged exposure to a high level of noise is harmful. Noise is measured in terms of ‘decibel’ (dB) – a scale expressing the intensity of the sound.

Noise has harmful effects on the human body. The noise of 70-80 dB causes annoyance and irritation. Above this level, breathing rate may be affected, blood vessels may constrict, movement of the digestive canal is disturbed, glandular secretions may be affected. Long exposure to high noise levels can impair hearing.

Pollution Control Legislation in India

ActsYear
Indian Forest Act1927
Wildlife Protection Act1972
The water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act1974
The air (Prevention and control of Pollution) Act1981
The Environmental (Protection) Act1986
The National Environmental Tribunal Act1995

The pollution-related laws like the Water Act (1974), Air Act (1981), and the Environmental Protection Act (1995) do not give the right to an individual to move the court under the environmental laws for damages caused to them by pollution. The right has been vested only in the agencies of the State Government.

Radiation: An Environmental Pollutant

Radiation is one of the chief forms of energy consisting of high energy particles. Radiation could be natural (solar and cosmic) or and human (nuclear). Radiation has also become a major factor causing environmental pollution.

Nuclear Radiation and its harmful effect

Waste

Basel Convention by UNEP define wastes “as substances or objects, which are disposed of or are intended to be disposed of or are required to be disposed of by the provisions of national law”.

Types of Waste

  1. Solid Waste
  2. Liquid Waste
  3. Biomedical Waste
  4. Hazardous Waste
  5. Electronic Waste

Classification based on the Sources

Solid Waste

  1. The Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998
  2. Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2000
  3. The Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011
  4. E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011

Liquid Waste

Biomedical Waste

Biomedical waste (BMW) comprises waste generated from hospitals, healthcare facilities and health research laboratories.

Examples: syringes, needles, disposable scalpels and blades, etc.

The major sources of biomedical waste are:

Hazardous Waste

Sources of Hazardous Waste

e-Waste

The laws concerning Waste Management in India

YearLaw
1974The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act
1975The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules
1977The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act
1978Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Rules
1981The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act
1986The Environment (Protection) Act
1989The Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules
1991The Public Liability Insurance Act
1995The National Environment Tribunal Act
1997The National Environment Appellate Authority Act
1998The Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules
2001Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules
2008Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling & Transboundary Movement) Notified 2008
2010National Green Tribunal Act
2011The Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules
2011E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules

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