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air, land ,soil ,water ,thermal, noise, visual and light pollution

A Literature Review on Pollution

In this 21st century, the main threat that catches attention from the whole world is our own endangered and fragile planet – Earth. It has undergone vast changes. Terrific changes have occurred among biological species. Some species have come and gone, but life is there without interruption. The human beings have suppressed the forces, both physical and chemical, which drive the ecosystems. The earth’s growing population needs all forms of comforts like food and shelters. We use energy to derive these comforts and as a result emit pollutants. The earth’s landscape is altered by the human activities.

The use of tools and fire from the beginning of human era has commenced the environmental pollution. Man has extended his natural abilities with tools to cultivate plants. The human activities affect the terrestrial plants and animal life. As the human occupation is becoming greater the influence of humans on other parts of the earth increases. Forests clearing, to maintain the needs of the densely populated world has eliminated habitats and the acid rain has affected lakes and streams. Climate change is happening all over the world as the extreme weather events, record temperatures, retreating glaciers and rising sea levels point to this fact. Renowned author Miguel. A. Santous identifies the general characteristics of emitted pollutants. Pollutants’ don’t recognize boundaries. Many of them can’t be degraded by living organisms and therefore, stay in the ecosphere for many years. They destroy biota and habitat. Formulation of international policy to control them is a big challenge due to the uncertainties about effects of pollutants on the environment.

Pollution is the real threat to mankind, as we emit contaminants into the environment. Since it being the main cause of instability and disorder of ecosystem, it has to be eradicated or at least controlled. The nature and all its components are inter- related and man relies on these components for its existence. The action of one affects the others and human evasion has caused the extinction of many species. The nature exists with us, both go side by side and both are inevitable. We have a responsibility to take care of the nature in an appropriate manner. Natural forces don’t obey human laws. No one can obstruct the path of wind .Water also doesn’t respect the man made boundaries. The pollution which happens at one state or nation spreads across the boundaries reaches another country polluting that place also. To reduce the harmful effects of the pollution international understanding and discussions leading to a common platform, where everyone can share their problem and find solution, is needed.

The undesirable changes, which occurred due to pollution, in the characteristics of air, water and land will harmfully affect the whole species. The lack of resources may deteriorate the living conditions. Major pollutants affect not only the surrounding area but areas which are far away from the source. The main pollution that we face today is atmospheric pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, noise pollution and radioactive pollution. Emission of deadly gases that trap heat inside the surface, cause the rise in temperature. The holes in ozone layer allow the ultra- violet rays to enter into atmosphere. Ozone layer acts as a blanket of atmosphere and holes formed pose a real threat. Forests are cleared for agriculture purpose. As a result of this unwise action many species have become extinct. For centuries characteristics of ocean, land and atmosphere were undergoing changes which are now accelerated by the human activities. Every human being put a threat to the environment, and the influence is increasing day by day. The vehicles and the cutting down forests influence the earth’s balance. The air is a mixture of lot of gases.

The presence and concentration of the deadly gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons have increased. Trees use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and release oxygen in turn. But the decaying of trees and its burning for various domestic and industrial purposes release a large quantity of carbon and its related products. The glaciers have started melting and this causes the increase in sea level. Rapid changes are occurring in the climate and the ecosystem. People will suffer from severe shortage of food and will have to bear the brunt of the aggressive nature. The immediate outcome of this will be refugees and tackling their problem will cause a severe headache to the concerned nations. Another problem of bigger magnitude will be the impact this create on world economy. Along with the increase in population the living standard also increased.

The human welfare activities have increased astonishingly, but ironically all these have degraded the environment, soil, forests, species and water resources. Human beings depend on these things for their existence. The developed countries consume more fuel and energy and naturally they generate more waste. The highly populated developing countries too need vast amount of natural resources to feed its masses. The end effect is the same. Both developed and developing countries are trying to create more employment opportunities through industrialisation. In their frantic pursuit for better life man forgets the duties they have to complete. What we are enjoying is the result of the foresight of our fore fathers. We must not forget the fact that we have an obligation towards the future generation. One thing is crystal clear .We can’t reverse the undesirable change which is happening around us. At least we can have a look at the various sources of pollution,its adverse effect upon humanity and how we can decrease the speed of destruction.

First of all let us have look into atmospheric or air pollution as it affects all the living species in a large scale. The pollutants that destroy the air is harmful to humans and the environment. It occurs in different forms, as solid particles, liquid- droplets and gases. The atmosphere forms an envelope around our mother earth. This protective covering is full of gases and these gases reduce the harmful effects of sun’s ultra – violet radiation. Some of these rays are reflected back while a portion of some other rays remain trapped in the atmosphere. Thus earth’s albedo is maintained; otherwise the earth would have been like any other planet, which is unsuitable for life. The green house effect is a necessary evil for the very existence of earth. But the industrial revolution in the 19th century changed the composition of atmosphere. More and more deadly gases were emitted into the air and which was powerful enough to trap more radiation there by increasing the temperature of earth.

Another negative impact of the industrial revolution was the release of gases which were powerful enough to deplete ozone layer. The technological revolution, which followed the industrial revolution, changed the way of life. Man become more and more luxurious and vehicles become an integral part of his life. Oil becomes an essential commodity. All these changes significantly increased the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. The abundance of carbon related compounds, produced as a by product of fossil fuel combustion still poses a major threat to the very existence of life on the face of earth. Air, which is a part of atmosphere, is polluted by other means also. One of main source of such air pollution is houses. Dust and smoke pollute air considerably.

Both these occur inside houses. Indoor pollution is hazardous to health. It affects mainly women and children. In developing countries people depend heavily on wood, charcoal and livestock’s excreta for energy. The combustion of these items release large amounts of smoke, soot and dust. Lack of proper ventilation aggravates the situation. In addition to this human greed to increase the area of farm land too cause air pollution. In the developed countries the combustion of primitive sources of energy is minimal but they are the biggest consumers of various toxic items like hair spray, stain removers and paints. The fumes released from these are toxic to the environment as they reduce the amount of oxygen in the air. The climate change threatens the existence of forests around the world. With the increase in temperature the availability of water decreases and it directly affects the ability of trees to survive. In short both developed and developing countries are equally affected by this menace. In addition to this natural forces also cause air pollution. The poisonous gases produced from the marshy lands, desert storms, smoke from wild fire and volcanic eruption are all natural sources which contribute to the atmospheric pollution.

Man’s journey to space is the milestone of scientific inventions. He has conquered nature and his expeditions are now aimed towards the Galaxy. Atmospheric and air pollutions are unwelcome companions of researchers, since the space research emits pollutants that harmfully affect the humanity and ecosystem. The pollutants shadow all stage of the voyage, from manufacturing to the final journey. It contaminates both earth’s orbit and other planets with chemicals that are hazardous. Scientists are aware of this problem. With the help of governmental initiatives they are trying to eradicate this problem. The U.S and many other nations have already enacted regulations to prevent these threats.

This helps to control the manufacturing related pollutions. It covers both the industries and the space – related manufacturing works. It protects the earth from the emission of toxic chemicals which pollute water, air and health and wealth of human life. The propellant combustion products during testing, which cause acid rain, are to be regulated and controlled. The noise level generated is strictly limited as it harmfully affects the mental balance of humans and animals. The rockets and missiles which are disposed after the completion of their life- span emit hazardous chemicals. The regulation already covers this emission of gases that destruct the ozone layer. Since the launchings are infrequent this poses a little threat. The particles omitted obstruct the flow of sun light and other unforeseen effects happen on the climate. Space debris or space junk that are accumulated in the near earth orbit affects the current and future expeditions above earth. The best remedy is the limitation of the number of voyages and the use of less harmful propellants.

The air pollution poses threat to human health and ecosystem in many ways. The smog, which is the portmanteau of smoke and fog, is the main threat to humanity. It affects the respiratory system directly and as a result many people suffer from bronchitis and asthma. As per the calculations of the W.H.O, 2.4 million people die each year because of these diseases. The Bhopal disaster in India and the Great Smoke of 1952 over London are main examples of air pollution. More premature deaths occur in cities which are more polluted. Measures should be taken as early as possible to reduce the contamination. Pollutants can be converted to innocuous products before emission. Gas fuels are more atmospheric friendly. Forests should be protected and non - vegetated lands should be used beneficially.

Another threat which is happening side by side with air pollution is global warming. It strips Mother Earth of her aura of invincibility. As the effect of global warming the sea level arises, and the catastrophic floods which follows, displace millions of people living in the coastal belt all over the world from their home land. The rise in global sea level affects the ocean circulation. The increase recurrence of El-Niño is the direct outcome of this. The plains are being stripped of its moisture rich soil and we are on the verge of a fodder crisis. Many of the native temperature resistant plant species are being wiped out of the earth. Vector borne diseases like dengue malaria are expected to increase sharply across the globe as the temperature variations make it more conducive for mosquitoes to thrive. Diarrhoeal disease which is associated with drought and flood is also expected to register a sudden increase.

The effect which global warming has on the flora and fauna of sea is unprecedented. Warmer sea ocean temperatures destroy vast coral reefs and the balance of marine life is lost. The increase in the number of violent hurricanes, unnaturally torrential rains, unusually hot summers are all indicators of the treacherous days which are yet to come. Renewable energy reduces the global warming. Hydroelectric energy, one of the dependable and eco-friendly renewable energy produces minimum pollution. The construction of dams for this purpose helps to control floods, provide water for irrigation and at the same time produce electricity. This energy source never pollutes water; but the vegetation, that is submerged on decaying produces methane, one of the deadly accelerators of global warming. This effect is more prominent in tropical region. The positive benefits of the hydroelectric power overweigh and hence people tend to turn a blind eye towards this problem. But we must not forget the fact that even though the source is localised the effect is universal .

The present change in the Arctic Glaciers is the clear indicator of negative impacts of global warming. The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment prepared by the Arctic Council released in 2004 gives a brilliant overview of changes. The temperature in the Arctic region is increasing gradually. It reduces the snow cover, the wide spread glaciers are melting down and the sea level is rising alarmingly. The frequency and intensity of floods are increasing. During autumn and winter, rain is occurring, rising permafrost temperature. The depletion of highly reflective Arctic cover is increasing the pace with which global warming is affecting our environment. The changes in ocean circulation pattern, which is another direct impact of glacier melting, are gradually affecting the global climate. Some birds are migratory and they rely on Arctic for breeding. The melting down of glaciers affects the biodiversity and extinction of these species. Polar bears are an example of a species which is on the verge of extinction as a result of this unwanted phenomenon.

The reduction in sea level damages the marine habitat also. The coastal areas which are exposed to storms lead to coastal erosion. Change over ways so that we can protect the Arctic Ice Cap before it is too late. There is an increase in heat related deaths. The rise in average temperature increases the diseases carrying organisms like mosquitoes, rodents and bats. The respiratory illness increases due to global warming because grasses and allergic pollen grow more profusely in warmer environment. Violent storms and other extreme climate carrying deadly diseases occur frequently. The climate change is also affecting the ecosystem. Some widespread species like Indian leopard is facing extinction. Birds migrate to different places to survive. Ecosystem habitat have isolated due to human settlements and infrastructure. All these things affect economy of both the developed and developing countries. The extreme weather events, droughts and floods are occurring frequently and severely. The weather related disasters are increasing. As the atmosphere gets warmer, the climate gets hotter and more unstable. The frequency of earth-quakes has risen and it directly affects the economy of countries. Weather related disasters cripple the economy and health of humans and especially children. Majority of global greenhouse gas emissions occur in developed nations, but the developing countries suffer more as most of them are located in the tropics. The increase in heat and humidity is a major problem. Heat is released to the environment mainly human activities. The signs of development, the concrete buildings and black roads are real threat to the rise in heat. It absorbs heat and emits back to the environment at night. It becomes hot and humid in major cities at night. It increases the use of air-conditioners which in turn emits greenhouse gases.

All the living species need water for survival. Fresh water lakes, rivers, streams, well, and ground water are major sources of water. People have obstructed the natural and continuous free flow of water by constructing dams and reservoirs. The congested cities and the black roads, which are constructed for easy travel, prevent the absorption of rain water by the soil and thus leading to the reduction of ground water stored in earth. The plants and trees help to retain water in the soil, but the clearing of forests lands for constructing habitat for human beings deplete the earth of its natural source to refill. People consume water and the waste water which is flown to the rivers puts a major threat to the ecosystem. The waste water from factories poses a great threat. In the climate system oceans are considered as atmosphere’s partner. It also stores carbon though the quantity of carbon contained in it is not known. It holds and absorbs heat from solar radiation and keeps it for longer period than land does. The El-Nino that occurs irregularly is the notable example for the imbalance between ocean and atmosphere. The pollution, caused by the marine involvement accelerates the threat toward ocean the contaminated water is harmful to fishes, plants and other living organisms in rivers, lakes and oceans. Oceans absorb all man-made waste along with the marine pollutants. The sewage water, oil leakage, solid wastes and other hazardous wastes that are emitted without proper treatment from the cruise ship or marine ship affect the human like and the aquatic life. The black water, that is, the sewage and waste water from toilets, contains harmful bacteria and viruses. The solid waste like glass, paper, plastics and steel cans can be a threat to the living species and the ocean’s ecosystem. Since most people depend on river as their water source, the contamination becomes dangerous. Water pollution can be minimized by growing hyacinths. Strict legislation should be enacted to treat industrial water pollution. Factories should separate the pollutants before the emission of the waste water. Proper sewage plants are needed for every flats and homes. The use of insecticides should be controlled and regulated. The climate change affects the water resources also. As a result of global warming the heat and temperature of water increases and the free flow is obstructed. It affects the integrity of the ecosystem generally and results the shortage in food supply. In developing countries most people depend on the ground water for their consumption. The decrease in rainfall causes poor recharge of ground water and this directly affects the quantity of the water and wild life habitat. The frequency of flood and drought increases. The pesticides used of agriculture contaminate both water and soil. Birds are feeding on the fishes living in the polluted water. The toxic substances affect both the aquatic life and the birds.

Land and soil is the place where all human encroachment occurs. Plants are sources of oxygen and fresh air. Nature mainly relies on them for rain. Deforestation and combustion woods for energy have increased the presence of compounds of carbon in air and soil. Over cultivation and grazing have degraded the soil capacity. The use of pesticides has accelerated the soil pollution. Deforestation and waste lands increase erosion and floods. The increase in the concentration of salt in soil directly affects the productivity and it degrades the quality of the products. In India intensive farming has increased the salinity of soil. Man is the main culprit in soil pollution as man-made chemicals are responsible for soil degradation. Along with these chemicals, the fuel dumping and the direct discharge of industrial waste also affect the soil productivity. It stands as a hazardous threat mainly in developing countries. It is becoming havoc if it is not checked properly. Forests should be restored to protect the soil from erosion and floods. It is advisable to implement crop rotation and mixed cropping as it increases the fertility of land and helps to meet larger demand. The use of pesticides and fertilizers should be reduced and minimized. Waste should be treated in separate dumping pits.

Thermal pollution, the temperature difference that occurs in water due to human influence is a major threat. It affects the ecosystems and kills the water species and plants. Industrial manufacturers and power plants use water as a coolant and it is returned to the natural environment at a higher temperature and poses a threat to the life of the fishes. It decreases the presence of oxygen in natural water and affects the ecosystems. The temperature rise is associated with industrialization. The water temperature in lakes, streams and ocean is increasing because of the emission of hot water from factories. The process is occurring vice versa also since the factories emit very cold water to the natural water. The effects are shocking as it reduces the presence of dissolved oxygen and kills the aquatic community. Water can absorb and adapt to the small changes in temperature. But the sudden and intense rise in temperature is intolerable. It affects the aquatic life.

Noise forms a constant threat since industrial revolution. Too much noise exposure is affecting hearing ability and disturbs the mental balance. Noise comes to the level of pollution while it interferes with human communication. If all the unwanted sounds are dumped into the atmosphere, it becomes a threat as it disturbs the ears and affects the mental health. All displeasing sounds created by human or machine, is pollution. It disrupts the regular activity of human or animal life. It causes annoyance, aggression, high stress and sleep disturbances. The sources of noise should be controlled and it is to be checked in path of transmission. It is advisable to convert the traffic from dwelling sites.

Light and visual are other two pollutions that affect the ecosystem but have earned little attention. The excessive use of artificial light disrupts vision and affects health. Use of unappealing artificial lights is an energy waste. The overexposure to bright light decreases the production of melanin which in turn increases the risk of breast cancer. The animals and birds get confused by the artificial lights. This affects their breeding pattern and thus causes the extinction of various species. In the aesthetic sense it impairer’s one’s ability to enjoy and as a result headache and anxiety increases. The structures and buildings that obstruct the view of pretty scenes are visual pollutants. The smoke and haze scatters light and obstruct visibility. The dust along with the smoke from vehicles and forest fires affect the visibility. The artificial lights, emitted to the night sky which alters the beauty of natural scenes, is the main source of light pollution. It produces sky glow and which obstructs the vision of amateur and professional astronomers.

One of the major requirements for sustaining human progress is an adequate source of energy. The combustion of oil and natural gases are the biggest source of air pollution. The best alternative is nuclear energy. The Chernobyl explosion triggered wide spread fear of nuclear energy. This created a lot of hue and cry across the globe. But nuclear energy is the most economically viable and environmentally feasible source nuclear power plants don’t produce any carbon dioxide emission. It doesn’t mean that it is complete free of any kind of contaminants. It produces solid waste which contains mercury and nitric oxide. The problem with these wastes is that they are radioactive and they won’t decay easily. In most cases these wastes are flushed into sea sometimes in sealed containers. The contamination of ecosystem by the radioactive sources is a deadly threat. Accidental contamination by short lived isotopes doesn’t pose any big threat as they decay within a short span. But severe contamination is real threat to human life as it enters into the body through water, inhalation and food. This will increase the risk of various cancers. Also this will cause mutation in plants and animals. The benefits are more in comparison with the negative effects it has on life. It is the best source provided it is designed well and cared meticulously.

Pollution, itself is a habitat destruction. Chemical destruction is occurring severely and it is not as obvious as physical destruction. Land, sea, atmosphere and fresh water all get affected. The exploitation of natural resources higher than the nature’s tolerance results in pollution of air, water and land. Pollution takes place with the emission of unprocessed and harmful by- products of human activities. The earth accepts all these hazardous pollutants and tries to change theses to eco friendly materials. But it takes a lot of time and the disposal of pollutants occurs frequently. The worst case is with the radioactive pollutants, that, it takes thousands of years to decay. Though pollution has been there for a very long time, it has worsened after the 19th century industrial revolution. It has been a boon for the technology, drastic changes have occurred, but the discovery and intense use of oils has minimised the merits of this progress. Due to the technological progress the natural resources have deteriorated. The knowledge, that people has acquired through proper scientific education, has given him better awareness of his environments and the threats it faces.

The population growth and urbanisation have accelerated the invasion of natural resources. People has encroached forests for food and shelter. The exploitation of virtually untouched natural resources has occurred after the industrial revolution. All the waste and pollutants are degrading the land. Though it produces food for all, the agriculture generates large portion of ammonia. It pollutes air and the chemicals used as pesticides and fertilizers pollute land, water and soil. The transportation and trading activities pollute soil and air. The pollution due to residential activities affects the eco system generally. It directly affects all the living species in earth.

Every one has a responsibility to keep the earth safe and secure for the coming generations. Some immediate actions have to be taken for its security and to bring down the carbon dioxide emission and thus global warming. Electricity has to be stored and used judiciously. Replace all incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps as it consumes only a little energy. Replace electric heaters with solar heaters. It is non- polluting and eco friendly. Give more attention while constructing buildings. Properly insulated houses retain heat in winter. Avoid the use of huge glass walls as it increases heat inside and thus naturally increase the use of air conditioners during summer. Turn off computers, fans and bulbs while not in use and this help to reduce the energy consumption. It is advisable to use sprinklers or drip – irrigation for plants and vegetables. It helps to reduce the loss of too much water at the same time make the surroundings more cool. Vehicles are to be properly maintained so that the fuel consumption is reduced and emission of toxic gases is minimal. Pool a car to office or work place and walk to nearby places. Buy only energy efficient home appliances. Be selective while you purchase and thus reduce the waste of products. Wastes are to be properly treated. Use compost pit to dump degradable waste and recycle the plastic wastes. Proper sewage system is a necessary to protect rivers and lakes. Use water judiciously, as it is going to be a scarce commodity. Protect the rivers and lakes properly. The use of wind power is an efficient method and factories must try to use this as source of electricity where ever possible. Reduce the use of plastics as it destroys both atmosphere and land. Plant as much trees as you can. Trees and plants can protect the atmosphere and soil as it is the best source of oxygen. Avoid the use of fossil fuels and rely on gas energy since the carbon compounds emitted by this is comparatively smaller. Protect oceans as it is the rich reservoir of vast amount of valuable flora and fauna. Educate the masses so that everyone is aware of the problem his action causes to earth.

The future of humanity is bleak if we don’t check our actions. The ecological resources are degrading and the next generation is going to face severe shortage of water and food. To fight these problems we need to be more cautious in our dealings with earth. The environmental and ecological out bursts have occurred after the Industrial Revolution. The increase in frequency of earth quakes, severe droughts, and high intensity storms are the response of earth to the pollution. The ecosystem consumes much of the poisonous gases that affect mankind. But once its limit is reached it will begin to react and that is what we are experiencing today in the form of various climate changes. The three main components of earth, atmosphere, ocean and land suffer a lot by the pollution. What is in store for the future generation is a question which we all have to consider seriously? It is a positive sign that,
many are aware of these hazardous things and have taken some safety measures to protect the earth. But it is only a small step the need of hour is a giant leap towards steps to check the harmful effects of pollution. The international agreement, The Kyoto Protocol, which is an important step towards the fight against climate change, has came into effect on February 16, 2005. It concentrates on reducing the green house gas emission and has already taken some safety measures to control the emission. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is world’s most authoritative voice on the science of climate change and they are trying their best to create a better awareness among the masses. UN also has taken some safety measures. Above all individual awareness is essential to protect the earth. Let us hope for a better world for the coming generations and do our duties so that we can properly full fill the obligation which we all have to the future generation.

Works Citied

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“POLLUTION A to Z.” Macmillan Reference USA. 3 February 2009.
Silver, Simon Cheryl. DeFries, Ruth S. “ ONE EARTH ONE FUTURE OUR
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NIOSH National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
“ Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention.” 3 February 2009.
Chengappa, Raj. “Apocalypse Now.” 23 April 2007. India Today.
Published: 2009-02-15
Author: Rinta Mathew

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I'm a post graduate in English Literature. I've been working as a freelance writier for nline magazines and local magazines. Writing is my greatest passon and I would like to make a living out of this.

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