Soil pollution in India Upsc – Causes Effects and Control measures

Soil pollution definition

Soil pollution is the degradation of land due to the disposal of waste on land.

Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997

Any substance (solid, liquid or gaseous) that is discharged, emitted or deposited in the environment in such a way that it alters the environment causes land pollution

Types of Soil Pollution

Solid waste

It includes all kinds of rubbish like paper, plastic containers, bottles, cans, food, used cars, broken electronic goods, municipal waste, and hospital waste.

Pesticides and Fertilizers

Many farming activities engage in the application of fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides for higher crop yield which pollutes the land.

Deforestation

Humans depend on trees for many things including life. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release Oxygen, which is needed for life. Forest helps replenish soils and helps retain nutrients being washed away. Deforestation is led to land pollution.

Causes of Soil Pollution

Deforestation and soil erosion

Deforestation carried out to create drylands is one of the major concerns. Land that is once converted into dry or barren land, can never be made fertile again, whatever the magnitude of measures to convert it.

Agricultural activities

With the growing human and pet animal population, demand for food has increased considerably. Farmers often use highly toxic fertilizers and pesticides to get rid of insects, fungi, and bacteria from their crops. However, the overuse of these chemicals results in contamination and poisoning of land.

Mining activities

During extraction and mining activities, several land spaces are created beneath the surface.

Landfills

Each household produces tons of garbage each year due to changing economic lifestyle of the people. Garbage like plastic, paper, cloth, wood, and hospital waste gets accumulated. Items that cannot be recycled become a part of the landfills that cause land pollution.

Industrialization

Due to increasing consumerism more industries were developed which led to deforestation. Research and development paved the way for modern fertilizers and chemicals that were highly toxic and led to soil contamination.

Construction activities

Due to urbanization, a large number of construction activities are taking place. This has resulted in large waste articles like wood, metal, bricks, plastic. These are dumped at the outskirts of urban areas that lead to land pollution.

Nuclear waste

The leftover radioactive materials, harmful and toxic chemicals affect human health. They are dumped beneath the earth to avoid any casualty.

Plastics

Plastic pollution is a great threat to plants, animals, and humans. Only a fraction of plastic is recycled and the rest ends up in the landfills. It takes 1000’s years to decompose and even after it’s the toxic substances spoil the soil and water.

Over time, this plastic breaks down into microplastics mixes with soils, freshwater, and creates a long-term, fatal effect on the ecosystem. Also, several pieces of research tell that the soil pollution caused by microplastics is much more than marine microplastic pollution.

Microbeads

Microbeads are solid plastic particles that size, less than one millimeter. They are mostly made of polyethylene and other petrochemical plastics. It is used in personal care products, toothpastes, health science reasearches.

Many countries such as Canada, Ireland, Netherlands and United Kingdom etc banned manufacturing of such products that contains microbeads.

Effects of Soil Pollution

Soil pollution

Soil pollution is another form of land pollution, where the upper layer of the soil is damaged. This is caused by the overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This leads to the loss of fertile land. Pesticides kill not only pests and also human beings.

Microplastics affect fauna and flora. The soil pollution due to microplastic has an adverse effect on species. It reduces the species below the surface such as larvae, mites, worms, and other small creatures.

Health Impact

The land when contaminated with toxic chemicals and pesticides leads to the problem of skin cancer and the human respiratory system. The toxic chemicals can reach our bodies through foods and vegetables.

Landfills and waste dumping lead to air pollution. The abnormal toxic substances spread in the atmosphere cause transmit respiratory diseases among the masses.

Effect on wildlife

The animal kingdom has suffered the most in the past decades. They face a serious threat with regards to loss of habitat and natural environment. The constant human activity on land is leaving it polluted, forcing these species to move farther away. Sometimes several species are pushed to the verge of extinction or disappear due to no conducive environment.

Prevention of Soil pollution

  1. Making people aware of the concept of a Reduce, Recycle and Reuse
  2. Buying biodegradable products
  3. Minimizing the usage of pesticides

  1. Shifting cultivation
  2. Disposing of unwanted garbage properly either by burning or by burying it under the soil.
  3. Minimizing the usage of plastics.

Soil pollution in India

a. In 2009, there were issues in Punjab state that attracted media coverage. It is the problem of Uranium Poisoning. This Uranium poisoning is believed to be caused by the fly ash pond of the thermal power station. This poisoning has caused birth defects in Children in Faridkot and Bhatinda districts.

Uranium poisoning has also affected the groundwater in the Malwa belt.

b. Farmer of Yadadri Bhuvanagiri has filed complaints with the ministry of the forest environment, against pharma, chemical companies that pollute the agricultural fields in Anthemmagudem of Pochampalli, Telangana.

Due to this, there is Massive soil, surface, and groundwater pollution in Anthemmaguden and its surrounding villages have taken place.

In order to safeguard the land from pollution, several laws were passed in the country.

Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

It is an act of parliament, that is enacted after the Bhopal gas Tragedy under the Article 253. The aim of this act is to implement decisions of the United Nationals Conference on the Human Environment. It is for the protection and improvement of human environment and prevention of hazard to animals, plants and humans.

National Green Tribunal Act, 2010

The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 is an Act of Parliament that enables the creation of a special tribunal to handle the cases related to environmental issues. This act is inspired from Article 21, that mentions the Protection of life and personal liberty, that assures its citizen, the right to a healthy environment.

National Green Tribunal also deals with the enforcement of legal right related to the environment and giving compensation for damages to persons and property.

Hazardous Waste Handling and Management Rules, 1989

It deals with various environmental aspects related with Hazadous wastes. Some of its features are:

  • The occupier generating hazardous wastes shall take all practical steps to ensure proper handling and disposal of hazardous wastes in environment friendly manner.
  • The State Pollution Control Board, shall grant authorisation having satisfied that the operator of a facility or an occupier, as the case may be, possesses appropriate facility, technical capabilities and equipment to handle hazardous wastes.
  • Accident occurred at the facility or on a hazardous wastes site shall be reported to the SPCB, etc.

These Rules have been amended several times in 2000, 2003 and with final notification of the Hazardous Waste ( Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008 in supersession of former notification.

References

* * All the Notes in this blog, are referred from Tamil Nadu State Board Books and Samacheer Kalvi Books. Kindly check with the original Tamil Nadu state board books and Ncert Books.