Essay on Environmental Pollution and Health Hazards
It is a paradox of our times that any development is accompanied by environmental degradation. In his quest for wealth and comforts, man has ignored Nature’s law and thus disturbed a number of natural cycles resulting in environmental pollution and health hazards.
Development of Thought:
There are various ways by which our environment gets polluted. Industrial development and its spread is one of the major causes of pollution. It pollutes the air by releasing smell, smoke, fumes and dust in air, by discharging wastes in rivers, wetlands, realizing many injurious gases like sulphuric dioxide, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, chlorine, etc.
Deforestation too leads to environmental degradation. All these affects the three basic amenities of life, air, water and land and this has serious repercussions on health. Environmental pollution and health hazards are hand in glove with each other. To check these major efforts is required on the part of the administration and the citizens.
In short, there is an urgent need for increasing public awareness for the conservation of environment.
Environmental pollution and health hazards caused by it, dates back to the history and progress of the human civilization. Earlier, pollutants in the form of gases, smoke, domestic wastes etc have given way to a wide variety of industrial waste ranging from toxic gases and heavy metallic oxides to a variety of man made compounds.
In the earlier times, the effect of pollution due to ignorance had taken the form of superstitions, the curse of the Almighty. It is only with the emergence of science that the real causes are continuously being identified and the remedial measures are being taken to control the causes and not just its symptoms.
‘Environmental Pollution’ encompasses the terms Environment and Pollution. Environment according to the Dictionary of Biology is the complete range of external conditions under which an organism lives including physical, chemical and biological factors such as temperature, light and the availability of food and water.
Pollution which literally means to make or render unclean is an undesirable change in the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the land, air or water that harmfully effect human life or that of the desirable species.
Air, water and land are the three basic amenities of life. Increase in population coupled with industrialization and urbanization has led to the contamination of these amenities with undesirable and harmful substances leading to health hazards.
These so called harmful substances termed as ‘pollutants’ are the by products of man’s action. Pollutants are basically of two categories namely, degradable and Nonie gradable.
The degradable ones include domestic wastes and sewerage which decompose easily. The non-degradable ones like inorganic compounds metallic oxides, plastic, radio active elements etc. either take a long time to decompose or do not degrade at by natural or biological process.
Environmental pollution can be classified as Air Pollution, Water Pollution Land Pollution. Radiation Pollution, Noise Pollution. All these lead to a number of health hazards.
“The World Health Organization defines air pollution as the presence of materials in the air that are harmful to man and his environment. Air as we know cannot be bound as compared to a source of water like a pond or a lake which can be isolated and checked.
This results in the spread of pollutants over wide areas, sometimes even countries in different continents as was in the case of the Chernobyl accident in the U.S.S.R.
The sources of air pollution are: the Industrial pollutants released into the air from the chimneys of industrial units and power houses namely, sulphuric dioxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, chlorine, nitrous oxide, arsenic. Zone, ash and an endless number of metal particles and gases; domestic pollutants from fossil fuels burnt by man; automobile exhausts: and radiations.
Air pollution causes the following health hazards: A number of gases for instance chlorine, sulphuric dioxide, hydrogen sulphide have a pungent odour and cause eye irritation, pulmonary congestion, bronchial problems etc. The chlorine gas which le asked from the Shri Ram Fertilizers in Delhi affected in the said manner.
The methyl isocynate which leaked, from the infamous Union Carbide’s plant at Bhopal had resulted in a large number of deaths due to cyanide poisoning besides leading to irreplaceable loss of sight, muscular degradation, lung infection, still births, abortions and new burns with genetic disorders.
Ozone causes skin cancer and is harmful for the eyes. Carbon monoxide, an odour less gas which has affinity with Hemoglobin-it enters into the blood stream and replaces oxygen from oxy hemoglobin and combines with it leading to concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood stream-causes headache, eye irritation nausea, breathing problems, unconsciousness and death.
Air is also polluted by fine dust particles emitted by the industrial units. It causes asthma- cough etc. for instance asbestos causes lung diseases, lead causes nervous disorders and brain damage.
Further, air also contains the spores or particles of harmful weeds, grass etc like Parthenium. The congress grass causes skin irritation and cough among other things. The list is long and the effects drastic.
Water, another basic necessity is highly polluted and causes endless health hazards. The water pollutants include domestic sewerage, industrial waste like caustic soda, miraculous oxide, lignite, sulphuric, cyanides, ammonia etc., and chemical inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides used for increasing agricultural productivity.
The health hazards caused by the water pollution are: Polluted water is the main cause of spread of the epidemic diseases like cholera, jaundice, dysentery, typhoid, gastroenteritis etc. lathe urban areas, the slums are on the rise, they do not have a safe and separate drinking water sources.
Human beings and domestic animals inhabit the place and use the same source for all their needs i.e. of drinking, bathing and washing.
One easily recalls the large number of deaths that occur due to these epidemic diseases basically gastroenteritis in Delhi every year during the rainy season, water logs in these colonies and bacteria, virus and other parasites breed in that water.
Mercury, lead, copper, zinc and other metals and their oxides dumped by the industrial units in the water sources cause nervous disorders and even brain damage. The aquatic organisms which consume these pollutants, when consumed by man leads to variety of health hazards.
The release of dyes by the dyeing industrial units into the water sources results in the use of these by the human beings and domestic animals. It plays havoc with their biological processes.
Increase of population in the urban areas due to industrialization has resulted in the disposal of wastes in vast land areas.
Land is polluted by solid and liquid waste by the paper and pulp mills, oil refineries, power plants etc., fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides used for increasing agricultural productivity also results in land pollution besides water pollution.
Lack of civic sense on the part of human beings and lack of administrative checks result in land pollution.
The health hazards due to land pollution are: Agricultural inputs results into the seeping of the same in the ground water. Some gases unable to find a way out of the surface of land escape from the wells and other such sources of water, and cause dizziness, irritation and death.
One gas thus released is carbon monoxide which has been a cause of a number of deaths in Punjab and other northern states. The enormous number of insecticides and pesticides that are sprayed on the crops find their way into the human system and create disturbances with its functioning.
Industrial units dump large quantity of ash on and, and this results in rendering the land useless for cultivation and cause diseases like cough, asthma etc.
The radiations emitted or leaked by the nuclear power plants and other nuclear installations result in contaminating the environment. The radiations cause diseases like skin cancer, leukemia etc. It also induces mutations which change the genetic order and cause related diseases.
Noise pollution is another serious threat to the environment. Endless noise produced toy the industrial units and automobiles in the cities and towns sickens physically and mentally. Noise damages the ear drum even permanently if it is continuous and of a high intensity. It produces fatigue, headache, tension and nausea.
Environmental pollution and health hazards are hand in glove with each other, to check them a number of efforts are required on the part of the administration and the citizens. More programmes like the Ganga Action Plan for cleaning the rivers are required to make our water and land sources less polluted. The industrial units that are located on the banks of these rivers should be allowed to run only with individual or organised scientific safeguards and release only the treated water into the rivers, which is not so in a majority of cases.
The domestic sewerage and the animal faecal matter instead of being dumped should be encouraged in a large way to be used in the bio-gas plants. This will ensure in controlling a number of health hazards by providing a safe cooking fuel and manure for the crops.
The health hazards like asthma, eye irritation, lung infection etc., can thus be checked. As the biggest source of environmental pollution besides the industrial units, are the gases released by the burning of the fossil fuels, non-conventional energy sources like the solar power should be tapped on a large scale.
Another area which should be given prominence is educating the younger generation. In the earlier times, the students lived in ‘Gurukuls’ which were surrounded by nature and where they were encouraged to take care of it.
Though this method is not possible now, still instead of burdening the younger generation with complex-texts, such courses should be evolved which make an effort to take the younger ones close to the nature. Besides this, there is a vital need of creating awareness, among the masses which are by and large illiterate and unable to attend the schools and colleges.
This can be done by the administrative and voluntary organizations by showing films and clips of pollution and health hazards caused by it. The electronic media has an important part to play in this regard. Such programmes should be telecast in the regional and local languages in a simple manner rather than in a complex technical language.
The industrial units should be encouraged to have a green belt around their installation and should not be located in the densely populated areas.
The height of chimneys should definitely be more but it should be remembered that whatever goes up will come down whether in the form of particles or acid rain. Hence efforts are needed to maintain the balance by treating the smoke before releasing it in the upper atmosphere. The green house effect is looming large on the horizon.
Urbanization has taken place in a big way leading to the growth of the slums. If we cannot control the growth of the slums at least by improving the general conditions prevailing there, there will be a check on the number of health hazards.
Laws were made and laws are being framed, but more important is the proper implementation of these laws to achieve the desired results. Proper implementation of the laws requires not only proper management techniques but also an active involvement of the inhabitants.
Local committees or bodies with members from the industrial units, administration, the pressure groups, citizens and other related fields should be formed with a view to monitor the implementation of the law and pollution control programmes. Such bodies should be given sufficient powers for doing the needful.
In the end, one can only say that an organised effort on the part of citizens and the administration is required to keep a check on the environmental pollution.