Conservational effluence in India

Dr. Vijay Pithadia 


Environmental Studies (ES) is an inter-disciplinary area of study incorporating the social and scientific aspects of nature and natural resources.  The major aim of Environmental Studies is to project the inter-relationships between living beings-especially human beings- with the surrounding natural resources.  Environmental Studies tries to build up a code of conduct towards natural resources.   The major objective of Environmental Studies is to make people aware about the growing environmental challenges and individual responsibility.


Pollution is any undesirable change in the physical, chemical or biological characteristics of air, water or land.  Pollution can harm our health and threaten the survival or activities of human beings and other living organisms.      It is difficult to estimate the desirable and undesirable effects of any activity, which alters the environment. Sometimes short-term gains can cause immeasurable damage in the future, as seen in the ease of nuclear energy, motorcars, air-conditioners and refrigerators, etc.  In an age of fast material change, pollution is an unavoidable result.  History has shown that societies pollute first and pay later.  As the decline of the biosphere continues unchecked, people must find the will to force governments and industries to change exiting conditions.

Types of Pollutants

Degradable pollutants are those that can be decomposed, removed, consumed or reduced to acceptable levels either by natural or artificial means.  However, pollutants such as human sewage and animal and crop wastes can decompose only if the system is not overloaded.  Certain chemicals decompose slowly and can persist at harmful levels for decades, like detergents and pesticides.

Non-degradable pollutants include many radioactive materials, heavy metals and some plastics, which cannot be degraded by natural or artificial means.  They must be controlled or prevented from reaching the environment.


Type of Pollution

Air Pollution
Suspended particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, etc.
Water Pollution
Microorganisms, heavy metals, fluoride, eyanide, sulphate, etc.
Soil Pollution
Heavy metals like arsenic
Marine Pollution
Food Pollution
Pesticides, microorganisms, lead, cadmium, etc.
Noise Pollution
Thermal Pollution
Industrial activity, traffic, loudspeakers

1. Air Pollution:

Clean air, which is essential for the survival of all living organisms, is rapidly becoming scarce.  At mean sea level air contains 20.94% oxygen and 78.09% nitrogen. Other elements present comprise less than one percent of its composition.

Air pollution can be due to natural or man-made causes.  The former is beyond our control as natural disasters like dust storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions throw up large quantities of dust and gases into the atmosphere. Man-made causes, however, should be prevented or controlled as they pose a greater danger by way of toxic emissions from factories, power plants, vehicular traffic, etc.  Industries such as mining, thermal plants, brick kilns, etc., also pollute the air.  These emissions are particularly intense in urban conglomerations where the density of human habitation is very high.

Types of Air Pollutants

ü  Primary Pollutants are those which are emitter directly into the atmosphere, like sulphur dioxide, nitric oxides and carbon monoxide.
ü  Secondary Pollutants are pollutants formed by the photochemical reaction of primary pollutants.  For example, “smog” of smoke and fog. Smoke consists of carbon particles and fog is an emulsion of water vapor in air.  Smog has become very common in large cities, especially during winter.  Similarly acid rain is formed by the combination of sulphur dioxide and water vapor present in the air.
ü  Pollutants in the air can be dispersed by wind movement temperature and topography.

Effects of Air Pollution:

  • Sulphur dioxide from industries causes irritation of eyes.  Carbon monoxide from automobile exhaust causes reduction in and oxygen carrying capacity of blood.
  • Hydrocarbons released from automobile exhaust causes lung cancer.
  • Arsenic from thermal power is toxic to plants.
  • Ammonia released from fertilizers, industry causes irritation of mucous membrane, also affects agriculture.
  • Benzene released from automobile exhaust causes leukemia and also causes chromosomal damage.

2. Water Pollution:

Like clean air, fresh water is also becoming a scarcity.  The limited availability of fresh water and its unequal distribution make water pollution a matter of great concern.   Water pollution is generally localized and confined, making it more severe.  The pollutants undergo many reactions and can become hazardous.  70% of India’s fresh water is polluted, including several high latitude lakes.  While water pollution is easier to study and manage, its control is highly complex and very costly.

Sources of Water Pollution:

In underdeveloped countries, sewage is a major source of water pollution.  Human excreta contain 400 different species of bacteria and viruses.  Even well -treated sewage contains pathogenic bacteria and virus, unless properly chlorinated before being discharged into any watercourse.  Sewage is major contributor to waterborne diseases and affects the health of people and other organisms in the environment in many ways.

Industrial effluents from sugar factories, distilleries, tanneries and paper industries are accompanied by very high organic loads.  By-products of paper and pulp industry cause depletion of fish up to as far as 40 km downstream.  The wastes from oil refineries and steel industries contain phenol, which imparts a strong odour, apart from poisoning the water body.  Fertilizer industry wastes contain ammonia, urea, phosphate and sulphate, which in water cause algal bloom and are toxic to aquatic fauna and flora.  Alkaline industry wastes contain mercury, which can kill human beings who consume mercerized fishes. Lead generated from battery, printing, petrol and past-processing industries, trace land toxic elements such as zinc, copper etc., and effluents from mining industries are injurious to aquatic organisms.  Bathing, washing clothes, animals, etc., in water bodies also pollute water.

There are definite tolerance levels for water used for different activities such as drinking, bathing, irrigation and industrial purposes.  Depending on its use, there are different physio-chemical and bacteriological standards for water.

Effects of Water Pollution:

q  Chromium from industries is toxic and especially from tanneries is carcinogenic.
q  Mercury from pesticides is toxic and causes foetal brain damage.
q  Bacteria from sewage cause cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, and dysentery.
q  Selenium form pesticides, industries cause cancer.

3. Soil Pollution:

Land is a very valuable but limited resource, as the population increases rapidly.   Many highly developed cities are faced with acute space problems, as in Calcuttaor Bombay.  Besides the limited availability of land, 175 million hectares of land are becoming less productive every year.  India loses 20 tons of top – soil per hectare in a year due to floods, rainfall and deforestation.  20% to 50% of lands under irrigation can go out of cultivation at this rate because of water logging and salinity.
This scenario of desertification is compounded by pollution, which includes

q  Indiscriminate discharge of industrial effluents on land and into water bodies
q  An increase in the use of fertilizers for agriculture
q  Open defecation by animals and human beings
q  Accumulation of solid waste; this is a major problem in developed countries like India where the garbage and refuse products are not degraded.
q  Radioactive substances from nuclear plants, which are released into the soil.

Effects of Soil Pollution:

  • Arsenic that occurs naturally, chronic poisoning leads to a loss of appetite and weight, diarrhea, alternating with constipation,, gastro intestinal disturbances, peripheral neuritis, conjunctivitis and sometimes skin cancer.
  • Lead from lead smelters lead to mental retardation or death.
  • Mercury from industrial wastes as methyl mercury is more toxic than any other forms of mercury causes neurological problems and damages kidney.

4. Marine Pollution:

Pollution changes coastal habitats and destroys fish and other species.  Most of the trash and pollutants produced by human activities end up in the world’s oceans and remain in water near the coastal areas.  They are directly drained or dumped into the ocean either on purpose or by accident (oil spills).  Sewage and sedimentation from land clearing and construction are the two most serious causes of coastal pollution.  Rivers dump a lot of pollution into the sea, like sewage, industrial effluents, fertilizers and pesticides from farms and sediments.

  • Sediments are the major pollutant of the coastal waters of India amounting to as much 1600 million tones.
  • Nearly 8000 industries release their effluents into the Indian coastal waters either directly or indirectly.
  • It is estimated that about 390 million tones of industrial effluents are released annually into Indian coastal waters.
  • Among the coastal states, industrial pollution is high in West Bengal, Tamilnadu, Gujarat, Maha Rashtra and Andhra Pradesh.


Effects of Marine Pollution

  • Loss of marine organisms
  • Toxic chemicals in fish enter food chain and affect human health

5. Noise Pollution:

Noise is unwanted sound and has become a part of urban life and industrial centers in this century.  Noise pollution may come from loudspeakers, factories, aero-planes, moving trains, construction activity or even a radio.

Effects of Noise Pollution:

Noise level of 80 decibels or more for more than 8 hours a day increases tension and changes in breathing patterns.  Noise pollution above 120 decibels can cause many adverse biochemical changes.  Cholesterol levels in the blood and white cell counts increase, besides causing hypertension.

Control of Noise Pollution:

§  A green-belt effectively reduces the noise.
§  A 20 foot- wide plantation inside the compound protects the inmates from the noise of vehicular traffic.
§  Decibel meters should be installed along highways and in factories to check and control the intensity of noise pollution.

Thermal Pollution:
Heated effluents either from natural or man-made sources contaminates water supplies.   They may be harmful to life because of their toxicity, reduction in normal oxygen level of water, aesthetically unsuitable and spread diseases.  The chief sources are the nuclear power plants and the industrial effluents.

Effects of Thermal Pollution:

The effluent discharged adversely affects the life forms; the planktons (Producers) are killed, thereby altering the components of the ecosystem.  Blood sucking parasites proliferate in the warm water, contributing to the loss of fish weight.  Toxic pollutants like copper, cadmium discharged with the thermal effluents kill fishes, thereby affecting human health.

Nuclear Hazards:

The major sources include medical X-rays, radioactive fallouts, and radioactive pollution from electric fields. Radiation damages the cells and tissues and the extent of it depends on the various factors such as amount of radiation exposed, its duration, age of the person exposed and the part of the body affected etc.

Be Broad-minded:

When a person is convinced that his basic relationship behind all other worldly, physical or work relationships is that of ‘Spiritual brothers’ because all are children of God, then one’s angel of vision changes.  It widens one’s concern from what has made a man look towards a small family or a small circle of fiends to the whole family of mankind as ‘Vasudhaeka kutumbam’ or ‘Global Village’.  One’s love is no longer directed towards a few but to all.  This awakens in man the attitudes or qualities of sympathy, service and fellow-feeling and puts his behavior on a new and a higher pedestal.  Let sky be your limit, star be your goal.


Awareness of environment should be integral to every individual.  Young people must be oriented to safeguard available resources.  Sustainable living should be the hallmark of society.


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