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Abstract

Man is causing all round damage to atmosphere, water, land, to the various elements of environment and to the ecosystem itself. There is so much man-made pollution and environmental degradation that the nightmare ahead is enough jittery to shake us all. Taking a synoptic view of the general scenario a few trends are underway. Our atmosphere on global as well as regional scale is heavily polluted. The protective ozone shield in the heavily populated latitudes of the northern hemisphere is thinning twice fast as scientists thought a few years ago. The buildup of green house gases will lead to significant changes in the weather patterns in the near future leading to global warming. The destruction of ozone layer and the further warming of the earth surface threaten catastrophic consequences such as eruption of cancerous and tropical diseases, disruption of oceans food chain, rising of sea levels, submersion of many islands, melting of small land-based glaciers, flooding in many low lying coastal areas and harvest loss etc.
IRJIF I.F. : 3.015
North Asian International Research Journal of
Social Science & Humanities
North Asian International research Journal consortiums www.nairjc.com
ISSN: 2454-9827 Vol. 3, Issue-8 August-2017
151
ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION CAUSES AND
CONSEQUENCES: A STUDY
*DR. RAMAMOHANA REDDY APPANNAGARI
*Environmental Ecologist.
ABSTRACT
Man is causing all round damage to atmosphere, water, land, to the various elements of environment and
to the ecosystem itself. There is so much man-made pollution and environmental degradation that the
nightmare ahead is enough jittery to shake us all. Taking a synoptic view of the general scenario a few
trends are underway. Our atmosphere on global as well as regional scale is heavily polluted. The
protective ozone shield in the heavily populated latitudes of the northern hemisphere is thinning twice fast
as scientists thought a few years ago. The buildup of green house gases will lead to significant changes in
the weather patterns in the near future leading to global warming. The destruction of ozone layer and the
further warming of the earth surface threaten catastrophic consequences such as eruption of cancerous
and tropical diseases, disruption of oceans food chain, rising of sea levels, submersion of many islands,
melting of small land-based glaciers, flooding in many low lying coastal areas and harvest loss etc.
INTRODUCTION
The concept of environment is as old as the concept of the nature itself. It is a composite term referring to
conditions in which organisms consisting of air, water, food, sunlight etc., thrive and become living sources of
life for- all the living and non-living beings including plant life. The term also includes atmospheric temperature,
wind and its velocity.
ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION
Before understanding what “Environmental Pollution” is it is equally necessary to-know what “pollution”
is.
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DEFINITION OF POLLUTION
The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in U.K. in its third report gave the following
definition to the term “Pollution”, namely:
The introduction by man into the environment of substances or energy liable to cause hazards to human
health, harm to living resources and ecological systems, damage to structure or amenity or interference with
legitimate uses of the environment”.
According to Section 1(3) of the U.K. Environment Protection Act, 1990, the term „Pollution‟ means:
The release (into any environmental medium) from any process of substances which are capable of
causing harm to man or any other living organisms supported by the environment.
Pollution occurs when there is the potential for harm. Harm of man is not confined to physical injury but
encompasses offence caused to any of his senses or harm to his property, therefore smells and noise which I may
not cause injury can constitute pollution. Harm to living organisms can include harm to their health or
interference with the ecological systems of which they form a part”.
KINDS OF POLLUTION
Environmental pollution may broadly be classified into: (1) Natural pollution; (2) Man-made pollution.
1. Natural Pollution: Environment is polluted often by natural phenomenon, such as earthquakes, floods,
drought, cyclones, etc.
2. Man-made Pollution: Human activities.
The environmental pollution can also be classified further as, Air pollution, water pollution, land
pollution, food pollution, noise pollution and radio-active pollution, etc.
FACTORS OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS
The „environmental crisis‟ is caused due to environment and ecological changes as a result of
developmental process of the 'economic and technological man" of the present century. In fact if the present
century is marked by socio-economic, scientific and technological development on the one hand, it is plagued by
serious problems of environmental problems on the other hand. The environmental crisis arising out of the
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environmental deterioration caused by several forms of pollution, depletion of natural resources because of rapid
rate of their exploitation and increasing dependence on energy consuming and ecologically damaging
technologies, the loss of habitats due to industrial, urban and agricultural expansion, reduction and loss of
ecological populations due to excessive use of toxic pesticides and herbicides and loss of several species of plants
due to practice of monoculture removal of habitats through forest clearance has now become of global concern.
The life of common man is being so rapidly adversely affected by environmental degradation caused by man
himself that there has been a marked growth of interest within the last decade in the quality of the environment,
the disruption of the earth's natural ecosystems and the depletion of resources.
The most striking reason of the environmental degradation and hence global environmental crisis is the
fact of deteriorating relationship between man and environment because of rapid rate of exploitation of natural
resources, technological development and industrial expansion. The rate of environmental change and resultant
environmental degradation caused by human activities has been so fast and widespread.
The impact of man on environment through his economic activities are varied and highly complex as the
transformation or modification of the natural condition and process leads to a series of changes in the biotic and
abiotic components of the environment. The impacts of man on environment fall into two categories (i) direct or
intentional impacts and (ii) indirect or unintentional impacts, Direct or intentional impact of human activities are
preplanned and premeditated because man is aware of the consequences, both positive and negative of any
programme which is launched to change or modify the natural environment for economic development of the
region concerned. The effects of anthropogenic changes in the environment are noticeable within short period
and these effects are reversible. On the other hand the indirect impacts of human activities on the environment are
not premeditated and preplanned and these impacts arise from those human activities which are directed to
accelerate the pace of economic growth, especially industrial development. The indirect impacts are experienced
after long time when they become cumulative. These indirect effects of human economic activities may change
the overall natural environmental system and the chain-effects sometimes degrade the environment to such an
extent that this becomes suicidal for human beings.
MAIN CAUSES OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION
The problem of environmental pollution, we face today, is a complex consequence of forces connected
with various interrelating factors. There are clearly a number of divergent and conflicting views of what could be
the basic factors underlying the environmental crisis. No single cause can be considered as the root cause of
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environmental impairment. However, the following causes could be pointed out as the generally underlying
factors though each of these too could be operating simultaneously and their balance may vary from place to
place and through time.
1. Population growth
Modern thinkers consider that growth of population is the root cause for many human problems. This
observation also applies to environmental degradation. Increase in the population will have a multiplier effect
requiring proportionate increase in all requirements necessary for the existence of human beings. Population
growth requires abnormal exploitation of natural resources to provide day-to-day essential requirements of life. It
results in migration of people and growth of urban areas, thereby inviting new problems of health, ecology and
human sustenance.
2. Increased General Affluence and Economic Growth
The affluence (i.e. material aspects of per capita consumption of goods and resources) is an important
factor in man-resource- environment relationship. It is the increasing per capita demand of rich which is
absorbing the growth in output of goods and services in the developed and developing countries and cause misuse
or overuse and pollution of resources, for the affluence unmatched to the necessary resource consumption and not
motivated by human requirements produce tendency to waste matter and energy. Surprisingly, affluence factor
though, having a great impact on environment, is seldom talked about. On the other hand, poor and the poverty
often get blamed for the destruction of environment. The notion that poverty or the poor destroy the environment
most is but partially true.
3. Nature of Modern Technology
The nature of productive technology in recent years is closely related to the environmental crisis. Commoner
maintains that sweeping transformations of productive technology since World War II productive technologies
with intense impacts on environment have displaced less destructive ones. This factor has been largely
responsible for the generation of synthetic and non-biodegradable substances such as plastics, chemical nitrogen
fertilizers, synthetic detergents, synthetic fibres, big cars, petrochemical and other environmentally injurious
industries and 'disposable culture. Thus, environmental crisis is the inevitable result of a counter ecological
pattern of productive growth. Ecologically benign technologies did and do exist but they are not utilized, for they
are considered inconsistent with the short-term interests of private profit maximization.
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4. Deforestation
Forests are invaluable property of a nation because they provide raw materials to modern industries,
timber for building purposes, habitats for numerous types of animals and micro-organisms. Good fertile and
nutrient-rich soils having high content of organic matter, offer protection to soils by binding the soils through the
network of their roots and by protecting the soils from direct impact of falling raindrops. They encourage and
increase infiltration of rainwater and thus allow maximum recharge of groundwater resources, minimize surface
run-off and hence reduce the frequency, intensity and dimension of floods. They help in increasing the
precipitation; they are natural sink of carbon dioxide because they use carbon dioxide to prepare their food during
the process of photosynthesis. They provide firewood to millions of people all over the world and food and
shelter to innumerable humans and animals. In fact, forests are 'life line' of a nation because prosperity and
welfare of the society directly depends on sound and healthy forest cover of a nation concerned. Forests are main
component of the biotic components of the natural environmental system and the stability of the environment and
ecological balance largely depend on the status of the forests of the region concerned.
It is a matter of serious concern that the present economic man has forgotten the environment and
ecological significance of natural vegetations mainly forests and grasslands and has destroyed the forests so
rapidly and alarmingly that the forest areas at global, regional and local levels have so markedly decreased that
several serious environmental problems such as accelerated rate of soil loss through rain splash, sheet wash, rill
and gully erosion, increase in the frequency and dimension of floods, greater, incidence of drought due to
decrease in precipitation etc. have plagued the modern human society. The major causes of deforestation at global
and regional levels are conversion of forest land into agricultural land, shifting cultivation, transformation of
forests into pastures, overgrazing, forest fires, lumbering, multipurpose river projects etc.
Deforestation gives birth to several problems encompassing environmental degradation through
accelerated rate of soil erosion, increase in the sediment load of the rivers, siltation or reservoirs and river beds,
increase in the frequency and dimension of Hoods and droughts, changes in the pattern of distribution of
precipitation, intensification of greenhouse effects increase in the destructive force of the atmospheric storms etc.
economic loss through damages of agricultural crops due to increased incidence of floods and draughts, decrease
in agricultural production of loss of fertile top soils, decrease in the supply of raw materials to the industries and
building matters etc. Thus deforestation cause a chain effects which adversely affect the natural environment.
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5. Agricultural Development
Agricultural development means expansion of agricultural land increase in agricultural productivity and
net agricultural production. It is due to development of modern scientific techniques, advanced technologies,
increased production and use of chemical fertilizers, expansion in irrigational facilities, development of high-
yielding varieties of seeds, etc. This has solved the problem of growing demand of food due to ever increasing
world population on the one hand; it has also created or is creating hazardous environmental problems of serious
concern on the other hand. Thus modern economic and technological man is at the cross road of dangers in all
directions.
The agricultural development degrades the environment in a variety of ways, e.g. (i) through the
application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and insecticides, (ii) through the increase in irrigational
facilities and amount of irrigation, (iii) by making changes in biological communities etc.
Conversion of forests land into agricultural farms on sloppy ground accelerates rate of soil erosion.
Increased in agricultural land at the cost of destruction ol forest and consequent soil erosion, substantial increase
in the productivity of land through the practice of intensive cultivation, increased use of machines and modern
scientific techniques, application of chemical fertilities, pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, increase in the
frequency and area of watering of agricultural fields, etc. All these processes and measures of increased
agricultural development cause several serious environmental problems. It appears that the root cause of all these
environmental problems arising out of agricultural development is the increase of human population at alarming
rate. So the foremost step to be taken is to stop population growth because if population continues to grow
agricultural development has to be maintained.
6. Industrial Development
"Rapid Industrial Development has given economic prosperity to human society. It has also given new
dimension to socio-economic structure and has provided material comfort to the people of industrially developed
countries but it has also created many fold environmental problems. In fact, the glittering effects of
industrialization have affected the mind of the general public that industrialisation is now being considered as the
parameter of modernity and as a necessary element of socio-economic development of a nation.
Rapid rate of industrialization resulted into rapid rate of exploitation of natural resources and increased
industrial output. Both the components of industrial development e.g. exploitation of natural resources and
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industrial production have created several lethal environmental problems and have caused large scale
environmental problems and ecological imbalance at global, regional and local levels in a variety of ways.
Exploitation of natural resources in order to meet the industrial demand of raw materials has resulted into (i) the
reduction of forest covers due to reckless falling of trees, (ii) excavation of land for mining purposes, (iii)
reduction in arable land due to industrial expansion, (iv) lowering of groundwater level due to excessive
withdrawal of groundwater, (v) collapsing of ground surface due to withdrawal of mineral oil and groundwater,
etc.
Besides desired production there are numerous undesired outputs from the factories such as industrial
wastes, polluted water, toxic gases, chemical precipitates, aerosol ashes and smokes etc. which pollute air, water,
land, soils etc., and thus degrade the environment. The industrialized countries have increased the concentration
of pollutants emitted from the factories in the air, water and land to such an extent that they have degraded the
environment to the critical limit and have brought the human society on the brink of its destruction.
The adverse effects of industrialization may change the overall character of natural system and the chain-
effects sometimes become suicidal for human society. Majority of the impacts of industrialization are related to
pollution and environmental degradation. The release of toxic elements into the environment through the
application of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides (output of chemical industries) changes the food
chains and food webs and physical and chemical properties of soils. Similarly the release of industrial wastes
into stagnant waters of ponds, tanks, and lakes into rivers and seas contaminates water and causes several
diseases and deaths of organism and thus disturbs ecological balance of aquatic ecosystem.
Increasing industrial expansion is responsible for the release of enormous quantities of pollutants (e.g.)
ions of chlorine, sulphate, bicarbonate, nitrate, sodium, magnesium, phosphate, through sewage effluents into the
rivers and the lakes and thus for contaminating the water. Release of several gases, smokes, ashes and other
aerosols from the chimneys of the factories adversely affects the environment in a number of ways. The burning
of hydrocarbon fuels (coal and petroleum) has increased the concentration of C02 in the atmosphere and thus has
changed the natural gaseous composition of the atmosphere. The increase in the construction of C02 content of
the atmosphere may change global radiation and heat balance by increasing the level of sensible heat in the
atmosphere because C02 intensifies the greenhouse effects of the atmosphere as C02 allows the solar radiation to
pass through the atmosphere and reach the earth's surface but stops the outgoing long wave terrestrial radiation
from escaping to the space release of chlorofluoro carbon in the atmosphere causes depletion of ozone layer.
Depletion in ozone layer means less absorption of ultraviolet solar rays and thus substantial increase in the
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temperature at the earth surface. Thus changed in the global radiation and heat balance caused due to increase in
the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and depletion of ozone layer may cause changes in
weather and climatic conditions at global and regional levels may cause severe damages to plant and animal lives
and thus may cause ecological imbalance. It may cause dangerous diseases like skin cancer etc.
Release of toxic gases through advertent and inadvertent actions of man causes environmental hazards
which destroy all types of life forms in the affected areas. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy (December 3-4, 1984, India)
is an example of disastrous effects of modern industrialization. Acid rains, urban smogs, nuclear holocaust, etc.,
are the other forms of environment hazards emanating from industrialization.
7. Urbanization
Exodus of population from rural areas to urban centre and origin and expansion of new urban centres due
to industrial expansion and development are responsible for rapid rate of exploitation of natural resources and
several types of environment degradation and pollution in the developed and developing countries. The level of
urbanisation in the developed countries of the world has already reached its peak. The accumulation of wealth
and availability of more economic and job opportunity in the urban centres have resulted into the concentration
of population in the congested metropolitan areas and thus the formation and growth of big slum areas.
In fact, increasing urbanization means increase in the concentration of human population in limited space
which results in the increase of buildings, roads and streets, sewage and storm drains, vehicles (motor cars, trucks,
buses, motor cycles, etc.) number of factories, urban wastes, aerosols, smokes and dusts, sewages waters etc.
which cause several environmental problems. For example, increasing population of the urban centres uses
enormous amount of water for various purposes. The used waste water like sewage water, if untreated, pollutes
the streams and lakes because the urban effluents are allowed to be drained into them.
Urban centres when combined with industrial sectors become more hazardous from the standpoint of
environmental problems and pollution. Huge quantity of aerosols and gases is emitted from Chimneys of
factories and vehicles which form "Dust Domes" over the cities. These Dust Domes cause 'Pollution Domes' over
the cities. The urban and industrial growth has resulted into rapid rate of deterioration of the quality of air
because of heavy pollution of air through gases and aerosols emitted from the vehicles, factories and house-hold
appliances. About 60 per cent, of the pollution of Indian capital city of Delhi is contributed by vehicles, Calcutta
and Bombay metropolitan areas have also reached high level of air pollution. According to the survey report of
the National Environmental Research Institute, Nagpur (India) the level of air pollution in Delhi, Calcutta,
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Bombay, Madras, Ahmedabad, Cochin, Hyderabad, Kanpur, Nagpur etc. has gone up. Besides industrial wastes
from industrial cities, huge quantity of urban solid wastes also creates environmental problems. The quantity of
urban solid wastes is rapidly increasing with urban expansion and growth in urban population.
8. Unplanned Urbanization
The skewed urban development has deteriorated the environment visibly and considerably in both the
urban and rural areas. The urban areas suffer from their own plight, squatter settlements, lack of sanitation and
water supply, overcrowding, congestion and pollution. The cities in India are facing environmental problems like
lack of sanitation, chronic shortage of traffic congestion etc. Moreover, the domestic and industrial waste
disposal in the urban areas is very serious. Most of the cities are lacking sewer systems. For example studies by
the Central Board for the prevention and control of water pollution have shown that the discharge of community
wastage and industrial effluents is the major cause of water pollution. At present 56% of Class-I cities and 87%
of Class II towns do not possess sewerage facilities. We therefore need a well controlled and well managed
process of urbanisation in order to curb rural urban migration and other related problems.
9. Coal burnt Thermal Power Plants
Power Plants either in public or private sector mainly use coal for generation of electricity. About 62% of
the coal produced in our country is utilized for generation of electricity which accounts of 65% of power
generation. This process results in the accumulation of various by-products such as bottom ash, boiler slag and
fly ash. Fly ash alone amounts to more than 70% of the total quantity. Disposal of this huge amount of tty ash is
a difficult and sensitive task. Though this material can be used in manufacture of cement, brick and also used as
soil conditioner but these activities have not gained much popularity due to economical and social consideration.
Even if the fly ash is utilized for the above mentioned activities, it will not be possible to utilize even 30% to
40% of the ash produced. Thus there is a need to store the ash produced in such a way as to have minimum
damage to air, water and soil bodies. A super thermal power plant built on about 800 acres of land normally
requires 1200 acres for ash disposal. On the basis of the ash production trends the area requirement for dumping
of the ash is around 40000 hectares. Power plants are preferably placed away from the human settlements and
moreover on waste lands, but with course of time some of the cultivable area is also covered for ash mount site.
Presence of ash particularly in the atmosphere is of major concern to the people living close to the plant site. This
is particularly severe in summers due to prevailing high wind speeds. The finer fractions of fly ash are potentially
harmful as they get deposited in lungs/pulmonary tissues of respiratory track when inhaled.14
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10. Poverty
It is true that poor cause damage to environment. Due to poverty the people exploit excessively the natural
resources of the country for meeting their basic needs (food, fuel, shelter, employment fodder for their cattle).
Poverty and need are indeed the greatest polluters as told by late Mrs. Indira Gandhi in her address to the
Stockholm Conference. Hence necessary steps should be taken to bring the poor people above the poverty line.
CONCLUSION
The causes for environmental problems are many. The multiplicity of causes makes it difficult to clearly
delineate the causes and consequences of environmental degradation in terms of simple one to one relationship.
The causes and effects are often interwoven in complex webs of social, technological, environmental and
political factors. However, some of the very common causes of environmental degradation which can be clearly
pointed out are the population growth, the economic growth associated with the affluence factor and change of
technology. Population is an important resource for development, yet it is a major cause of environmental
degradation when it exceeds the threshold limits of the support systems. The overriding impact of adverse
demographic pressure ultimately falls on our resources and ecosystems. Combined with it the conditions of
poverty and underdevelopment themselves create a situation where the people are forced to live in squalor and
further degrade their environment. The process of development itself also leads to damage of the environment, if
not properly managed. Associated with the rapid economic growth, the extravagant affluence consume far more
resources and put far greater pressure on natural resources. The change of technology causes planned
obsolescence causing the generation of more and more wastes which in turn prove ecologically harmful. Short-
term interests of private profit maximization, further, hamper the process of replacement of obsolete technologies
by the ecologically benign technologies.
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... Therefore, increase in deforestation activities for wood, timber and land-opening for settlement and other economic activities will increase environmental degradation and consequently lead to environmental pollution. This outcome is in consistent with the work of researchers such as Evelyn and Thomas [52] Iyang and Esohe [53] and Appannagari [54]. ...
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