Steps to Start Winning the Losing Battle Against Pollution

Posted on June 23, 2010

Nitasha Kapila:

Pollution takes many forms. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the ground where we grow our food, and even the increasing noise we hear every day – all this contributes to health problems and a lower quality of life. We need to find out the environmental issues of pollution, what is being done on a global level and what we can do in our community. There are very many environmental problems, but at present one of our major concerns is pollution, on which we need to give a second thought. India is the world’s fifth-biggest polluter; a new study confirmed on April 11, 2010, India is also suffering from the effects of global warming such as rising temperatures and sea levels along its coasts.

As far as India is concerned, environmental problems in India are growing rapidly. The increasing development, globalization and a rapidly growing population that has taken our country from millions to about one billion people today is putting a strain on the environment, infrastructure and the country’s natural resources which are being badly overexploited. Industrial pollution, soil erosion, deforestation, rapid industrialization, urbanization, and land degradation are all worsening problems. Over exploitation of resources be it land or water and the industrialization process has resulted in environmental degradation. Environmental pollution is one of the most serious problems facing humanity and the other life forms on our planet today.

There are a lot many issues of concern, but in this article, I will highlight a few of them, the things we overlook which can bring great harm to us.

Impact of littering: When we travel on highways or embark on a long distance journey, we generally carry eatables along and do not bother while littering waste around. We need to correct our ways and strengthen laws to prevent it. Environmentalists consider littering a nasty side effect of our convenience-oriented disposable culture and once littered, wind and weather move waste from streets and highways to parks and waterways. A study found that 18 percent of litter ends up in rivers, streams and oceans.

Cigarettes butts, snack wrappers and take-out food and beverage containers are the most commonly littered items. Cigarettes are one of the most insidious forms of litter: each discarded butt takes years to break down, all the while leaching toxic elements into soil and waterways.

Incineration of dry leaves: Now it is illegal to burn leaves in so many places as it is hazardous to burn them. Burning fallen leaves has been practiced since long, but most municipalities now ban or discourage the incendiary practice due to the air pollution it causes. The wise thing to do is to gather and pick up these leaves and other yard waste and turn them into compost for park maintenance or for sale commercially. There are other fire-free options as well.

Mainly because of the moisture that is usually trapped within the leaves, they tend to burn and thus generate large amounts of airborne particulates – fine bits of dust, soot and other solid materials. Then these particles can reach deep into our lung tissue and cause coughing, wheezing, chest pain, breathlessness and sometimes long-term respiratory problems. Leaf smoke may also contain hazardous chemicals such as monoxide, which can bind to haemoglobin in the bloodstream and reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood and lungs. A noxious chemical present in leaf smoke has been shown to cause cancer in animals and is believed to be the major factor in lung cancer caused by cigarette smoke.

Moreover breathing in leaf smoke can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. It can really wreak havoc on small children and people with asthma or other lung or heart diseases.

Composting leaves is the most eco-friendly alternative to burning. Dry leaves alone will take a long time to break down, but mixing in green materials, such as grass trimmings, will speed up the process. The pile should be occasionally mixed to keep a good supply of air in the compost. Another option is to shred leaves for use as mulch for your own lawn or to protect garden and landscape plants, which will provide many benefits, including weed suppression, moisture conservation and moderation of soil temperature.

Impact of sugar: The industry is no friend to the outdoor environment. Sugar in present in products we consume every day, yet we rarely give a second thought to how and where it is produced and what toll it may take on the environment. Sugar production does indeed take its toll on surrounding soil, water and air. In fact, sugar is responsible for more biodiversity loss than any other crop, due to destruction of animals’ natural habitat to make way for sugarcane plantations, its intensive use of water for irrigation, its heavy use of agricultural chemicals, and the polluted wastewater that is routinely discharged in the sugar production process.

Though these issues are very minor they lead to major losses; so we should keep a check on them and the government should strengthen its laws and properly implement them. Since pollution has already shown its degrading impact in reference to the issue of climate change, it can be critically observed how just by taking small but effective precautions every individual responsible citizen of this world can contribute in sustaining a healthy environment for our posterity.


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