Environmental Pollution

  • Environmental pollution results from „the release of substances and energy from waste products of human activities. There are many types of pollution. They are classified on the basis of medium through which pollutants are transported and diffused. Pollution can be classified into

(i) air pollution,

(ii) water pollution,

(iii) land pollution and

(iv) noise pollution

Types and Sources of Pollution

Pollution Types Pollution Involved Sources of Pollution
Air Pollution Oxides of sulphur (SO 2, SO3 ), Oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, hydro-carbon, ammonia, lead, aldehydes asbestos and beryllium. Combustion of coal, petrol and diesel, industrial processes, solid waste disposal, sewage disposal, etc.
Water Pollution Odour, dissolved and suspended solids, ammonia and urea, nitrate and nitrites, chloride, fluoride, carbonates, oil and grease, insecticide and pesticide residue, tannin, coliform MPM (bacterial count) sulphates and sulphides, heavy metals e.g. lead, aresenic, mercury, manganese, etc., radioactive substances. Sewage disposal, urban run-off, toxic effluents from industries, run-off over cultivated lands and nuclear power plants.
Land Pollution Human and animal excreta viruses and bacteria, garbage and vectors therein, pesticides and fertiliser-residue alkalinity, fluorides, radio-active substances. Improper human activities, disposal of untreated industrial waste, use of pesticides and fertilisers.
Noise Pollution High level of noise above tolerance level. Aircrafts, automobiles, trains, industrial processing

Sources of Pollution in the Ganga and the Yamuna Rivers

River and State Polluted Stretches Nature of Pollution Main Polluters
Ganga (Uttar Pradesh) Bihar and West Bengal (a) Downstream of Kanpur (b) Downstream of Varanasi (c) Farrakka Barrage 1. Industrial pollution from towns like Kanpur 2. Domestic wastes from urban centres 3. Dumping of carcasses in the river Cities of Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna and Kolkata release domestic waste into the river
Yamuna (Delhi) and (Uttar Pradesh) (a) Delhi to confluence with Chambal (b) Mathura and Agra 1. Extraction of water by Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for irrigation 2. Agricultural run off resulting in high levels of micro-pollutants in the Yamuna 3. Domestic and industrial waste of Delhi flowing into the river Delhi dumping its domestic waste

Urban Waste Disposal 

  • Environmental pollution by solid wastes has now got significance because of enormous growth in the quantity of wastes generated from various sources. 
  • These   discarded materials are also termed as refuse, garbage and rubbish, etc. and are disposed of from two sources :

(i) household or domestic establishments, and

(ii) industrial or commercial establishments.

  • The household wastes is disposed off either on public lands or on private contractors‟ sites, whereas the solid wastes of industrial units are collected and disposed off through public (municipal) facilities at low lying public grounds (landfill areas).
  • Solid wastes cause health hazard through creation of obnoxious smell , and harbouring of flies and rodents, which act as carriers of diseases like typhoid, diphtheria, diarrhoea, malaria and cholera, etc
  • The dumping of industrial waste into rivers leads to water pollution. River pollution from city-based industries and untreated sewage leads to serious health problems downstream.
  • Urban waste disposal is a serious problem in India. In metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, etc.

Problems of Slums

  • The concept “Urban or Urban Centre” is defined in settlement geography to differentiate it from the “Rural slums ”, jhuggi-jhopari” clusters and colonies of shanty structures. These are inhabited by those people who were forced to migrate from the rural areas to these urban centres in search of livelihood but could not afford proper housing due to high rent and high costs of land. They occupy environmentally incompatible and degraded areas.
  • Slums are residential areas of the least choice, dillapidated houses, poor hygienic conditions, poor ventilation, lack of basic amenities like drinking water, light and toilet facilities, etc. These areas are overcrowded having narrow street pattern prone to serious hazards from fire. Moreover, most of the slum population works in low paid, high risk-prone, unorganised sectors of the urban economy.
  • Consequently, they are the undernourished, prone to different types of diseases and illness and can ill afford to give proper education to their children. The poverty makes them vulnerable to drug abuse, alcoholism, crime, vandalism, escapism, apathy and ultimately social exclusion.

Land Degradation

  • The pressure on agricultural land increases not only due to the limited availability but also by deterioration of quality of agricultural land.
  • Soil erosion, water-logging, salinisation and alkalinisation of land lead to land degradation. 
  • Land is degraded and productivity declines. Land degradation is generally understood either as a temporary or a permanent decline in productive capacity of the land.
  • Though all degraded land may not be wasteland, but unchecked process of degradation may lead to the conversion to wasteland.
  • There are two processes that induce land degradation. These are natural and created by human beings.
  • National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) has classified wastelands by using remote sensing techniques and it is possible to categorise these wastelands according to the processes that have created them.
  • There are a few types of wastelands such as gullied /ravinous land, desertic or coastal sands, barren rocky areas, steep sloping land, and glacial areas, which are primarily There are other types of degraded lands such as waterlogged and marshy areas, land affected by salinity and alkalinity and land with or without scrub, which have largely been caused by natural as well as human factors

Case Study : (optional to study)

  • A Role Model to Restore the Ecology and Safeguard Human Health in Daurala
  • Based on the universal law “Polluter pays”, effort to restore the ecology and safeguard the human health with people‟s participation has taken place in Daurala near Meerut.
  • These efforts are now bearing fruits after a span of three years when Meerut based NGO had developed a model for ecological restoration. The meeting of the Daurala Industries officials, NGOs,Government officials and other stakeholders at Meerut has brought out results. 
  • The powerful logics, authentic studies and the pressure of people have brought a new lease of life to the twelve thousand residents of this village. It was in the year 2003 that the pitiable condition of Dauralaites drew the attention of the civil society.
  • The groundwater of this village was contaminated with heavy metals. The reason was that the untreated wastewater of Daurala industries was leaching to the groundwater table. The NGO conducted a door to door survey of the health status of the residents and came out with a report.
  • The organisation, the village community and people‟s representatives sat together to find out sustainable solutionsto the health problem.
  • The industrialists showed a keen interest towards checking the deteriorating ecology.
  • The overhead water tank‟s capacity in the village was enhanced and a 900m extra pipeline was laid to supply potable water to the community.
  • The silted pond of the village was cleaned and recharged by desilting it. Large quantity of silt was removed paving way to large quantity of water so that it recharged the aquifers.
  • Rainwater harvesting structures have been constructed at different places which has helped in diluting the contaminants of the groundwater after the monsoons. 1000 trees have also been planted which have improved the environment

2nd case study 

  • Ramesh has been working in contract as a welder on construction site in Talcher (coal region of Orissa) for the last two years. He moved with the contractor to various places like Surat, Mumbai, Gandhi Nagar, Bharuch, Jamnagar and soon.
  • He remits Rs. 20,000 per year to his father in his native village. The remittances have been mainly used for daily consumption, health care, schooling of children, etc.
  • Part of the money is also used in agriculture, purchasing of land and building of houses, etc. The standard of living of Ramesh‟s family improved significantly. 
  • Fifteen years ago, the situation was not the same. The family was passing through very tough times. Three of his brothers and their families had to survive on three acres of land.
  • The family was highly in debt. Ramesh had to discontinue his studies after ninth standard.
  • He was further hard pressed when he got married. Simultaneously, he was also impressed by some successful out-migrants of his village who had been working in Ludhiana and supporting their families in village by sending money and some consumer goods.
  • Thus, due to abject poverty in the family and perceived job promises at Ludhiana, he made a move to Punjab with his friend. He worked there in a woolen factory for six months at the rate of only Rs. 20 per day in 1988.
  • Apart from the crisis of managing his personal expenditure from this meagre income, he was also facing difficulty in assimilation to the new culture and environment. Then he decided to change his place of work from Ludhiana to Surat under the guidance of his friend.
  • He learnt the skills of welding in Surat and after that he has been moving to different places with the same contractor.
  • Though the economic condition of Ramesh„s family at village improved, he is bearing the pain of separation of his near and dear ones. He cannot shift them with him, as the job is temporary and transferable.


  • In developing countries, poor, semi-illiterate and the unskilled like Ramesh migrating from rural areas frequently end up performing menial jobs at low wages in informal sector in urban areas. 
  • Since wages are very low to support the family at the place of destination, the spouses are left behind in rural areas to look after children and elderly people. Thus, the rural-urban migration stream is dominated by the males.

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