Man and his Environment
Environmental pollution has become a great menace to man. We live in that part of the earth called ‘biosphere.’ It is a very thin layer near the surface, bounded by regions too hostile. for life processes to occur. Without the biosphere our planet would have become an arid form, spinning in space. Any imbalance in the biosphere will be disastrous to mankind. Man has greatly succeeded in conquering the forces of nature, but science may prove a Frankenstein monster. Air pollution, water pollution, and deforestation etc., are the writings on the wall.
The air gets polluted. New York City, for example, dumps 200 million gallons of raw sewage into the Hudson River daily. Manhattan produces 3,75,000 pounds of waste a day. When the waste is burnt, thirty per cent of the residue drifts in the air as ash, until it settles on the citizens. The sheer size of big cities slows down the cleaning winds, at the same time rising city heat helps to create thermal inversion that can trap pollutants for days in the crisis that killed 400 New Yorkers in 1963. Cars complete the deadly picture. While chimneys belch sulphur dioxide, motor vehicles add tons of carbon monoxide (which- forms nearly 60 per cent of smog) and other deadly gases. Car-exhaust fumes, containing tetra ethyl lead affect human nerves, increase irritability and decrease the normal functioning of the brain. Arctic glaciers now contain wind-blown lead.
To cut air pollution, a Japanese process can be used to convert ash into cinder blocks. Recovering waste at source is almost always cheaper than cleaning it later. Take sulphur, for example, which is in short supply around the world. Waste sulphur dioxide, belched from smokestacks, could be trapped in the stack and converted to sulphuric acid or even fertilizer.
Rivers and oceans get polluted. Sewage and industrial effluents are allowed to flow into rivers and oceans. These have become a great threat to the fish and other water creatures. The government of India realized the seriousness of the pollution in the Ganga and drew up a plan to cleanse it. In June’94, the Prime Minister reviewed the Ganga Action Plan. He was happy to note that there is significant improvement in the quality of the water in the Ganga in all places, except Kanpur.
The pollution on land has also become serious, but the modem method of recycling can convert these waste materials into useful materials. The Hindustan Newsprint Factory in Kerala has already entered into an agreement with-two cement companies to make use of the ashes from it to make cement. Australia manufactures cement from the leftover waste material in the factories. At Dept ford,London, a plant has been established to produce electricity from household waste. It will produce 32 megawatts of electricity.
The rapid growth of population is the most important cause of pollution. The larger the population, the greater the facilities and resources required for it. According to a UN report, more than half of mankind feeds badly and one-third of the earth’s population suffers from malnutrition and hunger. If the growth of population is not checked, pollution will get worsened.
The ozone layer in the stratosphere is getting depleted. The major cause is the group of chemicals known as chloro-fluoro carbons or CFCs, which made their first appearance in 1928. When their molecules reach the stratosphere, they destroy the ozone layer which absorbs much of the ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. Another cause of the destruction is the group of chemicals known as halons, used in fire-extinguishers. They break down when they reach the above layer of the atmosphere. CFCs are used worldwide as propellants in aerosol. sprays, refrigerants, and coolants etc.
In 1987, British scientists discovered that there was a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. They discovered that it was the CFCs that created the hole. Many people are dying of the ultraviolet induced skin cancer and a number of people are suffering from eye-diseasei. These eye-diseases are due to the ultraviolet radiation.
The Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer was signed in January 1989. It pledges the reduction of certain types of CFCs and the freezing of halons. The European Economic Community stopped using them by the end of the last century. The Third Woridg countries are also likely to do so gradually.
The large-scale destruction of forests and the various gases emitted by factories, and vehicles etc. have increased the content of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Any high increase of this gas may bring about the melting of the ice, which covers about one-tenth of all the land surface of the globe. As a result of this, the sea will rise about 150 feet, causing great destruction to mankind.
The protection of the environment is the duty of each and every inhabitant on earth. In India, it is one of the fundamental duties according to the 42″d Amendment (1976). We should act with wisdom and foresight. If we do not, a fate similar to that of dinosaurs awaits us. Albert Schweitzer was pessimistic about the future of mankind. He said,Man has lost his ability to foresee and forestall. He will destroy himself by destroying this planet.”
Let us conclude the essay quoting what Mrs. Indira Gandhi said when she inaugurated the 12th World Energy Congress held in New Delhi in 1983. “We should be good guests on earth, neither too demanding nor disturbing its delineate balance. We should allow it to renew itself for those who are to follow.”