China is the fourth largest country in the world by land area with a total land area of 95, 96,960sq km. But fast industrial expansion and economic growth in the past three decades has diminished arable land. Majority of pollutants come from mining, industrial waste and urban waste. Pollutant level in soil has reached a lowest bar mark of 15% in any area tested. Pollutants are absorbed by the roots and stored, and the level of absorption varies directly with the level of contamination. China’s air pollution level has rocketed with the speed of light, and land pollution is just ready to bloom now.
Land pollution is the degradation of earth’s surface because of human exploitation which alters the natural soil composition. It is majorly caused by domestic and industrial waste, be it solid, liquid or semi-solid. Soil is derived from its parent material i.e rocks and is transported through wind and rivers. Richness of soil is based on its humus content and water retention capacity. Pollutants degrade soil to such a condemned state from which there is no turning back.
- Improper waste disposal: Waste generated from households is usually dumped in wastelands, or buried. Hazardous wastes, if not dumped properly can be harmful for the people living near dumping sites. And as organic waste decomposes, it releases greenhouse gases.
- Deforestation: Forests balance the ecological system. Deforestation means reducing forest area incessantly for human use. Reduction in the number of trees can reduce the replenishment of nutrients in soil. The roots of trees hold onto the ground firmly. As the roots grow, it aerates the soil. With decreasing trees, this leads to soil erosion and increase potential to landslides.
- Chemical fertilizers: Excessive use of chemical fertilizers by farmers with the hope of increased produce is very harmful in the long run. Arable land loses its nutrients and slowly turns barren.
- Polluted water or sewage, sometimes runoff onto land and affects its fertility.
- During construction, large amounts of erosion occur.
- Fuel spills from vehicles such as petrol or diesel cause it to settle on land or deep underground.
- Industrial fumes released into air causes acid rain. Acid rain not only causes harm to living beings, but also affects the quality of soil to a great extent.
- Mining: Extraction of minerals or ore from earth’s surface or underground can greatly pollute the soil. Large areas of lands are acquired, which could otherwise be used for agricultural purposes. Excessive mining depletes the essential elements off the soil. Huge barren and unprotected lands undergo erosion which cannot be restored.
- Urbanization: Increase in population in urban areas leads makes the population off balance. Now the same amount of resources as before has to be shared with a greater number of people. Construction of new living spaces or workplaces reduces land area which could otherwise be used for agriculture. Increased population increases waste produced in that area, and waste management becomes tedious.
- Industrialization: A boom in the industry sector made it convenient for production of goods. Now machines were used instead of manual labor, and only operating them required manpower. Industries produce different kinds of waste, some of which are hazardous to flora and fauna. Effective ways to reduce waste production , and eliminating dumping of waste without processing it has increased illegal dumping i.e., finding an empty land to dump waste products.
- Degradation of quality of soil: After being treated with chemical fertilizers, the nutrients in soil like nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and iron get reduced by some degree. Fertilizers also cause imbalance in pH, making it alkaline or acidic.
- Reduction in arable land, which in turn reduces food production. This could lead to inflation and economic crisis.
- Land pollution can also lead to contamination of groundwater, reducing its portability.
- Animals grazing on land may consume non biodegradable waste by mistake, which may be fatal. This is an ever growing problem in islands where solid wastes are washed ashore, ruining the scenery and making life difficult for marine and land organisms alike.
- Barren lands are prone to weathering. Inhaling dust particles from it can cause respiratory issues.
- Surface mining reduces the area for vegetation. Fly-away particles increase considerably.
HOW TO REDUCE LAND POLLUTION:
- Make a compost pit in your backyard. Instead of dumping organic waste generated everyday on useful land, turn it into a rich fertilizer and use it. It increases the nutrients of the soil and keeps pH balance around the compost pit. The compost generated here can be used in gardens at home and for potted plants.
- Always have a carry bag when you leave the house. Avoid taking the polyethene bag given by the shopkeeper. Adopt using paper bags, as they are trending in recent times and is also considered fashionable.
- While travelling, carry a paper bag to collect all your food wrappers, used tissues, paper cups or anything which would otherwise be thrown out the window. After reaching the destination, throw this bag with accumulated waste in a bin.
- Spread awareness about industrial waste generation and how regulations have to be made so that waste is treated satisfactorily before disposal. E.g.: increased mercury level in oceans because of release of methyl mercury along with industrial waste water. This toxin accumulated on shellfish, which was eaten by local people and caused mercury poisoning.
- Eliminate intensive farming methods such as over-irrigation, over grazing and over cropping.
- Dispose household chemicals with care and proper packaging, so it doesn’t spill.
- Don’t litter
- Solid and liquid wasted have to be treated before dumping to reduce harmful effects.
- Segregate waste at home before disposal.
- Don’t buy products with elaborate and unnecessary packaging.
- Adapt the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
- Reduce your “waste footprint”
Land pollution takes its time and creeps up at us slowly. It’s the people’s responsibility to look after the entity that produces food, gives us a place to walk on, to build gigantic monuments on it, to let us exist. As an individual who cares for the future of planet Earth, try to reduce the damage done by us and our predecessors.