Environment & Its Functions and Problems

Concept of Environment

The environment is defined as all those conditions and their effects which influence human life. It is the sum total of surroundings and the totality of resources that affect our existence and the quality of our life.

According to the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the Environment includes water, air and land and the interrelationship which exists among and between water, air, land, and human beings and other creatures, plants, micro-organisms, and property.

  1. There are physical or abiotic as well as living or biotic elements of the environment.
  2. Physical elements include land, water, air, soil, mountains, minerals, and all other resources that nature has provided to us as a free gift.

Functions of Environment

  1. The environment offers a resource for production: Environment includes physical resources which are available to us as a free gift of nature. These resources are used as input for production. In fact, production is simply the process of conversion of natural resources into useful things.
  2. Environment sustains life: Environment includes sun, water, and air which are essential ingredients for the sustenance of human life. The absence of these elements of the environment implies the end of life.
  3. Environment assimilates waste: Production and construction activities generate wastes. This occurs mostly in the form of garbage. Environment absorbs it.
  4. Environment enhances the quality of life:  Surroundings include rivers, oceans, mountains, and deserts. Man enjoys these surroundings, adding to the quality of his life.

Carrying capacity of Environment and Environmental Crises

Carrying capacity of environment refers to the situation when :

  1. The exploitation of resources does not exceed the regeneration of resources so that the resource and endowments are not exhausted or depleted.
  2. The generation of wastes does not exceed the absorption capacity of the environment, so that environment is not polluted.

Environmental crises occur when carrying capacity of the environment is challenged through excessive exploitation of natural resources or through excessive generation of wastes.

Two Basic Problems Related to Environment

Two basic problems related to environment are:

  1. Problem of pollution
  2. The problem of excessive exploitation of the natural resources, or degradation of natural resources.

1. Pollution

Pollution refers to those activities of production and consumption which challenge purity of air and water and thereby pollute the environment. It is a serious emerging challenge related to the process of growth, particularly related to the process of industrialisation. Pollution has three forms :

A. Air pollution

B. Water pollution

C. Noise pollution

A. Air pollution

Air carries oxygen which is an essential element of life. Pollution of air implies pollution of an essential element of life. Accordingly, quality of life is impaired.

Following factors contribute to air pollution:

  1. Smoke emitted by the industries, particularly those using coal as energy.
  2. Poisonous gases emitted in the process of chemical treatment of the materials.
  3. The emission of gases by motor vehicles has risen to a threatening level owing to an exponential rise in the number of vehicles.

B. Water Pollution

Water is also an essential element of human life and its pollution is equally serious pollution of water relates to the contamination of water use of polluted water leads to the diseases like diarrhoea and hepatitis.

Following are the principal factors contributing to water pollution in India:

  1. Industrial waste streaming into the rivers.
  2. Domestic sewage that flows into streams and rivers.
  3. Agricultural run-off that runs into streams and rivers.

C. Noise Pollution

Noise pollution has recorded an exponential growth, because millions of vehicles fitted with loud horns and noise generating engines are playing on the roads. Excessive noise cause irritation and unnecessarily fatigues  the body and the mind.

 The following sources of noise pollution are:

  1. Sound produced by machines used in industries.
  2. Sound produced by cars, trucks and other means of transport.
  3. Sound produced by machines in construction works.

2. Excessive Exploitation of Natural Resources

Second expect of environmental problems related to excessive exploitation of natural resource or degradation of resource natural resource refers to forest mineral soil etc natural resources are also called natural capital.

Following observations may be noted in this regard:

  1. In order to achieve economic growth man needs natural capital along with physical capital.
  2. As a result of increase in production, there is depreciation of both physical capital and natural capital.

Degradation of land

Degradation of land means loss of fertility of land which occurs due to the following factors:

  1. Soil erosion caused by strong winds or floods. when we talk of soil erosion we are referring to the loss of the upper layer of the soil which contains major nutrients such as nitrogen for the growth of the plants.
  2. Alkalinity and salinity of soil caused by waterlogging.
  3. Excessive waterlogged on the topsoil. It tends to suck up the nutrients of the soil and reduces its fertility.

Causes of Environmental Degradation

1.Population Explosion: One of the main causes of environmental degradation is population explosion. The pressure of population on land has increased and consequently, land has been ruthlessly exploited.

2.Widespread Poverty: A large section of the Indian population is absolutely poor this person cuts trees to fuelwood which they sell to earn their livelihood. This causes a massive erosion of natural capital.

3.Increasing Urbanisation: Increasing urbanization has caused pressure on housing and other Civic amenities. It has resulted in increasing demand for land and excessive exploitation of other natural resources.

4.Increasing use of Insecticides, Pesticides, and Chemical Fertilizers: Increasing use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides has also added to environmental pollution.

5.Rapid Industrialisation: Rapid industrialization has also contributed to air, water, and noise pollution. Industrial smoke is a serious pollutant.

6.Multiplicity of Transport vehicles: Multiplicity of transport vehicles has substantially increased noise and air pollution.

7.Disregard for the Civic Norms: The general public in India tends to disregard Civic norms. Often, the roads are littered, and horns and loudspeakers are indiscriminately used.

How to Save the Environment?

  1. Social Awareness: There is an urgent need to spread Social awareness about (a).the danger of pollution and (b).the way each individual can combat it.
  2. Population Control: It is absolutely essential to check the rising population if the environment is to be protected.
  3. Enforcement of Environment Conservation Act: The Environment Protection Act was passed in 1986 in India. Its objective is to check the deterioration in the quality of the environment. This legislative measure should be strictly enforced.
  4.  Management of solid waste: Planned management of solid waste is very essential. It should be treated chemically. Rural garbage should be converted into compost.

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