Environmental Studies and Forestry
Cytisus scoparius Species in India
Cytisus scoparius, which is commonly known as Scotch broom is among the several invasive species that have raised environment concerns in India. The species was introduced in the western Indian mountain ranges (Western Ghats) from European countries for ornamental reasons since it gives forth a spectacular annual floral display (Srivastava & Singh, 2009, p. 19). However, the plant has become a menace in the Nilgiri Hills of India, especially in the Shola forests and grazing lands. While the species has continued to cause interference with the regeneration of the Shola species that naturally grow on these hills, this invasive species have also attacked the grasslands, thereby decreasing the production of grass available for the livestock of Nilgiri hills (Srivastava & Singh, 2009, p. 19). Biotic interferences like forest fires have been established to increase the spread of this invasive species.
There have been numerous attempts to eradicate this species using different chemical and mechanical methods like those used in weed control programs. Initial attempts to place the species under control were stopped because of the high cost of the eradication program. Recently, environmental agencies and groups in India have enhanced the efforts of eradicating the species through biological control measures. Several pilot projects have been pursued to evaluate the effectiveness of the Scotch broom’s seeds, thereby reducing the numbers available for dispersal and germination. Results from most pilot projects showed that effective management of this species requires the combination of biological control with repeated application of mechanical control methods, like short-rotation prescribed fires, in order to ensure that the species seed bank is depleted.
Water Pollution in River Ganges, India
River Ganges, which is the holiest river in India, has been preserved in history as a source of spiritual purification for devout Hindus. Each year, the river attracts millions of Hindu pilgrims seeking spiritual purification by dipping themselves into the waters. However, the river is currently among the most polluted ones on earth. The pollution of the river is caused by domestic and industrial waters from towns situated along its length and mass bathing and ritualistic practices.
Chemical pollution in River Ganges is mainly caused by untreated industrial effluents that are disposed directly into the river. The leather industry is among the main contributors of pollution since the huge amounts of chromium chemicals used in the treatment of leather find their way into the river, making it toxic and poisonous. The level of chemical pollution is usually high during the dry season when the river is moving as its lowest sped and the tanning industry is at its peak. The disposal of untreated sewage into the rivers has ensured a significant increase in the concentration of nitrate and chloride chemicals in the rivers’ waters. The river is also biologically polluted with the fecal Coliforms bacteria that are hazardous to human health. The part of the river near the pilgrimage city of Varanasi has fecal coliform counts that are 10,000 times more than the limit set by the World Health Organization to be acceptable to humans (Houck, 2010, p. 100). The river is currently listed as the leading cause of infant and child mortality rates in communities adjacent to it because of the increased level of waterborne diseases like diarrhea caused by human excrement, and skin problems caused by toxic chemicals discharged by industries into the river. The high level of pollution in River Ganges is greatly attributed to the explosion of population in India in the past few decades, and relaxed regulations on industry.
Air Pollution due to Vehicular Emissions
Motor vehicle emissions are among the major contributors to air pollution at local, regional and global levels. It is closely related to the worst air pollution problems, such as formation of smog, depletion of the ozone layer, and production of carbon monoxide gas that is highly poisonous. The pollution comes from the by-products of the combustion process that involves fossil fuels (hydrocarbons like diesel) and oxygen. While a perfect combustion of the hydrocarbon is expected to produce water, carbon dioxide, and unaffected nitrogen by-products, the imperfect combustion in vehicle engines produces unburned hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide as pollutants in the form of vapor, gases, fumes and particles. Apart from the emissions from exhausts, air pollution can also be impacted by evaporative emissions where hydrocarbon pollutants escape into the air through the evaporation of fuel, especially during the process of refueling.
Exposure to these motor vehicle emissions can cause severe health consequences. Carbon monoxide, which is colorless and odorless, is a poisonous gas that is emitted from the incomplete vehicle exhaust can cause interference with the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the brain, heart and other tissues of the body. Healthy people who are exposed to this gas can experience symptoms like headaches, fatigue, reduced reflexes and even suffocation. Exposure to nitrogen dioxide and other related nitrogen oxides can adversely affect the respiratory system. The main matter component in exhaust emissions may be trapped within the respiratory system, where it can cause irritation. These particles can also act as a vector for other toxic air pollutants from vehicle emissions like benzene and formaldehyde that are considered to cause cancer and genetic mutations. Exposure to carbon dioxide can cause deprivation of oxygen, which can raise the heart rate, elevate blood pressure, coma and convulsions. Excessive exposure, which usually occurs in enclosed garages, can cause death as a result of suffocation.
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Houck, O. A. (2010). Taking back Eden: Eight environmental cases that changed the world. Washington, DC: Island Press.
Onursal, B., & Gautam, S. P. (1997). Vehicular air pollution: Experiences from seven Latin American urban centers. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Srivastava, A., & Singh, R. (2009). Key management issues of Forest-Invasive Species in India. Indian Journal of Environmental Education, 9, 16-24.