Friday, July 24, 2009

Underground fire is threatening national highway of Jharkhand state of India.

Land subsidence and mild tremors can be felt in the affected area.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

The National Highway 33 and surrounding environment of Jharkhand state of India may be damaged if an ongoing underground fire further engulfs an abandoned mine of Central Coal Field Ltd (CCL) in Ramgarh district.
The mine fire was detected a month ago and is spreading to the new areas.

The road connects capital city of two states i.e. Jharkhand and Bihar and is one of the important mode of communication of the area.

The fire has reached the national highway which is situated near the closed coal mine.
The fire was detected by local residents last week in the mine near Lohagate of Kuju colliery in Ramgarh, about 70 km from state capital Ranchi.

The fire in the closed mines of CCL near Kuju of Ramgarh district has drawn close to the national highway, posing a threat to a three-km-long stretch. Smoke emanating from the underground fire is clearly visible near the highway.

It is not only the fire which is threatening the area but it is also threatening the environment, life and health of the village people staying beside the road. Forest area is also under threat. Threat of land subsidence in the area has increased. Mild tremors can be felt in the area.

Coal also contains many trace elements, including arsenic and mercury, which are dangerous if released into the environment. Coal also contains low levels of uranium, thorium, and other naturally-occurring radioactive isotopes whose release into the environment may lead to radioactive contamination. While these substances are trace impurities, enough coal is burned that significant amounts of these substances are released, paradoxically resulting in more radioactive waste than nuclear power.

Toxic trace elements coming out due to burning of the coal may affect the soil and surface water of the area. It is not only the trace element which may be affecting the area but gases like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide may also affect the area.

These burning underground fires are difficult to locate and may not be extinguished. Fire is said to be now spreading to the newer areas.

Fires can cause the ground above to subside, combustion gases are dangerous to life, and breaking out to the surface can initiate surface wildfires.
According to the CCL officials fire has been caused due to the illegal coal mining done by the local poor people.
Work will soon begin on building a diversion on the National Highway-33, connecting Ranchi to Patna, to avert any accident as a raging fire in a coal mine has threatened a section of the road.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Glacier melting in Himalayas may bring devastating floods in north Bihar plains of India.

Bihar have recorded the highest number of floods during the last 30 years.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Retreating Glaciers Bhutan Himalaya. They are very beautiful and has a clear sign of slowly melting due to global warming. Easily visible are the ends of most of these glacial valleys’ surfaces turning to water to form lakes, a trend which has been noticed only in the last few decades.

Receding of Gangotri Glacier. Source : NASA Earth Observatory

The melting snow is causing floods in the plains of north Bihar state of India.. But higher temperature is also causing more rain and snowfall in the glacial resources. The flood in coming years will be severe because the glaciers are melting and at the same time the rainfall has increased many folds.

Flood hazard has long been recognized as one of the most recurring , wide spread and disastrous natural hazards in the densely populated regions of South Asia. In many parts of the Indian subcontinent, flooding reaches catastrophic proportions during the summer monsoon season. For centuries, monsoon floods in the Ganga and the Brahmaputra Basins have brought countless disasters to the inhabitants who have historically occupied the banks of these rivers. Some scientists have attributed the demise of the Harappan (Indus) civilization to a series of large floods on the Indus River. Catastrophes of out standing proportions have occurred in the past and there appears to be no end to the multicentury-old scourge of floods and associated problems.

The interface between humans and hydrologic features across earth’s surface has helped shape human culture. From the earliest agricultural, complex societies established along some of the great rivers of the world to the bustling seaports of today, humans have gained from the myriad advantages of living in proximity to water. Fertile soil, ease of transportation, and availability of resources (both materials and energy) have allowed for the development of complex material and intellectual cultures. The relationship between water and humans also brings a great deal of risk. Flooding is one of these risks. The impact of floods on humans has been evident from ‘Genesis’ to tonight’s evening news.

Definition of floods:
Streams are linear water features that flow under the impetus of gravity. The amount of water contained in a stream is usually regulated by contributions of groundwater and surface runoff to the stream channel (Knighton,1998). Much of the time water in a stream flows within the confines of its channel. When inputs of water increase sufficiently, stream discharge leaves the stream channel and covers all or part of the adjacent flood plain (Jennings and Gruntfest, 2003). Since the flood plain surface is usually a virtually flat surface and near the elevation of the stream channel, water can easily spread over the flood plain once water exceeds the elevation of the stream’s banks.
Flooding is created by the delivery of larger than normal amounts of runoff into stream channel. Periods of above-average precipitation lead to floods.

In India floods are the most common feature since the dawn of civilization. At Mohen jo Daro flood control structures existed as early as 2700 to 3000 BC. These structures as well as storm water drainage works there show that heavy rains and consequent floods have been occurring in this country even in those prehistoric times. Floods have been occurring almost regularly each and every year in different parts of the country. In India, generally, floods occur during the southwest monsoon season. Heavy rainfall has been the main cause of floods in India for any river basin including plains of north Bihar which are some of the most susceptible areas in India. A recent review by Kale (1997) indicates that the plains of the north Bihar have recorded the highest number of floods during the last 30 years. The total area affected by floods has also increased during these years.

The Himalayan rivers are fed by the melting snows and glaciers of the great Himalayan range during spring and summer, and also from rains during monsoon. They carry significant flows during the dry weather due to snowmelt and minimum flows during winter.

Frequent overbank spilling of north Bihar Rivers is essentially an interplay of meteorological conditions in the region and hydrological and morphological characteristics of the rivers. The plains of north Bihar are characterized by monsoon rainfall and average annual rainfall ranges between 120 and 200 cm. The foothills above the plains experience even higher rainfall (greater than 200 cm.). Moreover, the distribution of rainfall, both in space and time, is extremely uneven which makes the individual floods unpredictable. Further, the mountain-fed rivers of the plains have mixed contributions from snowmelt runoff and monsoonal rainfall. Even during lean periods (summer), runoff contribution due to snowmelt is quite significant (Sinha and Jain, 1998). The monsoon follows the peak summer months and the cumulative effect of monsoon rainfall and snow melt runoff results in sudden increase in the river discharge with respect to lean discharge of most of the north Bihar rivers (almost 40-50 times). The shallow alluvial channels between the narrow banks and embankments cannot effectively carry this sudden jump in discharge consequently resulting in breaches and spilling of banks.

Recent trends are showing that Himalayan glaciers are melting due to impact of global warming. These melting may increase the flow intensity of river water followed by heavy precipitation, flowing through north Bihar plains. Major threat is from Ganga, Kosi and Gandak which are “mountain fed” rivers and are characterized by large catchment areas. Kosi and Gandak should be given more importance as they directly flow into north Bihar plains from the mountain.

The Himalayas have the largest concentrations of glaciers outside the polar region. They feed numerous mountain lakes in Nepal and Bhutan as well as seven Asian rivers: the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Thanlwin, Yangtze, and Yellow Rivers. Tributaries of the Kosi River encircle Mt Everest from all sides and are fed by the world's highest glaciers. The Gandak river basin is reported to contain 1025 glaciers and 338 lakes. These contribute substantially to the lean season flows of the river. The short-term result of glacial melting in the Himalayas has been flooding and landslides, which claim approximately 400 lives each year in Nepal. However, scientists fear that in future decades the water level in these rivers could decline sharply, leading to severe water shortages and threatening an agricultural region that feeds over one billion people.

As the climate warms, Himalayan glaciers are melting more rapidly with each passing year, and that means first floods and then droughts for people of north Bihar in India.

The WWF issued a new report documenting the rate of retreat of Himalayan glaciers. It shows that the world's highest glaciers are receding at an average rate of 10 to 15 meters (33 to 49 feet) per year, a rate that is accelerating as global warming increases.

In India, the Gangotri glacier, which supports one of India’s largest river basins, is receding at an average rate of 23 meters per year.

The melting snow is causing floods in the plains. But higher temperature is also causing more rain and snowfall in the glacial resources. The flood in coming years will be severe because the glaciers are melting and at the same time the rainfall has increased many folds.

A recent study by the Indian Space Research Organization, using satellite imaging to gauge the changes to 466 glaciers, has found more than a 20 percent reduction in size between 1962 and 2001, with bigger glaciers breaking into smaller pieces, each one retreating faster than its parent. A separate study found the Parbati glacier, one of the largest in the area, to be retreating by 52 meters a year during the 1990s. Another glacier that Dobhal has tracked, known as Dokriani, lost 20 percent of its size in three decades. Between 1991 and 1995, its snout inched back almost 17 meters each year.

Even the Himalayas have grown measurably warmer. A recent study found that mean air temperature in the northwestern Himalayan range had risen by 2.2 degrees Celsius (4 degrees Fahrenheit) in the last two decades, a rate considerably higher than the rate of increase over the last 100 years.

The loss of these glaciers would have a tremendous impact on the ecosystem of the region. With the retreat of glaciers in the Himalayas, a number of glacial lakes have been created. A growing concern is the potential for Glacial Lake Outburst Floods—researchers estimate 20 glacial lakes in Nepal and 24 in Bhutan pose hazards to human populations.

Indian glaciers are among the least studied in the world, lacking the decades of data that scientists need to deduce trends. Nevertheless, the nascent research offers a snapshot of the consequences of global warming for this country and raises vital questions about how India will respond to them.

Reading list:

Jennings, S., Gruntfest, E. 2003. Floods, from the handbook of weather, climate, and water: Atmospheric chemistry, hydrology, and societal impacts. Wiley.

Kale, V.S. 1997. Flood studies in India: A brief review, Jour. Geol. Soc. India, v.49, pp. 359-370.

Knighton, David, 1998. Fluvial Forms and Processes: A new perspective. Arnold, London.

Sinha, R., Jain, V. 1998. Flood hazards of north Bihar rivers, Indo-Gangetic plains. Ed. Vishwas S. Kale, Flood Studies in India. Geol. Soc. India, Memoir 41, pp. 27-52.
Sandeep Chamling Rai, Trishna Gurung, et alia. "An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China" (pdf). WWF Nepal Program.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ganga river pollution in India- A brief report.

Ganga is becoming toxic day by day.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Most ancient civilizations grew along the banks of rivers. Even today, millions of people all over the world live on the banks of rivers and depend on them for their survival. All of us have seen a river - large or small, either flowing through our town, or somewhere else. Rivers are nothing more than surface water flowing down from a higher altitude to a lower altitude due to the pull of gravity. One river might have its source in a glacier, another in a spring or a lake. Rivers carry dissolved minerals, organic compounds, small grains of sand, gravel, and other material as they flow downstream. Rivers begin as small streams, which grow wider as smaller streams and rivers join them along their course across the land. Eventually they flow into seas or oceans. Unfortunately most of the world's major rivers are heavily polluted.

The pollution of environment is the ‘gift’ of the industrial revolution. Prior to this the agrarian cultures created significant environmental deterioration in the form of soil erosion- through deforestation and overgrazing. The environmental degradation is a by product of modern civilization.

There has been a steady deterioration in the quality of water of Indian rivers over several decades. India’s fourteen major, 55 minor and several hundred small rivers receive millions of litres of sewage, industrial and agricultural wastes. Most of these rivers have been rendered to the level of sewage flowing drains. There are serious water quality problems in the cities, towns and villages using these waters. Water borne diseases are rampant, fisheries are on decline, and even cattle are not spared from the onslaught of pollution.
According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) five rivers in Asia serving over 870 million people are among the most threatened in the world, as dams, water extraction and climate change all take their toll.
The Ganges, Indus, Yangtze, Salween-Nu and Mekong-Lancang rivers make up half of the WWF’s “top ten” most threatened river basins.
India has a large number of rivers that are lifelines for the millions living along their banks. These rivers can be categorized into four groups:
1.Rivers that flow down from the Himalayas and are supplied by melting snow and glaciers. This is why these are perennial, that is, they never dry up during the year.
2.The Deccan Plateau rivers, which depend on rainfall for their water.
3.The coastal rivers, especially those on the west coast, which are short and do not retain water throughout the year.
4.The rivers in the inland drainage basin of west Rajasthan, which depend on the rains. These rivers normally drain towards silt lakes or flow into the sand.
River Ganga (Ganges) of India has been held in high esteem since time immemorial and Hindus from all over the world cherish the idea of a holy dip in the river under the faith that by doing so they will get rid of their sins of life. More than 400 million people live along the Ganges River. An estimated 2,000,000 persons ritually bathe daily in the river. Historically also, Ganga is the most important river of the country and beyond doubt is closely connected with the history of civilization as can be noticed from the location of the ancient cities of Hardwar, Prayag, Kashi and Patliputra at its bank. To millions of people it is sustainer of life through multitude of canal system and irrigation of the wasting load. Hundreds of the villages and even the big cities depend for their drinking water on this river. It is believed, a fact which has also been observed, that the water of Ganga never decays even for months and years when water of other rivers and agencies begins to develop bacteria and fungi within a couple of days. This self purification characteristics of Ganga is the key to the holiness and sanctity of its water. The combination of bacteriophages and large populations of people bathing in the river have apparently produced a self-purification effect, in which water-borne bacteria such as dysentery and cholera are killed off, preventing large-scale epidemics. The river also has an unusual ability to retain dissolved oxygen.
With growing civilization and population all over how long Ganga will retain its self purification characteristics only time can judge.
River source:
The Gangotri Glacier, a vast expanse of ice five miles by fifteen, at the foothills of the Himalayas (14000 ft) in North Uttar Pradesh is the source of Bhagirathi, which joins with Alaknanda (origins nearby) to form Ganga at the craggy canyon-carved town of Devprayag. Interestingly, the sources of Indus and the Brahmaputra are also geographically fairly close; the former goes through Himachal Pradesh and fans out through Punjab and Sind (Pakistan) into the Arabian Sea. The latter courses for most of its tremendous length under various names through Tibet/China, never far from the Nepal or Indian borders, and then takes a sharp turn near the northeastern tip of India, gathers momentum through Assam before joining the major stream of the Ganga near Dacca in Bangladesh to become the mighty Padma, river of joy and sorrow for much of Bangladesh. From Devprayag to the Bay of Bengal and the vast Sunderbans delta, the Ganga flows some 1550 miles, passing (and giving life to) some of the most populous cities of India, including Kanpur (2 million), Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, and Calcutta (14 million).

The largest tributary to the Ganga is the Ghaghara, which meets it before Patna, in Bihar, bearing much of the Himalayan glacier melt from Northern Nepal. The Gandak, which comes from near Katmandu, is another big Himalayan tributary. Other important rivers that merge with the Ganga are the Son, which originates in the hills of Madhya Pradesh, the Gomti which flows past Lucknow.
Previous Work:
A number of investigations have been carried out on the physiochemical and biological characters of the Ganga. Lakshminarayana (1965) published a series of papers reporting the results of studies carried out at Varanasi during the period between March, 1957 and March, 1958. it was observed by him that the values of the most of the parameters decreased during rainy season while no marked variation was observed during winters and summers.
In the same year Chakraborty (1965) from Kanpur reported the water quality of Ganga at J.K. Rayon’s water intake point and at Golaghat and Bhairoghat pumping stations situated at the upstream of the river. It was concluded that the water quality gradually deteriorated as it passes from Bhairoghat pumping station to the J.K. Rayon water intake point in summers because in this stretch the river received waste waters from number of sewage drains.
A year later Saxena (1966) made a systematic survey of the chemical quantity of Ganga at Kanpur. According to the study, the biological oxygen demand, i.e. B.O.D. varied from 5.3ppm (minimum) in winter to 16.0ppm (maximum) in summer. The chloride ranged between 9.2 and 12.7 ppm and the river was found to be alkaline in nature except in rainy season. He concluded that the tanneries significantly increased the pollution load of river as they discharge huge amounts of effluents containing organic wastes and heavy metals. It was further reported that forty five tanneries, ten textile mills and several other industrial units discharged 37.15 million gallon per day of waste water generating BOD load of approximately 61630 Kg/day.
Subsequently Agarwal studied the bacteriological population of the river water and concluded that addition of untreated waste and sewage was responsible for the presence of pathogenic organisms posing threat to the residents of the Varanasi city.
Hydrobiological features of the river Ganga was studied by Pahwa and Mehrotra (1966). The authors studied a stretch of 1090 kms. of river Ganga extending from Kanpur in west to Rajmahal, in Jharkhand state, in the east. They reported that the turbidity was maximum (1100-2170 ppm) in monsoon and minimum ( less than100 ppm) during January to June. The pH of the river water ranged between 7.45 (minimum) during June to August and 8.30 (maximum) during January to May. The dissolved oxygen, i.e. D.O. count ranged from 5.0 to 10.5 ppm with maximum values during January and February. While the minimum values were recorded in monsoon.
Bhargava (1982) in a survey of total length of the river Ganga found that quality index was far above the prescribed limit at Kanpur. He further found that the Ganga water was having unusually fast regenerating capacity by bringing down B.O.D. owing to the presence of large amount of well adopted micro-organisms. According to the research Ganga is rich in polymers excreted by various species of bacteria. These polymers being excellent coagulants remove turbidity by coagulation, setting the suspended particles at the sewage discharge point.
At the 1981 session of Indian Science Congress at Varanasi, scientists expressed concern at the growing pollution in the river Ganga in presence of the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi who inaugurated the session. At her instance, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, the then member, Planning Commission asked the Central Board for Preventation and Control of Water Pollution, New Delhi to conduct studies on the state of the river Ganga. In collaboration with the State Pollution Control Boards of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal and the centre for study of Man and Environment Kolkata (Calcutta), studies were conducted on the ‘Sources’ of pollution including all human activities, land use pattern and water quality of the river at selected sites during 1981-82 and report entitled “Basin, sub-basin inventory of water pollution in the Ganga basin part-II” was published in 1984. according to this report sewage of 27 class I cities and towns and effluents from 137 major industries were the main source of pollution of the river. In addition cremation of dead human bodies and dumping of carcasses aggrevated the pollution of the river.
It was Chandra (1981) who conducted studies on the pollution status of river Ganga at Allahabad, pointed out that industries manufacturing nitrogenous fertilizers have significant role in polluting the river water.
Study carried out in 1986-87 on physico-chemical properties of river Ganga water at Buxar (Unnao) clearly revealed that extent of pollution varied in different seasons. Usually all the 23 parameters studied showed high values in summer and lower during monsoons except turbidity which was high in rainy season. Values of BOD, COD, DO and H2S were recorded high than the tolerance limits.
Study on water quality of river Ganga at Kalakankar (Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh) revealed that even at such a remote and undisturbed place like Kalakankar the river water was not safe for drinking and bathing. It was also noted that the river showed an alkaline trend throughout the course of study.
According to the research done by Mehrotra (1990), the various sources responsible for pollution of the river in Varanasi city are domestic sewage effluents of the industries, burning of dead bodies at the ghats, use of detergents, insecticides and pesticides used in agriculture. Study revealed the presence of toxic metals like mercury ( 65 to 520ppb), Lead( less than 10 to 800 ppm), chromium (less than 10 to 200 ppm) and nickel (less than 10 to 130 ppm) in the sediments of Ganga river at Varanasi city.
Upstream from Varanasi, one of the major pilgrimage sites along the river, the water is comparatively pure, having a low Biochemical oxygen demand and fecal coliform count. Studies conducted in 1983 on water samples taken from the right bank of the Ganga at Patna confirm that escheria coli (E.Coli.), fecal streptococci and vibrio cholerae organisms die two to three times faster in the Ganga than in water taken from the rivers Son and Gandak and from dug wells and tube wells in the same area.
The chemical pollution of the river Ganga in Patna city in Bihar state has been found somewhat alarming beside the storm drain, especially in the regions like Rajapur, Mandiri and Krishnaghat.
According to the report published in a book by Mr. U.K. Sinha (1986), the concentration of iron is higher in sediments collected from 10 metres along the bank at Mandiri region. The concentration of all the toxic metals i.e copper, zinc, nickel and cobalt are higher in all the sediments collected from near the storm drain and diminishes towards mid-region of the river. The concentration of zinc is highest in the sediments collected from near the Mandiri storm drain, Antaghat storm drain and Krishnaghat storm drain.
The concentration of copper is highest in the sediments collected from near the Krishnaghat storm drain suggesting the presence copper due to utensil work being done in Thatheri Bazar and hospital wastes also, said report.
Present situation:
For some time now, this romantic view of the Ganges has collided with India's grim realities. During the past three decades, the country's explosive growth (at nearly 1.2 billion people, India's population is second only to China's), industrialization and rapid urbanization have put unyielding pressure on the sacred stream.

Ganga, the most sacred of rivers for Hindus, has become polluted for some years now. But a recent study by Uttarakhand Environment Conservation and Pollution Control Board says that the level of pollution in the holy river has reached alarming proportions.

Things have come to such a pass that the Ganga water is at present not fit just for drinking and bathing but has become unusable even for agricultural purposes.
As per the UECPCB study, while the level of coliform present in water should be below 50 for drinking purposes, less than 500 for bathing and below 5000 for agricultural use—the present level of coliform in Ganga at Haridwar has reached 5500.

Based on the level of coliform, dissolved oxygen and biochemical oxygen, the study put the water in A, B, C and D categories. While A category is considered fit for drinking, B for bathing, C for agriculture and D is for excessive pollution level.

Since the Ganga waters at Haridwar have more than 5000 coliform and even the level of dissolved oxygen and biochemical oxygen doesn't conform the prescribed standards, it has been put in the D category.

According to the study, the main cause of high level of coliform in Ganga is due to disposal of human faeces, urine and sewage directly into the river from its starting point in Gaumukh till it reaches Haridwar via Rishikesh.

Nearly 89 million litres of sewage is daily disposed into Ganga from the 12 municipal towns that fall along its route till Haridwar. The amount of sewage disposed into the river increases during the Char Dham Yatra season when nearly 15 lakh pilgrims visit the state between May and October each year.

Apart from sewage disposal of half-burnt human bodies at Haridwar and hazardous medical waste from the base hospital at Srinagar due to absence of an incinerator are also adding to pollution levels in the Ganga.

The result has been the gradual killing of one of India's most treasured resources. One stretch of the Yamuna River, the Ganges' main tributary, has been devoid of all aquatic creatures for at least a decade.

In Varanasi, India's most sacred city, the coliform bacterial count is at least 3,000 times higher than the standard established as safe by the United Nations world Health Organization. Coliform are rod-shaped bacteria that are normally found in the colons of humans and animals and become a serious contaminant when found in the food or water supply.

A study by Environmental Biology Laboratory, Department pf Zoology, Patna University, showed the presence of mercury in the Ganga river in Varanasi city. According to the study, annual mean concentration of mercury in the river water was 0.00023 ppm. The concentration ranged from NT (not traceable) to 0.00191 ppm.
Study done by Indian Toxicological Research Centre (ITRC), Lucknow during 1986-1992 showed maximum annual concentration of mercury in the Ganga river water at Rishikesh, Allahabad district and Dakshineswar as 0.081, 0.043 and 0.012 ppb respectively.

Ganga river at Varanasi was found well within the maximum permissible standard of 0.001 ppm prescribed for drinking water by the World Health Organization.
The mercury studied in the Ganga river could be traced in biotic as well as abiotic components of the river at the study site. The Hindu devotees take bath in the river where mercury was detected in 28%, 44%,75%, 96%, 42% and 89% of the river water, sediment, benthic fauna, fish, soil and vegetation samples respectively.

Though mercury contamination of the river water has not reached an alarming extent, its presence in the river system is worrisome. In the study annual mean concentration of the metal in the sediments was 0.067 ppm. Sediments constitute a major pool of mercury in fresh water.

As Ganga enters the Varanasi city, Hinduism’s sacred river contains 60,000 faecal coliform bacteria per 100 millilitres, 120 times more than is considered safe for bathing. Four miles downstream, with inputs from 24 gushing sewers and 60,000 pilgrim-bathers, the concentration is 3,000 times over the safety limit. In places, the Ganges becomes black and septic. Corpses, of semi-cremated adults or enshrouded babies, drift slowly by.

The tannery industry mushrooming in North India has converted the Ganga River into a dumping ground. The tanning industry discharges different types of waste into the environment, primarily in the form of liquid effluents containing organic matters, chromium, sulphide ammonium and other salts. As per an estimate, about 80-90% of the tanneries use chromium as a tanning agent. Of this, the hides take up only 50-70%, while the rest is discharged as effluent. Pollution becomes acute when tanneries are concentrated in clusters in small area like Kanpur. Consequently, the Leather-tanning sector is included in the Red category of industries due to the potential adverse environmental impact caused by tannery wastes.

Highly polluted sediments are adversely affecting the ecological functioning of rivers due to heavy metal mobilization from urban areas into biosphere. Distribution of heavy metals in sediments of the river Ganga and its tributaries have been carried out by several workers. Monitoring of Ganga River from Rishikesh to Varanasi indicated that Kannauj to Kanpur and Varanasi are the most polluted stretches of the river Ganga . Analysis of upstream and down stream water and sediment revealed a 10-fold increase in chromium level.


Agarwal, D.K., Gaur, S.D., Tiwari T.C., Narayanswami, N. and Marwah, S.M. 1976.. Physico-chemical characteristics of Ganges water at Varanasi. India J. Environ. Hlth. 18 (3). 210-206.

Bhargava, D.S.1982. Purification power of the Ganges unmatched. L.S.T. Bull. 34. 52.

Chakraborty, R.N., Saxena, K.L. and Khan, A.Q. 1965. Stream pollution and its effect on water supply. A report of survey, Proc. Symp. Problems in Water treatment. Oct. 29-30, Nagpur. 211-219.

Chandra, K. 1981. Pollution from wastes of industries manufacturing nitrogenous fertilizer. A case study from river Ganga near Allahabad. In Proc. Symp. W.R.C.P.A. Roorkee 11-23 Dec. 141-151

Lakshminarayana, J.S.S. 1965. studies of the phytoplankton of the river Ganges, Varanasi, India, Part-I, Physico chemical characteristics of River Ganga. Hydrobiologia. 25. 119-175.

Mehrotra, M.N. 1990. the role of sediments in environmental pollution: A case study of the Ganga at Varanasi. Jour. of the Ind. Association of Sedimentologists, v.9.1-14.

Pahwa, D.V. and Mehrotra, S.N., 1966. Observations on fluctuation in the abundance of plankton in relation to certain hydrobiological vonditions of river Ganges. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., India, Sec. 36B (2). 157-89.

Saxena, K.L., Chakraborty, A.K., Khan, A.Q., Chattopadhayay, R.N. and Chandra, H. 1966. Pollution study of river near Kanpur. Indian, J. environ. Hlth. 8. 270.

Sinha,A.K., Singh, V.P. and Srivastava, K.,2000.Physico-chemical studies on river Ganga and its tributaries in Uttar Pradesh- the present status.In Pollution and Biomonitoring of Indian Rivers. (ed.) Dr. R.K. Trivedy. ABD Publishers, Jaipur. 1-29.

Sinha, U.K.,1986. Ganga pollution and health hazard. Inter-India Publication, New Delhi.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

No Forest No Oxygen.

Can Deforestation bring down oxygen level?
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Deforestation, or the removal of forests, is a major problem that has devastating effects all over the world. Europeans began clearing forests more than 500 years ago. The invention of modern machinery made the process even easier. By the end of the 19th century, most of the deciduous forest of North America, Australia and New Zealand had been cleared. In the 21st century, tropical forests are being cut and burned at alarming rates in South America and Southeast Asia. Asia as a whole has already lost about 90 percent of its forests.

With forest resources--"the lungs of the Earth"-- under attack in many regions, some have raised concerns about the planet's oxygen supply.

Oxygen is the most abundant chemical element, by mass, in our biosphere, air, sea and land. Oxygen is the third most abundant chemical element in the universe, after hydrogen and helium, but mainly in combination with something else. The stuff is all around us but we don’t see it. Chemically joined with other elements it accounts for more than a quarter of Earth’s total weight and almost half the mass of the crust. Free or dissolved molecular oxygen, however, represents only 0.01 percent of the total crust, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere taken together. Only seven of every billion atoms takes the form of molecular oxygen (O2), plus a neglible quantity as atomic or singlet O and ozone (O3). If the atmosphere contained much more oxygen, it would be inflammable. Remove oxygen and only anaerobic bacteria could survive.

How did plants come to alter the atmosphere? The key is the way in which plants create their own food. They employ photosynthesis, in which they use light energy to synthesize food sugars from carbon dioxide and water. The process releases a waste gas, oxygen. Those of us in the animal kingdom rely on oxygen to metabolize our food, and we in turn exhale carbon dioxide as a waste gas. The plant use this carbon dioxide for more photosynthesis, and so on, in a continuing system.

Oxygenic photosynthesis (synthesis by light) is by far the largest and most familiar source of O2. Upon its introduction at precariously trivial and fluctuating levels perhaps 2.8 aeons ago, oxygen began to play a role in the evolution of life and earth’s surface processes. After that, if not earlier, photosynthetic O2 and perhaps plate tectonism joined sunlight, gravity, and water as lead players on the evolutionary stage. Yet, for another 6 to 8 geocenturies it remained at vanishing low levels as a result of reactions with a variety of reduced substances.

Nor was oxygen-evolving photosynthesis the only source of oxygen. Physical splitting of H2O by photolysis was probably the prevailing initial process. Photolysis of CO2, as well as the release of oxygen from the metallic oxides as a result of microbial processes and chemical weathering, are potential but poorly understood sources.
On reaching present levels, perhaps 4 geocenturies ago, oxygen was still consumed by new reduced volcanic gases, erosionally exhumed carbon, and reduced matter in the hydrosphere right up to the present. Levels fluctuate with rates of erosion volcanism, and deforestation. The indefinite continuity of oxygen is not guaranteed.

Forests, a major source of oxygen to our atmosphere, are very important to the world’s climate because they help in rain formation and absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air. As the forests disappear, the weather will change, and some places will dry up.

There are many benefits that we get from our forests. Some of these include cleaner drinking water, a home for plants and animals, economic growth, clean air, recreational opportunities. Another most important benefit we get from trees is called oxygen. If there were no trees to give us oxygen to breath, we would not be able to live. Trees are known as the oxygen supplier to our planet.

As vast forests such as the Amazon are denuded of their beauty and natural resources, our atmosphere is also seriously altered. The forests are stripped faster than they can be replanted, and when severely depleted, photosynthesis is greatly reduced. No photosynthesis, no oxygen. No oxygen, no life. But deforestation continues at a break neck speed in many areas of the world.

Earlier in Jharkhand forest played major role in balancing the temperature difference. But now forest cover is rapidly depleting. Even one of the biggest forest of Asia popularly known as Saranda Forest is also decreasing many fold due to rampant iron ore mining in Jharkhand State. Today the remaining forest areas are unevenly distributed. Bokaro has only 4.4% of area under forest. Similarly Sahebganj has only 2.31%, Dhanbad 12.72%, Deoghar 9.5% and Ranchi only 23.37% of area under vegetation.

At the Survey and Settlement (1902-1910) the area under forests in the Ranchi districts approximated to about 2,281 square miles, i.e. about 32 percent of the total land area of the district. At the Revisional Survey and Settlement (1927-1935) this area shrank to about 1,956 square mils, i.e. 27 percent of the total land area. Thus during a period of 25 years, 325 square miles of forests had disappeared. When the forests were notified under the Bihar Private Forests Act,1946 and demarcation was done only about 1,065 square miles were found under forests in this district. Adding 213 square miles of reserve forests to this, the total area under forest in this district came to 1,278 square miles. Thus in course of a decade over 600 square miles of forests disappeared. Now it has reached up to 23 percent and gradually decreasing further.
The unusually high concentration of oxygen gas on Earth is the result of the oxygen cycle. The biogeochemical cycle describes the movement of oxygen within and between its three main reservoirs on Earth: the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the lithosphere. The main driving factor of the oxygen cycle is photosynthesis, which is responsible for modern Earth’s atmosphere. Photosynthesis releases oxygen into the atmosphere, while respiration and decay remove it from the atmosphere.

Regarding percentage of oxygen present in the atmosphere in the geological past, it was revealed that air bubbles trapped in fossilized amber had been analyzed and found to contain oxygen levels of 38%. Yet today it is well known that the average content of the oxygen in air is only 19% to 21%. If we believe on the report of oxygen level in the fossilized amber, it appears that since the early history of our earth there has been a stunning decrease of 50% in the average oxygen content of the air we breathe. According to other report, analysis of the air in various parts of the world today reveals the frightening fact that the oxygen content continues to decline. In fact in some of the larger and therefore more polluted cities the oxygen levels have been measured at a disturbing level of 12 to 15%. Scientists claim that anything under 7% oxygen content in the air is too low to support human life, even for short periods.

Historical trends, as explained in Atmospheric Oxygen, Giant Paleozoic Insects and the Evolution of Aerial Locomotor Performance by R. Dudley, JExB, show a high of about 35% just before the beginning of the Permian, with a rapid decline to a low of about 13-14% near the beginning of the Triassic, then a small spike at about 17% in mid Triassic, another drop to about 14-15% early in the Jurassic, a sudden climb to about 21% by mid-Jurassic, then a gentle climb to about 26% early in the Tertiary, and a rather constant, steady decline to the present "20.9%."
Our planet’s future is under threat as cutting back tropical forests we put our supply of oxygen gas at risk.
There is difference in opinion about oxygen depletion. Some scientists believe that our atmosphere is endowed with such an enormous reserve of this gas that even if we were to burn all our fossil reserves, all our trees, and all the organic matter stored in soils, we would use up only a few percent of the available oxygen. No matter how foolishly we treat our environment heritage, we simply don’t have the capacity to put more than a small dent in our oxygen supply.

But we can’t take any risk. If forest or plants provide oxygen, cutting or burning trees is definitely going to affect the oxygen balance of our atmosphere.


Cloud,P. 1988. Oasis in space, earth history from the beginning. W.W. Norton & Company, New York.