The three most important elements of the environment are soil, water and air. But now the soil is being polluted in many ways. When the concentration of soil pollutants becomes so high that it harms the biodiversity of the land and especially the health through food then we call it soil pollution. Various chemical pesticides and fertilisers widely used in agriculture are accelerating land pollution.
As directed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), soil pollution is particularly severe in Europe, Asia and North Africa. The FAO further confirms that both acute and even moderate erosion are already affecting one-third of the world's soil. According to them, it will take 1,000 years to create a 1 cm layer of arable soil from contaminated land, which is extremely slow.Especially in developing countries soil degradation affects air and water quality. Soil polluting agents threaten global food security by reducing the quantity and quality of crops. When people eat crops grown in contaminated soil, they get infected with various diseases including cancer. Global economic losses due to soil erosion are expected to exceed 10 per cent of the world's annual gross domestic product (GDP).
There are many reasons for soil pollution. One of the main reasons is the use of pesticides in agricultural land. Most of the rural lands in Bangladesh are directly involved in agriculture. At present, another serious cause of soil pollution is the hazardous wastes of industries, which poisons nature. The chemicals used in factories contaminate the land in such a way that the soil becomes unsuitable for planting. This waste mixes with the water layer through infiltration and when that water is extracted, people are harmed in various ways while reusing it.
As we know, oxygen is one of the essential components of human survival. But plants do not grow in contaminated soil. As a result, there is a lack of oxygen in the environment. Whose effects are already beginning to manifest in polluted areas. Currently, the amount of rainfall is declining at an unusual rate - one of the reasons is constant deforestation. As a result the rain cycle is changing and it is contributing to global warming and damage to the ecosystem.
Soil pollution reduces soil fertility. With the rapid growth of human population, the amount of food we need is becoming scarce and crop quality is deteriorating. Chemicals used in the soil reduces soil fertility - which in turn reduces food production. That’s why people are being deprived of their moderate food items.
Plants absorb water from the soil through the roots and animals also find their food from the soil. But if the soil is toxic then it causes death of plants and animals. Moreover, the beneficial bacteria of the plants become ineffective in the contaminated soil.
Things that can be reused should not be thrown away. For example, things made of paper, glass, aluminum should be recycled. Jute bags should be used instead of polythene. We need to move forward with the use of biodegradable products. Manufacturers and suppliers need to work together to ensure that eco-friendly products are within the reach of the people.The soil is called the storehouse of food grains. If that soil is toxic then we need to think about what the consequences might be. We need to realise the severity of soil pollution. Severe leukemia can lead to cancer. Due to soil pollution the fertility of the land is being lost, nitrogen fixation is being reduced, various beneficial microorganisms of the soil are being lost and on the other hand the amount of usable land is being reduced. As a result, microorganisms, soil nutritional value and the natural food chain of food grains are being destroyed.
Preventing soil pollution is not just about making everyone aware, we need to focus on a number of issues. Firstly, the widespread use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides must be reduced and biotechnology must be adapted. Practices like excessive cropping and overgrazing should be avoided as they increase soil erosion.
Secondly, various types of plastic wastes need to be recycled. Landfilling and dumping should be done properly so that the discharged waste does not mix with the soil in any way. Thirdly, deforestation must be prevented because it erodes fertile land. As a result the land loses its normal effectiveness.
Especially in areas where factories have been set up, regular monitoring of the soil should be ensured. Factories should use their own ETP or be connected to a central refinery plant. This will protect the soil from contamination without mixing it directly with the soil.
Most countries have a number of policies against soil pollution. Bangladesh has Environmental Protection Rules-1997, Environmental Court Act-2000, Brickmaking and Kiln Installation Control Act-2013, Balumohal and Soil Management Act-2010. The existing law has provisions to punish the person accused of soil pollution.
Moreover, citizens need to plant more trees where one tree will be cut down. This is an effective measure to prevent soil erosion. More trees should be planted without destroying the forest. About 25 billion tons of valuable soil is being damaged due to soil pollution. As a result, the amount of agricultural land is decreasing and on the other hand, it is affecting the normal balance of the earth.
Soil degradation is a complex problem that requires joint action by governments, institutions and individuals. Long-term plans must be taken to prevent soil pollution and ensure strict enforcement of the law.
Nazmunnaher Nipa, student,
Department of Environmental
Science & Engineering, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Trishal, Mymensingh