Environmental Issues

Environmental Issues | Geography


Man and Environment

  • Development and environment are two sides of a coin.
  • Development is highly essential for the economic growth of a country but not at the cost of the environment.
  • Man has lived continuously in harmony with nature. Man has transformed the environment through scientific and technological revolution.
  • In recent years human intervention in the natural process has created ecological imbalance and environmental damages.
  • The environment is the surrounding of living organisms in which they live and interact.
  • Human beings are dependent on the environment for their basic needs.
  • Needs multiply with the increase of population.
  • To meet these needs, all-natural resources in the environment are being used at a rapid rate which leads to long term adverse effect.
  • These adverse effects become environmental issues of the entire surrounding in which human beings live.
  • Major environmental issues are


  • Deforestation
  • Environmental pollution
  • Global warming
  • Urbanisation
  • It refers to increasing inhabitants of people with non – agricultural occupation with a higher population density than the surrounding regions.
  • The factors influencing urbanization are industrialization, commercialization, the dense network of transport and communication.
  • The level of urbanization in Tamilnadu is about 44% as per the census of 2001.
  • It is the second-highest urbanized State in the Country.
  • In Tamilnadu, Sriperumbudur, Kancheepuram and Arakonam are being urbanized due to rapid industrialization and nearness to the Chennai City and due to this, they face a higher rate of environmental deterioration.
  • Unorganized encroachment and uncontrolled growth of slums that spring up on all available chunks of vacant lands, river margins and road margins have created an adverse impact on the urban environment.
  • The Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board has already taken steps and constructed nearly 3000 shelter units to replace the existing slums.

Slums families along Major Waterways

Name of the river No of slum families
Coovum River 8266
Buckingham Canal 18423
Adyar River 6624


Notable impacts of Urbanisation

  • Large areas of agricultural and pastoral lands around the city are getting converted into residential and industrial areas.
  • Increase in traffic and traffic congestion cause environmental pollution.
  • Clearance of trees and bushes to meet the fuel and construction needs has reduced the green cover which in turn reduces the amount of rainfall.
  • Loss of habitats of animals and birds and depletion of greeneries made the urban air polluted with less oxygen content.
  • A rapid increase in the urban population has resulted in the breaking down of sanitary facilities and other infrastructures in cities and towns.
  • Land value increases and rent becomes high due to stiff competition for land.


  • Deforestation is simply the cutting down of a tree.
  • It has seriously affected the quality of the environment by increasing the temperature, decreasing rainfall, top soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and flash flood.
  • Trees play an important role in maintaining environmental balance.

Long term effects of Deforestation

  • The long term effects are climate change and the loss of biodiversity.
  • Climate change occurs due to an increase in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
  • An increase in carbon dioxide will increase the temperature of the earth and will, therefore, alter the weather.
  • Deforestation ruins the habitat of the animals and plants causing them to die.
  • Destruction of forest affect the beauty of an area and directly exerts and impact on tourism.

Short effects of Deforestation

  • The fast depletion of forest urges rural people to use inferior quality firewood and make them spend more time on fuel collection.
  • Shortage of forest also forces the villagers to use more commercial fertilizers in the place of organic manures.
  • Fodder for grazing cattle diminishes resulting in a decreasing number of livestock.
  • Loss of green cover leads to soil erosion.
  • Landslide occurs due to indiscriminate cutting of trees (Ooty and Coonoor).


  • Wide variety of living organisms including plants, animals and micro-organisms are collectively referred to as biodiversity.
  • Today human beings are largely to be blamed for their irrational activities that cause biodiversity losses.

Loss of Bio-Diversity

  • Extinction of plants and animals due to natural causes or human activities is called a loss of bio-diversity.
  • It leads to an ecological imbalance.

Major threats to biodiversity in Tamil Nadu are

  • Uncontrolled commercial exploitation of natural resources like forest, coastal areas, wetlands and habitat destruction.
  • Conversion of rich biodiversity sites for human settlements and industrial development.
  • The main objectives of the reserves
  • The conserve the genetic diversity of species and to restore degraded ecosystems to their natural and original conditions.

Global Warming

  • It is one of the major issues that every one of us is faced with.
  • It may be defined as an increase in the atmospheric temperature near the earth surface due to the rise in carbon dioxide levels and the greenhouse effect.


  • Emission of greenhouses gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide and choloro fluro carbon.
  • Burning of fossil fuels (coal and petroleum) and aggravated deforestation.

Effects of Global Warming

  • Heat waves and fluctuating weather cause diseases and warming up of Antarctic and Arctic oceans.
  • Sea level rise and coastal flooding due to glaciers melting.
  • Coral reef bleaching due to changes in the ecosystem.
  • Frequent drought, fire and heavy snowfall.

Control of Global Warming

  • A few controlling measures are:
  • Switching over from non – renewable energy sources to renewable energy.
  • Afforestation and encouraging people to use public transport.

Role of man in protecting the deteriorating environment

  • It is now the duty of every citizen of the world to conserve all the resources and aim at sustainable development.
  • Human beings need to change their lifestyle and realize that they should take special responsibility towards protection of the environment.
  • The following are the steps to be taken for protecting our green earth from degradation.
  • Maintaining harmony with nature and protecting the environment
  • Eco-development eco-efficiency and eco – friendly technology for the protection of natural resources.
  • Switching off the unused lights and electrical equipment. At home and save fuel in transport.
  • Stabilizing the population growth, control of overconsumption of natural resources and preservation of biodiversity.


  • Substances released into an environment that cause harm to living organisms and built-up structures are called pollution any substances that cause pollution is called pollutant.
  • Pollutants are of two types: chemical and biotic. Our planet is getting choked with poisonous gases released from industries and vehicles.
  • The problem is worse is crowded metropolitan cities.
  • On the basis of sources, they are classified as
  • Air pollution
  • Water pollution
  • Noise pollution

Air pollution

  • The air which contains traces of undesirable gaseous, liquid or solid components that creates health hazard is called polluted air.
  • These undesirable components in air adversely affect the health of living beings and respiratory diseases are caused due to air pollutants.

Chief sources of air pollution

  • Industrial wastes
  • Automobiles
  • Domestic wastes
  • Thermo – nuclear wastes
  • Volcanic wastes and forest fires
  • In Tamil Nadu air pollution is heavy and widespread in urban areas due to vehicular growth, the concentration of industries along with thermal power plants and indiscriminate burning of garbage and refuse.

Effects of air pollution

  • Global warming
  • Acid rain
  • Ozone depletion
  • Smog
  • Health problems

Water Pollution contamination of water is due to pollutants released from

  • Sewage and domestic wastes
  • Pesticides and agricultural runoffs
  • Industrial wastes
  • Nuclear wastes
  • Oil spills

Industrial Waste (dyeing Industrial Harmful effects of water pollution)

  • It destroys micro-organisms in water and affects aquatic life.
  • It causes water-borne diseases such as cholera, jaundice, dysentery and typhoid.
  • Damages crops, decrease agricultural production due to deterioration of soil quality and fertility.
  • Oil spill results in the death of sea organisms.

River Pollution in Tamil Nadu

  • Most of the rivers of Tamilnadu are non-perennial in nature.
  • Due to irregular supply of water the rivers are mostly used to carry effluents of tanneries, textile bleaching dyeing and hospital wastes.
  • The indiscriminate discharge of effluents from textile bleaching and dyeing units in and around Tiruppur, Erode and Karur areas have caused pollution in the river system of Noyyil and Amaravathi.
  • Effluents from tanneries are the main reason for the land quality deterioration in the Palar river basin Vellore district.
  • Most towns located along the banks of four major rivers cause sewage pollution.
  • The Kaveri River receives sewage from 11 towns, Palar from 6 towns.
  • Vaigai from 5 towns and Tamiravaruni from 3 towns
  • The Government imposed a total ban on setting up of highly polluting industries close to important water sources such as the Kaveri and its Tamiravaruni.
  • Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has set up a special monitoring cell in the head office for monitoring the highly polluting industries.
  • Ooty, Kodaikanal and Yercaud lakes are monitored by GEMS (Global Environment Monitoring System).
  • Chennai City River Conservation Project has taken up Cooum River Buckingham Canal, Adyar River, Otteri Nallah and Mamblam Canal for cleaning up.

Soil and Land Pollution

  • Land pollution is the contamination of land by solid wastes.
  • Any substance that reduces the productivity of the soil and lessens the quality is known as a soil pollutant and the process is known as soil pollution.

Sources of Soil and land pollution

  • Land pollution is caused due to dumping and accumulation of solid wastes from agricultural, industrial and urban sources.
  • The excessive use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides greatly reduce the quality and fertility of the soils.

Solid Wastes generated in major cities of Tamil Nadu

City Tons / Day
Chennai 3500
Madurai 711
Coimbatore 710
Trichy 408
Salem 330
Tirunelveli 210


Effects of Soil Pollution

  • Harmful chemicals enter the food chain and cause harmful diseases.
  • Pesticides affect the Central nervous system, liver and damage reproductive organs.

Noise Pollution

  • Noise can be defined as unwanted and undesirable sound.
  • Noise pollution is severe in the industrialized, urbanized and thickly populated regions of Tamil Nadu.
  • Ambient noise level in Chennai is about 75 – 80 decibels, Coimbatore 80 – 85 decibels and Madurai 70 – 75 decibels.

Harmful effects of noise pollution

  • It causes loss of hearing, headache, mental disorder, anxiety and stress.
  • Excessive noise causes vibration in buildings.
  • Disturbs sleep which leads to irritability and nervous disorder.
  • The fertility of living organisms gets reduced considerably due to noise pollution.
  • The Tamil Nadu Government has taken several steps to protect and preserve the environment. They are
  • Rehabilitation and reclamation of forest resources through afforestation.
  • National Green Corps: It is mainly to strengthen environmental awareness among school children.
  • The programme was launched in 29 districts at the rate of 100 schools per district.
  • Nearly 3 lakh children are participating in this programme.
  • Environmental awareness camps, competition and eco-celebration:
  • Celebrations of special days like World Environment Day (June 5th), Earth Day (April 22nd), and Ozone Day (16th September) are celebrated every year.
  • Segregating solid wastes into different types on the basis of degradation through waste management.

Electronic Waste Management

  • The increasing pace of IT and Electronic industries generate 70% of e-wastes and should be disposed of through the authorized recyclers as approved by the TNPCB.
  • In order to control the emission from goods transport vehicles, vehicle emission monitoring stations are set up in Chennai by the TNPCB at Alandur, Madhavarm and Ambattur areas and in the other districts at Nilgris, Dindigul, Palani and Chengalpet.
  • Three monitoring stations have been established at Guindy, Vyasarpadi and Thirumangalam in Chennai to check vehicular emission. There are 46 air pollution monitoring stations in the city of Chennai.
  • To Create SINGARA CHENNAI parks, flyovers, bridges, modernization of beaches and relaying of footpaths and roads, besides clearing encroachments have been undertaken.

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