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POLLUTION OF AIR AND WATER

P
aheli and Boojho were very excited You already know that air consists
to hear the news that Taj of a mixture of gases. By volume, about
Mahal in Agra is now one of the 78% of this mixture is nitrogen and
seven wonders of the world. But they about 21% is oxygen. Carbon dioxide,
were disappointed to hear that the argon, methane, ozone and water
beauty of this monument in white vapour are also present in very small
marble is being threatened by air quantities.
pollution in the area surrounding the
Taj. They were eager to know if Activity 18.1
something can be done to fight the air You may have covered your nose
and water pollution. while passing a brick kiln emitting
We are all aware that our smoke or started coughing while
environment is not what it used to be. walking on a busy road (Fig. 18.1).
Our elders talk about the blue sky, clean On the basis of your experience,
water and fresh air that was available compare the quality of air at the
in their times. Now the media regularly places given below:
reports on the falling quality of the
l A park and a busy road.
environment. We ourselves feel the
l A residential area and an
impact of the falling quality of air and
water in our lives. The number of people industrial area.
l A busy traffic intersection at
suffering from diseases of the respiratory
system, for example, is steadily rising. different times of the day e.g.
early morning, afternoon and
We shudder to imagine a time when
clean air and water may no longer be evening.
l A village and a town.
available! You have learnt about the
importance of air and water in your
previous classes. In this chapter, we will
study about the harmful changes taking
place in our surroundings and their
effects on our lives.

18.1 Air Pollution


We can survive for some time without food,
but we cannot survive even for a few
minutes without air. This simple fact tells Fig. 18.1 : A congested road in a city
us how important clean air is to us.

2015-16 (11-11-2014)
One of your observations in the Activity 18.2
above activity could be the differences
You might have read in the
in the amount of smoke in the
newspapers that respiratory
atmosphere. Do you know where the
problems amongst children
smoke could have come from? Addition
are rising day by day. Conduct a
of such substances to the atmosphere survey of households in your
modifies it. When air is contaminated neighbourhood and among friends
by unwanted substances which have to find out how many children are
a harmful effect on both the living and suffering from respiratory problems.
the non-living, it is referred to as air
pollution. Many respiratory problems are
caused by air pollution. Let us now try
18.2 How does Air Get Polluted? to find out the substances or pollutants
which are present in the polluted air.
The substances which contaminate the
Have you noticed how rapidly the
air are called air pollutants. Sometimes,
number of vehicles is increasing in our
such substances may come from natural
cities?
sources like smoke and dust arising from Vehicles produce high levels of
forest fires or volcanic eruptions. pollutants like carbon monoxide, carbon
Pollutants are also added to the dioxide, nitrogen oxides and smoke (Fig.
atmosphere by certain human activities. 18.3). Carbon monoxide is produced
The sources of air pollutants are from incomplete burning of fuels such
factories (Fig. 18.2), power plants, as petrol and diesel. It is a poisonous
automobile exhausts and burning of gas. It reduces the oxygen-carrying
firewood and dung cakes. capacity of the blood.

Fig. 18.3 : Air pollution due to automobiles


Do you know?
If the vehicles registered in Delhi are
lined up one after the other, the total
length would be nearly equal to the
combined lengths of the two longest
Fig. 18.2 : Smoke from a factory rivers in the world, Nile and Amazon!

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Boojho remembers seeing a thick Activity 18.3
fog-like layer in the atmosphere,
especially during winters. This is smog Prepare a table using the pollutants
which is made up of smoke and fog. mentioned above. You may even add
Smoke may contain oxides of nitrogen more data to the following Table.
which combine with other air pollutants Table 18.1
and fog to form smog. The smog causes Air Pollutants Sources Effects
breathing difficulties such as asthma,
cough and wheezing in children.
Many industries are also responsible
for causing air pollution. Petroleum
refineries are a major source of gaseous 18.3 Case Study—
pollutants like sulphur dioxide and The Taj Mahal
nitrogen dioxide. Sulphur dioxide is Over the past 2 decades, India’s most
produced by combustion of fuels like famous tourist attraction, Taj Mahal
coal in power plants. It can cause located in Agra (Fig. 18.4), has become
respiratory problems, including a matter of concern. Experts have
permanent lung damage. You have warned that pollutants in air are
already studied about the burning of discolouring its white marble. So, it is
fossil fuels in Chapter 5. not only living organisms that get
Other kinds of pollutants are affected by polluted air but non-living
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which are things like buildings, monuments and
used in refrigerators, air conditioners statues also get affected.
and aerosol sprays. CFCs damage the The industries located in and around
ozone layer of the atmosphere. Recall Agra like rubber processing, automobile,
that the ozone layer protects us from chemicals and especially the Mathura oil
harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Have refinery, have been responsible for
you heard of the ozone hole? Try to find producing pollutants like sulphur
out about it. Thankfully, less harmful dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. These
chemicals are now being used in place gases react with the water vapour present
of CFCs. in the atmosphere to form sulphuric acid
In addition to the above mentioned and nitric acid. The acids drop down with
gases, automobiles which burn diesel rain, making the rain acidic. This is
and petrol, also produce tiny particles called acid rain. Acid rain corrodes the
which remain suspended in air for long marble of the monument. The
periods (Fig. 18.3). They reduce phenomenon is also called “Marble
visibility. When inhaled, they cause cancer”. Suspended particulate matter,
diseases. Such particles are also such as the soot particles emitted by
produced during industrial processes Mathura oil refinery, has contributed
like steel making and mining. Power towards the yellowing of the marble.
plants give out tiny ash particles which The Supreme Court has taken
also pollute the atmosphere. several steps to save the Taj. It has

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2015-16 (11-11-2014)
Fig. 18.4 : Taj Mahal
ordered industries to switch to cleaner and a part is reflected back into space.
fuels like CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) A part of the reflected radiation is
and LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). trapped by the atmosphere. The trapped
Moreover, the automobiles should radiations further warm the earth. If you
switch over to unleaded petrol in the Taj have seen a greenhouse in a nursery or
zone. elsewhere, recall that the sun’s heat is
Discuss with your elders and see allowed to get in but is not allowed to
what they have to say about the go out. The trapped heat warms the
condition of the Taj, 20 or 30 years ago! green house. The trapping of radiations
Try to procure a picture of the Taj Mahal by the earth’s atmosphere is similar.
for your scrap book. That is why it is called the greenhouse
effect. Without this process, life would
not have been possible on the earth. But
now it threatens life. CO2 is one of the
I am reminded of the gases responsible for this effect.
chapter on crops. I You know that CO2 is one of the
wonder whether acid rain components of air. You have also studied
affects the soil and
plants also.

18.4 Greenhouse Effect


But how does CO2 content
You know that the sun’s rays warm the
rise in the atmosphere and
earth’s surface. A part of the radiation become excessive?
that falls on the earth is absorbed by it
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the role of carbon dioxide in plants. But towards this effect. Like CO 2, they are
if there is excess of CO2 in the air, it also called greenhouse gases.
acts as a pollutant. Global warming has become a major
Can you help Paheli find out the concern for governments worldwide.
answer to her question? Many countries have reached an
On the one hand, CO2 is continuously agreement to reduce the emission of
being released because of human greenhouse gases. The Kyoto Protocol
activities. On the other hand, area under is one such agreement.
forests is decreasing. Plants utilise CO2 Boojho is surprised to hear that an
from the atmosphere for photosynthesis, increase in the earth’s temperature by
thereby decreasing the amount of CO2 even as little as 0.5 ºC can have such a
in the air. Deforestation leads to an serious effect! Paheli tells him that she
increase in the amount of CO2 in the air had read in the newspapers recently that
because the number of trees which the Gangotri glacier in the Himalayas
consume CO 2 is reduced. Human has started melting because of global
activities, thus, contribute to the warming.
accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere.
CO2 traps heat and does not allow it to 18.5 What can be Done?
escape into space. As a result, the average
What can we do to reduce air
temperature of the earth’s atmosphere
pollution?
is gradually increasing. This is called There are many success stories in our
global warming.
fight against air pollution. For example,
Other gases like methane, nitrous
a few years ago, Delhi was one of the
oxide and water vapour also contribute
most polluted cities in the world. It was
being choked by fumes released from
Global Warming automobiles running on diesel and
A Serious Threat! petrol. A decision was taken to switch
to fuels like CNG (Fig. 18.5) and
Global warming can cause sea levels
to rise dramatically. In many places,
coastal areas have already been
flooded. Global warming could result
in wide ranging effects on rainfall
patterns, agriculture, forests, plants
and animals. Majority of people living
in regions which are threatened by
global warming are in Asia. A recent
climate change report gives us only
a limited time to keep the greenhouse
gases at the present level. Otherwise,
the temperature may rise by more
than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of
the century, a level considered
dangerous.
Fig. 18.5 : A public transport bus powered by CNG
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unleaded petrol. These measures have fuels for our energy requirements. These
resulted in cleaner air for the city. You could be solar energy, hydropower and
might know of some other examples wind energy.
from your area regarding reduction of
air pollution. Share these with your Activity 18.4
friends. You have various options of
commuting to your school such as
Do you know about the “Say no to
walking, going by bicycle, travelling
crackers” campaign which was
by bus or other public transport,
organised by children from many
using a car individually, travelling
schools? This made a big difference
to the air pollution levels around by car pool. Discuss in your class
Diwali. the impact of each of these options
on the quality of air.
The quality of air at various locations
is monitored regularly by government Small contributions on our part can
and other agencies. We can use this data make a huge difference in the state of
to generate awareness about air the environment. We can plant trees and
pollution among friends and nurture the ones already present in the
neighbours. neighbourhood. Do you know about Van
There is a need to switch over to Mahotsav, when lakhs of trees are
alternative fuels instead of the fossil planted in July every year (Fig. 18.6)?

Fig. 18.6 : Children planting saplings


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Boojho and Paheli once happened to Activity 18.5
go to an area where some people were
burning dry leaves. They started Try to collect samples of water from
a tap, pond, river, well and lake.
coughing because the entire area was full
Pour each into separate glass
of smoke. Paheli thought it would be a
containers. Compare these for
better option to put them in a compost
smell, acidity and colour. Complete
pit rather than burning. What do you
the following Table.
think?
Table 18.2
18.6 Water Pollution Smell Acidity Colour
In Class VII you learnt that water is a Tap Water
precious resource. Think and list the
Pond Water
various activities in which we need
water. We saw that water is becoming River Water
scarce due to increase in population, Well Water
industries and agricultural activities.
You have also studied how water Lake Water
becomes “dirty” after we use it for
washing clothes, bathing, etc. This 18.7 How does Water Get
means that we are adding some Polluted?
materials to the water, which spoil its
quality and change its smell and colour. Case Study
Whenever harmful substances such Ganga is one of the most famous rivers
as sewage, toxic chemicals, silt, etc., get of India (Fig. 18.7). It sustains most of
mixed with water, the water becomes the northern, central and eastern
polluted. The substances that pollute Indian population. Millions of people
water are called water pollutants. depend on it for their daily needs and
Gomukh
Gangotri
Haridwar

NEW UTTRAKHAND
DELHI UT NEPAL
TA BHUTAN
Kanpur RP
RA
DE BIHAR
SH Patna
Allahabad BANGLADESH
Varanasi
WEST
BENGAL

INDIA Kolkata

Bay of Bengal
Fig. 18.7 : Course of the river Ganga

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livelihood. However, recently a study by and defecating in the river. They also
the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) throw garbage, flowers, idols of gods
found that Ganga is one of the ten most and goddesses and non-biodegradable
endangered rivers in the world. The polythene bags into the river.
pollution levels have been rising for At Kanpur the amount of water is
many years. We have reached this stage comparatively small and the flow of the
because the towns and cities, through river is very slow. In addition, Kanpur
which the river flows, throw large has more than 5000 industries. These
quantities of garbage, untreated sewage, include fertiliser, detergent, leather and
dead bodies, and many other harmful paint industries. These industrial units
things, directly into the river. In fact the discharge toxic chemical wastes into the
river is ‘dead’ at many places where the river.
pollution levels are so high that aquatic Based on the above information
life cannot survive. think of the answers to the following
An ambitious plan to save the river, questions –
called the Ganga Action Plan was l What are the factors responsible for
launched in 1985. It aimed to reduce pollution of the river ?
the pollution levels in the river. However,
l What steps can be taken to restore
the increasing population and
the river Ganga to its past glory ?
industrialisation have already damaged
l How would the disposal of garbage,
this mighty river beyond repair.
etc., affect the living organisms in the
Let us take a specific example to
river ?
understand the situation. The Ganga
at Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), has Many industries discharge harmful
one of the most polluted stretches of chemicals into rivers and streams,
the river (Fig. 18.8). Kanpur is one of causing the pollution of water
the most populated towns in U.P. People (Fig. 18.9). Examples are oil refineries,
can be seen bathing, washing clothes paper factories, textile and sugar mills

Fig. 18.8 : A polluted stretch of the river Fig. 18.9 : Industrial waste discharged into
Ganga a river

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and chemical factories. These industries food wastes, detergents, microor -
cause chemical contamination of water. ganisms, etc. Can ground water get
The chemicals released include arsenic, polluted by sewage? How? Water
lead and fluorides which lead to toxicity contaminated with sewage may contain
in plants and animals. There are bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites
regulations to prevent this. Industries which cause diseases like cholera,
are supposed to treat the waste typhoid and jaundice.
produced before discharging it into The bacteria present in the faeces
waters, but quite often the rules are not of mammals are indicators of the
followed. The soil is also affected by quality of water. If water has these
impure water, causing changes in bacteria, it means that it has been
acidity, growth of worms, etc. contaminated by fecal matter. If such
We have learnt in Chapter 1 the water is used by us, it can cause various
importance of pesticides and weedicides infections.
for the protection of crops. However, all
these chemicals dissolve in water and Do you know?
are washed into water bodies from the Hot water can also be a pollutant !
fields. They also seep into the ground This is usually water from power
to pollute ground water. plants and industries. It is released
Have you seen ponds which look into the rivers. It raises the
green from a distance because they have temperature of the waterbody,
a lot of algae growing in them? This is adversely affecting the animals and
caused by excessive quantities of plants living in it.
chemicals which get washed from the
fields. These act as nutrients for algae 18.8 What is Potable Water
to flourish. Once these algae die, they and How is Water
serve as food for decomposers like Purified ?
bacteria. A lot of oxygen in the water
body gets used up. This results in a
decrease in the oxygen level which may Activity 18.7
kill aquatic organisms.
Let us construct a water filter with
simple, everyday materials.
Recall Activity 18.6
Take a plastic bottle and cut it
You had investigated the sewage into 2 halves at the centre. Use the
disposal system of your locality in upper half as a funnel by putting it
Class VII. upside down in the lower half. Make
Do you remember how the layers in it with paper napkin or a
sewage was collected from your fine cloth followed by, cotton, sand
home and where it went thereafter? and then gravel. Now pour dirty
water through the filter and observe
Sometimes untreated sewage is
thrown directly into rivers. It contains the filtered water.

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water. Boiling kills the germs present
Discuss the following questions
in the water.
amongst yourselves and with your l Chlorination is a commonly used
teacher:
chemical method for purifying water.
l Why do we need to filter water
It is done by adding chlorine tablets
before drinking ? or bleaching powder to the water. We
l Where do you get your drinking
must be cautious. We should not
water from? use more chlorine tablets than
l What will happen if we drink
specified.
polluted water?
18.9 What Can be Done?
Boojho is very upset. He tells Paheli
that he drank water which looked clear Activity 18.8
and was without any smell, but still he Investigate the level of awareness
fell sick ! about water pollution in your area.
Paheli explains that water which Collect data on the sources of
looks clean may still have disease- drinking water and the methods of
carrying microorganisms and dissolved sewage disposal.
impurities. So, it is essential to purify What are the common water-borne
water before drinking, for example, by diseases in the community? You can
boiling. consult your local doctor/health
Water which is suitable for drinking worker for this.
is called potable water. You have seen Which are the governmental and
how various physical and chemical non-governmental organisations
processes in the sewage treatment working in this field? What are the
plants help to clean water before measures being taken by them for
discharging it into water bodies. generating awareness?
Similarly, municipal bodies treat the
water before supplying it to households.
Laws for industrial units should be
Do you know? strictly implemented so that polluted
water is not disposed off directly into
25% of the world’s population is
without safe drinking water ! rivers and lakes. Water treatment plants
should be installed in all industrial
Let us see how water can be made areas (Fig. 18.10). At our individual
safe for drinking: levels we should consciously save water
l You have already seen how water is and not waste it. Reduce, reuse and
filtered. This is a physical method of recycle should be our mantra !
removing impurities. A popular Think of your daily routine – how
household filter is a candle type can you save water?
filter. We can think of creative ideas like
l Many households use boiling as a reusing water used for washing and for
method for obtaining safe drinking other household tasks. For example,

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Fig. 18.10 : Water treatment plant
water used for washing vegetables may of our daily lives. Unless we all realise
be used to water plants in the garden. our responsibility and start using
Pollution is no longer a distant environment-friendly processes, the very
phenomenon. It is affecting the quality survival of our planet is in danger.

Do you know?
While brushing your teeth, leaving the tap running may waste several
litres of water. A tap that drips once every second wastes a few thousand
litres of water every year. Think about it !

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KEYWORDS WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNT
AIR POLLUTION Ü Air pollution is the contamination of air by
CHEMICAL impurities which may have a harmful impact
CONTAMINATION on the living organisms and the non-living
components.
GLOBAL WARMING Ü Pollutants are the substances which
contaminate air and water.
GREENHOUSE
Ü Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon
EFFECT
dioxide, methane and sulphur dioxide are the
POLLUTANTS major pollutants of air.
Ü Increasing levels of greenhouse gases like CO2
POTABLE WATER
are leading to global warming.
WATER POLLUTION Ü Water pollution is the contamination of water
by substances harmful to life.
Ü Sewage, agricultural chemicals and industrial
waste are some of the major contaminants of
water.
Ü Water which is purified and fit for drinking is
known as potable water.
Ü Water is a precious natural resource. We must
learn to conserve it.

Exercises

1. What are the different ways in which water gets contaminated ?

2. At an individual level, how can you help reduce air pollution?

3. Clear, transparent water is always fit for drinking. Comment.

4. You are a member of the municipal body of your town.

Make a list of measures that would help your town to ensure the supply
of clean water to all its residents.

5. Explain the differences between pure air and polluted air.

6. Explain circumstances leading to acid rain. How does acid rain affect us?

7. Which of the following is not a greenhouse gas?

(a) Carbon dioxide

(b) Sulphur dioxide


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(c) Methane
EXERCISES (d Nitrogen

8. Describe the ‘Green House Effect’ in your own words.

9. Prepare a brief speech on global warming. You have to deliver the speech
in your class.

10. Describe the threat to the beauty of the Taj Mahal.

11. Why does the increased level of nutrients in the water affect the survival
of aquatic organisms?

Extended Learning — Activities and Projects

1. In some cities, a pollution check has been made compulsory for


vehicles. Visit a petrol pump in order to learn about the process of
conducting a pollution check. You may systematically record your
findings in the following areas:

l Average number of vehicles checked per month.

l Time taken to check each vehicle.

l Pollutants checked for.

l The process of testing.

l Permissible levels of emission of various gases.

l Measures taken if the emitted gases are above the


permissible limits.

l How frequently is a pollution check required ?

2. Conduct a survey in your school to investigate various environment


related activities that have been undertaken. The class can divide
itself into two groups, with each group looking at a different area.
For example, one group can find out whether there is an
environment club in the school. What are its objectives ? What is
its calendar of events ? How can you become a member ?

If your school does not have such a club, you even think of starting
one along with a few of your friends.

3. Organise a field visit to a river in or around your town with the help
of your teachers.

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Observations followed by discussion could focus on

l the history of the river.

l cultural traditions.

l role of the river in meeting the town’s water needs.

l pollution concerns.

l sources of pollution.

l effects of pollution on the people living by the riverside as well


as those living far away.

4. Find out with the help of your teachers and the internet (if possible),
whether there are any international agreements to control global
warming. Which are the gases covered under these agreements?

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