Paheli and Boojho were very excited to hear the news that Taj Mahal in Agra is now one of the seven wonders of the world. But they were disappointed to hear that the beauty of this monument in white marble is being threatened by air pollution in the area surrounding the Taj. They were eager to know if something can be done to fight the air and water pollution.
We can survive for some time without food,
but we cannot survive even for a few
minutes without air. This simple fact tells
us how important clean air is to us.
You already know that air consists of a mixture of gases. By volume, about 78% of this mixture is nitrogen and about 21% is oxygen. Carbon dioxide, argon, methane, ozone and water vapour are also present in very small quantities.
The substances which contaminate the air are called air pollutants. Sometimes, such substances may come from natural sources like smoke and dust arising from forest fires or volcanic eruptions. Pollutants are also added to the atmosphere by human activities. The sources of air pollutants are factories (Fig. 18.2), power plants, automobile exhausts and burning of firewood and dung cakes.
Over the past 2 decades, India’s most famous tourist attraction, Taj Mahal located in Agra (Fig. 18.4), has become a matter of concern. Experts have warned that pollutants in air are discolouring its white marble. So, it is not only living organisms that get affected by polluted air but non-living things like buildings, monuments and statues also get affected.
You know that the sun’s rays warm the earth’s surface. A part of the radiation that falls on the earth is absorbed by it and a part is reflected back into space. A part of the reflected radiation is trapped by the atmosphere. The trapped radiations further warm the earth. If you have seen a greenhouse in a nursery or elsewhere, recall that the sun’s heat is allowed to get in but is not allowed to go out. The trapped heat warms the green house. The trapping of radiations by the earth’s atmosphere is similar. 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 gases responsible for this effect.
What can we do to reduce air
There are many success stories in our fight against air pollution. For example, a few years ago, Delhi was one of the most polluted cities in the world. It was being choked by fumes released from automobiles running on diesel and petrol. A decision was taken to switch to fuels like CNG (Fig. 18.5) and unleaded petrol. These measures have resulted in cleaner air for the city. You might know of some other examples from your area regarding reduction of air pollution. Share these with your friends.
In Class VII you learnt that water is a precious resource. Think and list the various activities in which we need water. We saw that water is becoming scarce due to increase in population, industries and agricultural activities. You have also studied how water becomes “dirty” after we use it for washing clothes, bathing, etc. This means that we are adding some materials to the water, which spoil its quality and change its smell and colour.
Ganga is one of the most famous rivers of India (Fig. 18.7). It sustains most of the northern, central and eastern Indian population. Millions of people depend on it for their daily needs and livelihood. However, recently a study by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) found that Ganga is one of the ten most endangered rivers in the world. The pollution levels have been rising for many years. We have reached this stage because the towns and cities, through which the river flows, throw large quantities of garbage, untreated sewage, dead bodies, and many other harmful things, directly into the river. In fact the river is “dead” at many places where the pollution levels are so high that aquatic life cannot survive.
Let us construct a water filter with simple, everyday materials. Take a plastic bottle and cut it into 2 halves at the centre. Use the upper half as a funnel by putting it upside down in the lower half. Make layers in it with paper napkin or a fine cloth followed by, cotton, sand and then gravel. Now pour dirty water through the filter and observe the filtered water.
Investigate the level of awareness about water pollution in your area. Collect data on the sources of drinking water and the methods of sewage disposal. What are the common water-borne diseases in the community? You can consult your local doctor/health worker for this. Which are the governmental and non-governmental organisations working in this field? What are the measures being taken by them for generating awareness?